The Blogging from A-Z Challenge continues today. Throughout April I’m posting about my life as a writer, including my inspirations, frustrations and celebrations.
For the letter G, I’m discussing literary genres and how the way in which we sort books into categories is changing.
Fiction books are usually split into broad categories based on the age range of their intended readers. There is children’s literature or ‘kidlit’, which is usually split up into picture books aimed at children under 5, early readers for those between 5 and 8 years old and middle grade for ‘tweens’ aged 8 to 13. YA or ‘Young Adult’ is usually aimed at 14 to 18 year-olds and adult fiction is aimed at anyone over the age of 18. More recently, NA or ‘New Adult’ has been introduced to describe books for those from 18 years old into their early 20s.
However, these genres are not necessarily exclusively read by their target audience. There are young kids who have already moved onto adult fantasy novels and there are plenty of adults (myself included) who enjoy YA and even middle grade fiction. I’ll be discussing that later in the month.
Within these broad age categories, novels are often grouped by topic, with the main genres being romance, adventure, horror, mystery and speculative fiction. Each of these umbrella terms covers a wide range of sub-genres which are increasingly expanding to encompass new types of fiction as writers discover particular niches. For example, within romance there are many sub-genres such as contemporary romance, historical romance and erotica. These can be broken down even further into sub-genres such as sports romance and regency romance.
The great thing about there being such a variety of genres is that there really is something for everyone. You want to read romances exclusively about horse-riders? No problem-just head to the equestrian romance section. You’re interested in Victorian settings, swashbuckling adventures and advanced technology? Try steampunk! I love that there are more and more diverse topics being recognised as legitimate genres all the time.
The definitions for each genre are open to interpretation and often the lines between them are blurry. Genre mash-ups are increasingly popular and I enjoy this kind of creative blending immensely. There are westerns set in space, romances with time-travelling heroines and science-fiction fairy-tale retellings. My current WiP is a ‘science-fantasy’ best described as Once Upon a Time meets Star Wars.
Genres go through highs and lows in popularity. Sooner or later, most ‘non-mainstream’ genres get rediscovered and enjoy their time in the sun again. Just look at the revival of dystopian fiction led by books such as The Hunger Games and Divergent, most likely sparked by contemporary politics. It encouraged lots of young-adult readers to try older works such as Nineteen-Eighty-Four and Brave New World.
Now that the publishing industry has finally recognised the need for more #diversebooks and #ownvoices stories, even more sub-genres are emerging. We are seeing more fantasy novels based on non-European mythology, ‘anti-romances’ telling the stories of aro and ace protagonists and contemporary novels that focus on specific mental health issues. It’s a very exciting time to be a reader or a writer!
Before you go…
What is your favourite genre to read or write? Do you agree that genres are becoming broader and the lines between them more blurry? Which genre do you think will be the next ‘big thing’?