Author monkey typing a book

Fiction or Non-fiction: What Authors Should Know About Book Genres

Author monkey typing a bookWhen authors are writing books it is sometimes difficult to decide what genre they will fit into. Rarely is there total agreement on their proper category. While fiction and non-fiction seem like very clear boundaries there are often many gray areas between the two.

What complicates matters for authors is that within one genre there can be several subgenres. Some works can also fit into several genres at once. A sci-fi novel can fall into the action or thriller categories all at the same time. Subgenres are particularly common with fiction books. Some of the main categories within this genre are mysteries, fantasy, romance, westerns, horror and thrillers. When an author is writing a book he must pay careful attention to what genre he wants his work to be in and then write and market accordingly. Many great novels have had this problem. <i>Gone with the Wind</i>can be considered a romance novel yet it has many action scenes that could classify it as an action novel.

The best thing for writers to do is to have a clear definition of the different genres in mind as they are crafting their work. This is particularly helpful when writing fiction. Romance novels tend to focus on love and relationships, westerns tell about life in the Old West, fantasy novels deal with alternate worlds and people and thrillers are often called spy novels because they have spies as their main characters. Knowing the basic definitions of genres can help a writer tell his story more clearly and confidently.

Non-fiction also has many genres within it as well. Some categories can include how-to, self-help, biographies, autobiographies, historical and travelogues. How-to books are ones that teach the reader how to do something such as cook a meal, fix a car, build a birdhouse or grow beautiful flowers. Other categories within this genre include reference materials like encyclopedias and personal essays that may fall into the autobiographical category. Self-help and other categories may be considered reference materials depending upon their information. Personal essays are difficult to place in a genre because while they contain much factual information they may also contain fictitious elements that make them a combination of the two genres and therefore difficult to categorize.

For authors who write such works as plays, short stories, poetry or even comics and graphic novels the question of genre must be addressed. Each generally belongs to its own genre but can take on characteristics of the broader genres since they often contain themes of love, fantasy and action.

While some writers and others would like to see a simplification of genres others appreciate the finer points of genres within genres. Whatever a person’s preference readers are guaranteed to always find something to help them learn something new or spark their imagination.