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Words and Writing: Fictional Genres

by Jen Boucle

The fascination of words and writing

A Quick Word About Fictional Genres

An online publisher put together this amusing chart for those of you who still want to see where your favorite novels fall.


So what does it mean?

Genres are about marketing. They're about what shelf the book gets placed on in bookstores. They're about selling the right book to the right customer.

Before you sneer too much, though, remember that marketing exists because it works. If dividing books into genres didn't work for readers, then marketers wouldn't do it—they'd drop any program that didn't draw in customers like a hot potato.

So why does it work for readers?

I can answer that for myself. I'm extremely eclectic in my reading. I read a lot of nonfiction, a great deal of literary fiction, quite a lot of historical fiction. I don't think much about genres when I read these books: what I think about the book's titles, subjects, content. I look for ideas that will challenge me, concepts that will make me stretch, information that will enlighten me.

But my bedtime reading is another creature altogether. I don't want to think too much as I drop off to sleep. I want something that will be predictably enjoyable, the literary equivalent of warm and fuzzy. So I turn to genre fiction, because that way I know what to expect. I turn to author's names, because that way I know what to expect.

Think about what you read—and write. Do you read different genres at different times of day? Do you like familiar and expected characters and plots, or do you like to challenge yourself through your reading? There's no right answer … but it's important to know how you think about it before you dismiss genres altogether. And then you'll be … beyond the elements of style!