The death of genre?

New writers and authors are told to know what genre they’re writing when querying agents or editors, but how many of the recent mega-bestsellers lately seem to defy genre categorization?

When Marcy and I were at the recent Writer’s Digest Conference, super-agent, author, and writing teacher Donald Maass gave a short talk promoting his soon to be released book Writing in the 21st Century. Maass made 2 primary statements that had me sitting up straighter.

1. There’s a significant rise in cross-genre fiction

2. There’s a decline in straight genre fiction

One claim logically seems to follow the other, but I hadn’t really thought about it. Maass pointed out the enormous surge of novels that seem to defy genre categorization. Is it literary fiction, women’s lit, romance, popular fiction – maybe a little of two or three.

I haven’t personally done the legwork of verifying this (feel free – let me know what you find out) but Maass claims that historically books were lucky to spend a month or 6 weeks on the bestseller list. That was a phenomenal showing as far as publishers were concerned. But within the last 2 years or so, there’s been these blips on the list – books lasting weeks and months at the top. Now, Hollywood has long poached the bestseller list for books to turn into screenplays, but being turned into a movie later doesn’t explain how debut books immediately shot to the top of the list, and stayed there long after the movie was released.

The following stats were taken from the USA Today’s Bestselling Books site:

Water For Elephants – 194 weeks

Twilight – 220 weeks

The Help – 144 weeks

Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – 145 weeks

The Hunger Games – 130 weeks

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – 273 weeks

The Lovely Bones – 223 weeks

The Notebook – 215 weeks

And you contrast those numbers against well-known bestselling authors:

44 Charles Street by Danielle Steel – 12 weeks

The 9th Judgment by James Patterson – 25 weeks

11/22/63 by Stephen King – 15 weeks

The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks – 55 weeks

Now – don’t get me wrong. If I had a novel on the bestseller list at all I’d be doing a happy dance right now. Maass’ point was to look at what made books last so long on readers’ lists and minds? He drew 2 conclusions:

1. In the 21st century, the concept of genre is dying

2. Genre is being replaced by high impact fiction – beautiful storytelling and powerful writing that touches your heart and changes how you think about things.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo isn’t just a thriller about a reporter and his assistant chasing a grisly serial killer. It’s about a girl who’s gotten the short stick all her life, but has managed to survive and live life by her own rules despite what society says. It’s about one man’s integrity and his stand against a bully.

The Help isn’t just a period novel about racial inequality, it’s about Skeeter taking the biggest risk of her life to achieve her dream, about Minny breaking free of an abusive husband.

Harry Potter isn’t just about a boy training to be a wizard.

According to Maass, that’s what sets these novels apart. I’m eager to read his new book and see what else he has to say.

Do you agree with Maass? Have you read any of those mega best-sellers? What do you think?

Some great posts this week from around the web:

Amazon-Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts by Kristen Lamb

13 Ways To Impress An Agent by Rachelle Gardner

Author Websites – Layering yours with sticky extras by Roni Loren

Share some writerly love with Book Pregnant


Subscribe to Marcy’s new blog Life At Warp 10 and Lisa’s new blog Through the Fire.

Connect with Marcy on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+. Connect with Lisa on Twitter, subscribe to her on Facebook, or join her circles on Google+.

Inspirational Fiction Genre

There’s more to writing inspirational fiction than having a minister in your story, or making sure your main character goes to church at Easter and Christmas.

I’m continuing Marcy’s blogging blitz on genres for one more post. Second only to romance in terms of book sales, earning $759million in 2010 according to the RWA, we would be remiss to ignore inspirational fiction in our exploration of genres and sub-genres. It’s said that the Bible has been #1 on the NYT bestseller list for so long they no longer include it (wonder if that’s true).

Just as there are ‘rules’ for writing in any other genre, inspirational has its own staples and inviolable rules. In Canada and the USA, inspirational fiction includes any religious or faith-based writing, however an overwhelming percentage of that category is Christian fiction. Written primarily for a conservative (traditional) Protestant Christian audience, the conventions for this genre are largely determined by the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association), and are specific and largely inflexible.

Within inspirational fiction you’ll find most of the general market genres and sub-genres – but there are distinct elements to inspirational fiction. Here are a few:

A Character of Faith

In Christian fiction, the protagonist(s) must either begin the story as a Christian, or be one by the end of the story, and by Christian I mean Bible-believing, regular church-attending, with a personal faith influencing their thoughts, choices and actions. As a general rule, the main character(s) must have a HEA. Redemption, mercy and grace are common themes, and readers like to see the redemption of one of the main characters.

Avoid Excesses

This audience will not tolerate obscene language (slang terms for body parts for instance), cursing, gratuitous violence, sex, smoking, drug use or drunkeness. Some publishers will go so far as to ban dancing, card playing, gambling, games of chance, etc. See Harlequin’s Love Inspired guidelines. Premarital sex is only rarely tolerated, the aforementioned character arc of redemption one of the very few exceptions. Extramarital sex is prohibited for the protagonist, and all sex scenes are very sweet – and I mean ‘he kicked the door closed with his foot’ sweet.

Violence is tolerated to a degree. Many authors have had success writing crime and suspense novels for the inspirational market, and include serial killers, murderers, and the like, but the events are described without gore, viscera or blood baths.


This audience tends to hold rather conservative (traditional) church views on a number of issues such as women holding the office of Pastor or Minister, heaven/hell, divorce, and abortion. There is no paranormal sub-genre in the inspirational market, because this audience won’t read paranormal staples such as ghosts, demons, vampires, werewolves, and witches,. Also, elements that go hand in hand with paranormal such as voodoo, spell casting, tarot cards, witchcraft, and palm reading are taboo. Angels are generally relegated to non-fiction, though there have been a couple of notable pioneers such as Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness and Roger Elwood’s Angelwalk series.

There have been a few authors who have attempted to push the boundaries with paranormal elements such as Ted Dekker’s Immortal Veins and Adam, and Melanie Wells’ When The Day Of Evil Comes. As a general rule, there aren’t many dark stories in inspirational fiction. Horror is another genre hard to find in inspirational fiction, though you’ll find mystery, romance, historical, and to a lesser degree fantasy. Marcher Lord Press’ speculative fiction has been making inroads, but you won’t find their books in a bookstore.

The often-levelled complaint is that inspirational fiction is unrealistic. Inspirational author Deanne Gist has a great post about this.

The main core of this audience is looking for a break from reality where people don’t swear, they don’t drink, they wait until their wedding day to have sex, they struggle to follow the commands in the Bible, and at the end of the day overcome an obstacle or find faith in Christ. Yes, the Christian fiction audience is not looking for a story about, or characters seeking out, a generic ‘god,’ but rather a specific faith in Jesus Christ which permeates the entire story.

For many general market and popular fiction readers, this sugar-coated realm is unbelievable, and is often viewed as a thinly veiled attempt at evangelism. But the steady growth in book sales validates the marketplace for these stories, so much that many Christian publishing houses have been bought out by the large publishing companies.

Read an overview of fiction genres, or expanded posts on romance, science fiction, fantasy, thriller, and mystery genres.

Do you have a question about genres or sub-genres? What’s your favorite genre? Why?


**We’ve moved! Please join us at our new permanent homes. You can find Marcy at her website and Lisa at her website.

Romance Sub-Genres

romance sub-genresAs we hit the very last day of our week-long sub-genre blitz, our final spot is for romance. Romance is both one of the most straightforward to categorize and one of the most complicated. To identify your romance sub-genre, you first need to classify your novel in terms of heat level.

Heat level in romance refers to how intense and explicit the intimate scenes are. Romance novelist Starla Kaye gives an excellent overview of heat levels in romance at her website, including what publisher lines print them and the classifications given to the various levels by different publishers.

Once you know your heat level, you can pick one of the following . . .

Contemporary Romance – As the name suggests, contemporary romances take place post 1960. This is kind of a catch-all category for romance that doesn’t fit in any of the others.

Historical Romance – The line dividing a historical romance from a contemporary romance is, frankly, a little fuzzy. If your book is set pre-1960, you’re probably safe calling it a historical romance, but my suggestion for this one is to find out what your ideal publisher defines as historical and go with their dividing line.

Western Romance – Set in the American frontier, or in a contemporary “western” setting such as the Canadian prairies or Australian outback, western romance readers expect to experience horses, cowboys, and a simpler way of life (though not a simpler plot line).

Gothic Romance – Gothic romance combines romance and horror and often involves a mystery. The darkness and terror should compliment the sexual tension between your main characters.

Regency Romance – Set in regency-era (circa 1790-1820) Great Britian, it takes more than just a location and time period to make a successful regency romance. Readers expect wit and fast-paced dialogue like that found in Jane Austin’s novels. This sub-genre is less likely to include explicit sex scenes (or even open discussions of sex) than the other sub-genres. Marriages of convenience, false engagements, mistaken identities, and large differences in social class are popular elements.

Romantic Suspense – Romantic suspense is the most plot driven of all romance and usually involves a strong heroine who finds herself in a dangerous situation. The key to a successful romantic suspense is to blend both elements so that neither overwhelms the other.

Paranormal Romance – Paranormal romances usually involve a romantic relationship between a human and a ghost, vampire, shapeshifter, werewolf, or some other non-human or quasi-human being. They can also focus around psychic abilities. Unlike with fantasies, the romance rather than the otherworldly elements is central.

Inspirational Romance – Inspirational romances will always fall to the most conservative end of the heat spectrum. If you want to sell an inspirational romance, don’t try to push the envelop. The envelop isn’t going to budge, and you’re just going to end up with a lot of very painful paper cuts. Inspirational romances always end either in marriage or the very strong potential of marriage, and the characters’ faith journeys need to be central to the plot and their relationship.

Inspirational romance can serve as an umbrella category for the other sub-genres as well. For example, you could be writing a romantic suspense that’s also an inspirational romance because of the faith element to it.

If you missed Lisa’s overview post that started off our series, or my earlier posts on fantasy sub-genres, science fiction sub-genre, thrilled sub-genres, or mystery sub-genres, now’s a great time to go back and read them 🙂

Where does your book fit? What do you love about romance novels? What do you hate?


**We’ve moved! Please join us at our new permanent homes. You can find Marcy at her website and Lisa at her website.

Mystery Sub-Genres

types of mysteriesWe’ve gone through fantasy, science fiction, and thrillers. Today we’ll be covering mysteries before finishing our series on genres and sub-genres with romance tomorrow.

Cozy Mystery – Cozies are the softest version of mysteries. They don’t have explicit sex or violence, and are often set in small towns rather than big cities. The protagonist is a female layperson (think Murder She Wrote) with a knack for getting into trouble and solving puzzles. She’s not a member of the police or other law enforcement. In fact, the police in the story probably view her as a pest.

The fraternal twin of the cozy mystery is the hobby mystery. Basically this is a cozy where the main character is involved in a niche hobby and the crime is intimately involved with that hobby. For example, your protagonist collects rare books and a rare book is stolen from the used bookstore in town.

Police Procedural – The focus of a police procedural isn’t so much on the reader figuring out who the criminal is but rather on how to catch him and prove he was the one who committed the crime. In fact, the bad guy is often known in the beginning of the book. Readers of police procedurals expect detailed descriptions of the investigative techniques used by the police. For a TV example, look no farther than CSI.

General Mystery –  The protagonist in a general mystery is normally a private detective rather than a police officer (police prodecural) or a layperson (cozy mystery). Oftentimes, however, the PI will have a non-PI friend/employee/client who plays a key role in the plot as well. The emphasis in these stories is the puzzle, figuring out whodunit. Examples include The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith and A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton.

Historical Mystery – These stories revolve around a historically significant crime (real or fictionalized). Anne Perry and Steven Saylor are well-known writers in this sub-genre.

Noir/Hardboiled Mystery – On the opposite end of the mystery spectrum from the cozy is the noir or hard-boiled sub-genre. With its realistic, gritty portrays of sex and violence and dark tone, this sub-genre got its name from its tough voice and unsentimental take on life. Protagonists are so deeply flawed, self-destructive, or damaged as to almost be anti-heroes. These mysteries aren’t for the faint of heart.

Don’t forget to check out Lisa’s post on genres and sub-genres that began our series.

Do you prefer to know the criminal in a mystery or do you like to try to figure it out as the book goes along?


**We’ve moved! Please join us at our new permanent homes. You can find Marcy at her website and Lisa at her website.

Thriller Sub-Genres

suspense genreSo far this week we’ve looked at fantasy and science fiction sub-genres, but since not everyone loves speculative fiction as much as I do, I’m going to take you through thriller sub-genres today and mystery sub-genres tomorrow.

Espionage – Also called spy fiction, espionage is the land of the CIA, assassins, secret agents, and James Bond. If you’re writing something like Robert Ludlum’s Bourne books or you want to be the next John La Carre or Alan Furst, you’re probably working on an espionage novel. They’re often set during World War II or the Cold War, but that focus may now be shifting to more modern settings as well.

Medical Thriller – Your POV character in a medical thriller is going to be employed in the medical field (e.g. a doctor, a medical examiner) or be closely tied to a hospital setting. This type of thriller is a race to uncover or fix a deadly medical situation–organ black markets, an out-of-control virus, patients falling in mysterious comas, etc.

Psychological Thriller – These are battles of the mind and the wits. They’re often dark and focus more on emotional trauma to the characters than physical trauma. Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris and Along Came a Spider by James Patterson would both be categorized as psychological thrillers.

Legal Thriller – Similar to medical thrillers, the POV character in a legal thriller is an attorney. The story centers around a legal dilemma or courtroom drama. John Grisham’s name is almost synonymous with legal thrillers.

Historical Thriller – If you set your thriller prior to around 1960, you’re likely going to fall into the historical thriller sub-genre. Readers of this sub-genre expect historical accuracy and engaging details as well as a fast-paced read. Good historical thrillers can be especially challenging to write due to the need to evoke a rich historical atmosphere without slowing down the story.

Techno Thriller – The most powerful technology of today has fallen into the wrong hands, and it’s up to your main character to get it back or destroy it. Ever read a Tom Clancy book? Then you’ve read a techno thriller.

Military Thriller – Military thrillers have a lot in common with techno thrillers, but instead of focusing on technology, they focus on military objectives. Your main character in a military thriller is likely to be a member of the military (no shock there). Both techno thrillers and military thrillers are often global in their scope.

Supernatural Thriller – Supernatural thrillers blend the expected fast-moving suspense plot with some paranormal or other worldly element. Your main character might be a psychic or see ghosts.

Don’t forget to check out Lisa’s overview post on genres and sub-genres that started it all.

Thrillers are my second love (after speculative fiction). What’s your favorite genre? Do you ever read outside of it?


**We’ve moved! Please join us at our new permanent homes. You can find Marcy at her website and Lisa at her website.

Science Fiction Sub-Genres

SciFi subgenresYesterday we started our foray into sub-genres by looking at some of the major categories of fantasy. Before we get to science fiction sub-genres today, I think we should answer one question.

Why do we fight so hard against genres and sub-genres?

I’m sure many of you will think I’m wrong, but here’s my theory. We don’t fight so hard against classifying our books into a genre or sub-genre because we truly believe it’s the one book ever written that defies genre classification. We do it because we’re confused by how many different options are out there and we’re either too lazy (sorry, I know it’s true because I was) or too overwhelmed to try to sort them out. Hopefully this series of posts will help erase both those excuses for you.

Now, on to science fiction sub-genres . . .

Cyberpunk – Cyberpunk plots (if you couldn’t guess from the name) revolve around computers, artificial intelligence, cyberspace, virtual reality, hackers, mega-corporations, or some combination of those elements. Rather than being set far in the future, they’re usually set in the near future. These books are often dark and focus on the dangers of technology.

Steampunk -Steampunk plots take place in Victorian England or another real-world setting where steam-power still rules. They combine the technology of the time with future technology as the people of that era imagined it would be (rather than how it really turned out). Not surprisingly H. G. Wells and Jules Verne are the grandfathers of this genre. Steampunk can be a lot of fun if you don’t take yourself too seriously.

Dystopian/Utopian – These novels look at the extremes that our world might one day come to, either good or bad. The Road by Cormac McCarthy and I Am Legend by Richard Matheson typify the dystopian sub-genre. Dystopian also goes by the name Apocalyptic.

Time Travel – As the name implies, time travel novels take you either forward or backward in time. Before you object that this should be fantasy rather than science fiction because time travel isn’t possible, keep in mind what sets science fiction and fantasy apart. This is science fiction because the writers are working on the assumption that at some point in the future scientists might invent technology that would allow us to travel through time. If they can make the technology sound believable, then it falls firmly into the science fiction realm. (If you’re sent back in time because of magic, you’re back in the fantasy genre.)

Military Science Fiction – Nations, planets, or races are at war in military SF and the focus is often on the technology and military protocol and procedures of the combatants. Consequently, these stories end up being told through the POV of one (or more) of the soldiers involved. Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein is one of the early landmark works of military SF. Shard of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold, Death Troopers by Joe Schreiber, and Old Man’s War by John Scalzi are other examples.

Space Opera – Although this term can have a derogatory tone to it, this is another SF genre that’s a lot of fun if you let yourself just sit back and enjoy. These novels are set on distant planets and focus more on the adventure than on the science.

The fraternal twin sister of space opera  is Space Westerns like the television series Firefly. They take the fist-fighting, gun-fighting, and themes of westerns and set them in outer space.

Hard Science Fiction – So named because it takes current knowledge of the “hard” sciences of mathematics, chemistry, physics, or biology and speculates on where they might lead in the future, this is the sub-genre of science fiction where accuracy and attention to detail make or break your story. Not surprisingly, most of the successful hard SF writers work (or have worked) in one of the hard science fields.

Soft Science Fiction – Soft SF takes its what if from the “soft” sciences like psychology, sociology, or anthropology. The lines between hard SF, soft SF, and dystopian SF can blur at times, but a good rule of thumb is that dystopian often deals with an end of the world type scenario where a catastrophe has happened, while soft SF looks at what would happen if certain soft science theories were taken to their extremes or logical conclusions.

People often have strong opinions either pro or con science fiction? Do you love it? Hate it? Which sub-genre best fits your book?


**We’ve moved! Please join us at our new permanent homes. You can find Marcy at her website and Lisa at her website.

Fantasy Sub-Genres

Fantasy sub-genresIn September, Lisa started out our series on genres and sub-genres by giving you a look at some of the genres your novel might fall in to (and explaining why you do indeed need to choose a genre for your book). This week, I’m going to help you sort out the tangle that is sub-genres. And to make this easier on everyone, I’m going to focus on one genre a day.

Why do sub-genres matter?

A couple very simple reasons actually.

First, many agents will represent one sub-genre but not another. If an agent only reps urban fantasy, for example, and you send them your epic fantasy, you’ve wasted their time and yours.

Your chances of making a sale increase the more accurately you can identify your target audience. Sub-genres help you do that by helping you find books similar to yours. People who read those books are likely to enjoy your books as well.

While I can’t cover every sub-genre for you, here’s your crash course on the major ones to get you started, beginning with fantasy.

Historical Fantasy – I had to start with this one because this is the genre of Lisa’s and my current co-written work-in-progress. Since this is our blog, I think I get to show it preferential treatment 🙂 Historical fantasy takes place in a recognizable historical time period and in a real world location. This sub-genre encompasses things like the King Arthur legends and Robin Hood. It’s more about how the author plays with history, myth, and legend than it is about magic.

Epic Fantasy – Epic fantasies are what most people think of when they hear “fantasy.” They’re defined by a large cast of characters, multiple POVS, and complex plots. They’re set in a fictional world, and the plot often revolves around the rise and fall of kingdoms. The ultimate epic fantasies are George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice series and J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Urban Fantasy – First of all, urban fantasy is set in a primarily, well, urban/city setting. You can’t set your fantasy in a medieval-esque pastoral setting and call it “urban fantasy.” It’s darker, grittier than most other fantasy, and you’ll usually find it populated with demons, vampires, werewolves, witches (not the Harry Potter kind), or zombies.

Superhero Fantasy – Secret identities, superhuman powers, and villains who are more than a little unhinged are part of what make superhero fantasy so much fun. Superhero movies like X-Men, Spiderman, The Green Lantern, and Captain America are all great examples of this genre.

Traditional Fantasy – Traditional fantasy is basically a teeny, tiny epic fantasy. It’s set in a secondary world (i.e. not our world) like epic fantasy, but it has a smaller cast of characters, fewer POV characters, and a plot that focuses more on a single character (or small group) and their unique struggle than on the creation or destruction of worlds/kingdoms. Magic in some form is usually a key element of traditional fantasy. A classic traditional fantasy is The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle.

The fraternal twin sister of traditional fantasy is sword and sorcery, where the plot focuses more on the swashbuckling adventures and daring doos of the main character than on the magical elements. In other respects, they’re the same. Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora is an icon sword and sorcery fantasy.

Contemporary Fantasy – This sub-genre of fantasy sets the story in our modern-day world (as opposed to historical fantasy) and, although they can have dark elements to them, they also aim to give their reader a sense of joy and wonder. Contemporary fantasies often involve a “world within a world.” If you’ve read any of the Harry Potter books, you’ve read contemporary fantasy. (Urban fantasy is actually a sub-genre of this sub-genre, but it’s easier to consider it as its own sub-genre. Confused yet?)

Alternate History – Don’t let its name fool you. Alternate history plots actually fall into the fantasy genre rather than the historical fiction genre because at some point in time the history of the story world diverged from the history of our world. What if the Nazis won World War II? That became the inspiration for The Man in the High Castle by Philip K Dick. Depending on the focus of alternate history plots, they can also be categorized as science fiction.

Do you find that you read more in one of these sub-genres than the others? Where does your fantasy novel fall?


**We’ve moved! Please join us at our new permanent homes. You can find Marcy at her website and Lisa at her website.

Genres and Subgenres Defined

Agents and editors inevitably ask the following 3 questions: Is your book finished? What’s the word count? What genre? The question of genre seems to cause writers perpetual grief. Despite popular opinion that agents are just trying to trip new writers up to laugh at them, this is a perfectly valid question.

What do you mean I have to categorize my work?

bookstoreNow, I know what you’re thinking. If only agents could get past this genre thing you’re sure they’d love your inspirational paranormal Amish romance. Writers like Ted Dekker or George Martin don’t have to abide by silly genre rules. Well… First, these really big name authors have huge followings that to a certain extent buy books based on their brand. And those writers actually do adhere to genre rules.

Janette Oke didn’t create inspirational fiction, Stephen King wasn’t the first to write horror, Nora Roberts wasn’t the first romance novelist. All of these writers took an old idea and put their own twist on it, but there were still genre rules they had to abide by. If you want to see your book on the shelf at the local bookstore or on Amazon, booksellers have to know where to put your book. Here are a few quick definitions of existing fiction genres:


Romance must focus on the romantic relationship and love between two people, and according to the Romance Writers of America must have an “emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.” Period. Those are deal breakers for romance fans. If you kill your hero, your readers are going to hate you.

Subgenres of romance can be divided by time periods – historical (before WW2), contemporary (after WW2), Regency, etc. Other subgenres are defined by content such as erotica, romantica, and inspirational. Other subgenres are defined by sub-plots such as in romantic suspense, or paranormal which would include time travel, futuristic, urban fantasy (werewolves, vampires), etc.


Inspirational stories are written primarily for the evangelical Christian market, and use explicitly Christian themes and are written in combination with a wide variety of other genres. Generally, inspirational novels do not include gratuitous violence, explicit descriptions of sex, promiscuous sexual behavior, swearing, and inherently include the character’s relationship with God.

Science Fiction

Science fiction deals with content that is more or less possible within the current plausibility of our own natural world, or at least, isn’t supernatural. Science fiction includes future settings, plausible science, futuristic technology, extra-sensory or perception abilities, and space travel–alternate realities using rational explanations. Star Trek is one of the most successful science fiction franchises out there. Star Trek writers included futuristic automatic doors on their space ships back when engineers were just beginning to experiment with the idea – and now we encounter them at every Wal-Mart across North America.


Crime fiction focuses on a crime, and the solving of that crime. The crime plot must be the primary plot. Crime fiction has many subgenres that often blurr the lines between other genres. According to the Crime Writers of Canada, “The field of Crime Writing is a broad category that includes crime, detective, espionage, mystery, suspense, and thriller writing, as well as fictional or factual accounts of criminal doings and crime-themed literary works. Cross-over novels and short stories such as romantic suspense and speculative thrillers are also considered part of the genre.”


With a thriller, the main protagonist must foil the antagonist more than solve a crime. So the hero may be the detective assigned to a serial killer case, but the focus isn’t on the crime committed, but in catching the killer. Often the hero is put in imminent and potentially fatal danger, and the scope of the crime is much larger than with a crime novel. The hero isn’t searching to solve the disappearance of Joe the Mechanic, but the man who’s raped and murdered 13 children and now has targeted the hero’s daughter. Think big – like Jack Ryan big: assassinations, government coos, etc.

Subgenres include psychological thrillers, and suspense thrillers. says, “the suspense thriller has been loosely defined as a story in which the audience is waiting for something significant to happen. The protagonist’s job is to prevent the speeding bus from exploding, or the aliens from eating the crew. The reader experiences a vicarious thrill by identifying with the hero and the danger he faces, becoming a participant in the chase.”


When I think modern horror, I think Freddie Krueger or Scream. But horror has its roots with Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley or Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. According to the Horror Writers Association, “horror can deal with the mundane or the supernatural, with the fantastic or the normal. It doesn’t have to be full of ghosts, ghouls, and things to go bump in the night. Its only true requirement is that it elicit an emotional reaction that includes some aspect of fear or dread.”


Fantasy, obviously, deals with some aspect of an alternate reality, an alternate world, and often encompasses myths, folklore and legend. Here is a really great post that outlines the major subgenres of fantasy. The Science Fiction and Fantasy writers association is one of the best writer resources out there, even for those who write outside this genre so be sure to check it out.

What is your favorite genre? What genre are you writing right now?


**We’ve moved! Please join us at our new permanent homes. You can find Marcy at her website and Lisa at her website.