Writing & Reading: Genres

Posted January 9, 2017 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Marketing, Publishing, Writing

Revised as of:
31 Jan 2017;
still needs links for “target audience” and “young adult”.

Omigod!! It took writing this post on genres to finally discover the difference between Urban Fantasy and everything else. I know, “sweeping statement”. All the research I had done previously to understand the difference was for naught, for it was not at ALL limited to Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy. Of course, knowing this only makes distinguishing between the stories more difficult. I know I’ll be bookmarking this post for future reference!

Genre is a type or category of literature (or film) marked by certain shared features or conventions. The main categories are fiction and non-fiction, which are, of course, broken down further.

Both fiction and non-fiction break down further into subgenres and sub-subgenres…and there are enough to drive you mad with their minute distinctions. Then there are the stories that incorporate elements of a number of different categories of subgenre.

This post on genres is intended as a guide. For writers it can help focus your theme, plot, conflict, and characters. For readers, it gives you a heads-up on whether you’ll enjoy the subject matter.

Writing is…

…a lot of work…yeah, you already know that one, lol. What the posts on “Writing” are intended to do is explore the various mechanics of writing from plots to points-of-view to structure to character development to genres to voice to target audience to book types to character or story arcs to backstories to plot devices to themes to diction to copyright to flashforwards to flashbacks to framing the story or devices to memes to tropes to pace to perspective to settings to show versus tell to social context to continuity to storyboards to style to language to style sheets to syntax to tone to tropes and more…

It’s an evolving conversation, and sometimes I run across an example that helps explain better or another “also known as”. Heck, there’s always a better way to explain it, so if it makes quicker and/or better sense, I would appreciate suggestions and comments from anyone on some aspect of writing with which you struggle or on which you can contribute more understanding.

If you found this post on “Writing & Reading: Genres” interesting, consider tweeting it to your friends. Subscribe to KD Did It, if you’d like to track this post for future updates.

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Definition: A genre is a category of literature, characterized by similarities in form, style, or subject matter.






New Adult

Non-Fiction continued…


Science Fiction


Definition: A book or series genre that “uses magic and other supernatural phenomena as a primary plot element, theme, or setting such as an imaginary world where magic and magical creatures are common” as well as races other than humans, such as elves, dwarves, or goblins. — a world completely separate from our own, and includes its own myths and legends.

What primarily sets fantasy apart from sci-fi is the medieval style of the world’s technology and culture.

The genre continues to evolve with a number of different subgenres and can mix with completely separate genres.

Joanna Penn; Wikipedia

Arcanepunk Definition: Blends science fiction, technology, and fantasy and may take place in alternate histories, futuristic societies, contemporary worlds, or even secondary worlds. The key, is that the world has to have reached industrialization.

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These stories dabble in noir, have underworlds, and can sometimes be a dystopia.

Characters are broody and dark.

Unlike steampunk, it is not limited to Victorian-era London.

The magic is not divine AND is very functional with an everyday quality with many people able to wield it, not just scientists and wizards.

A.k.a., dungeon punk??, magepunk??

Best Fantasy Books

Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels, apocalyptic series
Stephen Kenson’s Shadowrun series
Devon Monk’s Allie Beckstrom series
China Miéville’s Bas-Lag Cycle, a.k.a., New Crobuzon, series (blends Steampunk, Science Fiction, and Horror)
Walter Jon Williams’ Metropolitan series
Dark Fantasy Definition: Mixes in horror or grim themes that delve into the dark and twisted side of our nature and the weird, sublime, and uncanny.

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It doesn’t shy away from the gore and horror of its own darkness, but doesn’t primarily aim to spook.

Its heroes are not knights in shining armour, but people who sometimes have to do unsavoury things. Nor are its villains necessarily all bad although it may have villains that really are all bad.

Dark Fantasy as a Writing Genre: What is it anyway?” by Alan Baxter

Alan Baxter’s RealmShift and MageSign are primarily dark + elements of action/adventure and thriller
Christina Henry’s The Chronicles of Alice series
Anne Bishop’s The Black Jewels series
Epic Fantasy Definition: Features very thick books in a very long series

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Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series
Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series
Janny Wurts’ Wars of Light and Shadow
Erotic Fantasy Definition: Blends magic, magical creatures, and other supernatural phenomena with sex.

The erotic subgenre can also be found under romance, fiction, science fiction, and thriller.

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A.N. Roquelaure’s Sleeping Beauty series
Jacqueline Carey’s Phèdre’s Trilogy series
Laurell K. Hamilton’s Meredith Gentry series and her Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter
Folklore Definition: Stories, beliefs, and sayings that have been handed down for centuries within a particular social group.

For example:

In English, the phrase “An elephant walks into a bar…” flags the following text as a joke.

The child’s song “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” includes a distinctive performance for each of the animals named.

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Classification of Folk Tales
(ATU #)
A system to classify the thousands of folktales has been evolving for over a hundred years and is used to organize, classify, and analyze folklore narratives (many tales are variations on a limited number of themes).

More specific indices include the:

  • Aarne–Thompson Motif-Index (catalogued by alphabetical letters followed by #)
    • Organizes thousands of motifs under an umbrella topic and then divided into more specific subcategories.
        For example, category “S” is “Unnatural Cruelty” with entry “S50. Cruel relatives-in-law”, under which is the more specific entry “S51.1. Cruel mother-in-law plans death of daughter-in-law”.
  • Aarne–Thompson Tale Type Index (cataloged by AT # or AaTh #)
    • Divides tales by its central motif or by one of the variant folktales of that type, which can also vary, especially when used in different countries and cultures into sections
    • Tale types are not accurate for every folktale:
      • “The Cat as Helper” (545B) may include a fox helping the hero
      • Tale Types 400-424 all feature “Brides/Wives” as the primary protagonist with “The Quest for a Lost Bride” (400) or the “Animal Bride” (402) as subtypes within.
    • Subtypes are designated by adding a letter to the AT #:
      • “The Persecuted Heroine” (510) has subtypes 510A, “Cinderella”, and 510B, “Catskin”
  • A.k.a., verbal folklore


    Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm’s The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales is also a Fairytale
    Neil Gaiman’s American Gods
    Italo Calvino’s Italian Folktales
    Sir James George Frazer’ The Golden Bough
    Fable Definition: A very short story that has a moral or life lesson; usually has talking animals as main characters.

    A.k.a., fabula

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    Aesop’s Fables

    Fairytale Definition: A story which tends to be based around magical creatures and fantasy worlds, usually written for children and are easy to follow and understand.

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    Mercedes Lackey’s Five Hundred Kingdoms series and Fairy Tales series.
    Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes
    Seanan McGuire’s Indexing series
    Hans Christian Andersen’s The Complete Fairy Tales
    Legend Definition: Legends are made-up or exaggerated stories about people and their actions or deeds performed to save their people or nations. The people mentioned in a legend might not really have done what the story of the legend relates, and on some cases, the actual historical events have been changed to make it more fascinating.

    A legend has been passed down in oral form through the centuries.

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    The city of Atlantis
    King Arthur, Merlin, the knights of the Round Table
    Robin Hood
    Queen Boadicea
    The Flying Dutchman
    Myth Definition: A myth has been passed down in oral form through the centuries and is about gods or goddesses and answers questions about the workings of natural phenomenon.

    Myths may go as far back as prehistoric times and came before religions and all religious stories are, in fact, retellings of global mythical themes.

    Many writers use myths as the basis for stories.

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    Joseph Campbell
    Romulus and Remus
    the Grail Quest
    the Fisher King
    Helen of Troy
    John Milton’s Paradise Lost
    Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson & the Olympians series and his The Heroes of Olympus series
    Stories from the Bible
    Tall Tale Definition: Stories set in the Wild West; the main character’s strengths, skills, or size have been exaggerated and the tone is funny.

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    Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox
    Pecos Bill
    Stories about the fish you caught *grin*
    Johnny Appleseed
    Orson Scott Card’s Tales of Alvin Maker series
    Grimdark Fantasy Definition: Employs a dystopian element in the world or plot.

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    Glen Cook’s The Chronicles of the Black Company series
    Joe Abercrombie’s The First Law series
    Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastard series
    Mark Lawrence’s The Broken Empire series
    High Fantasy Definition: Usually very traditional and Tolkienesque.

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    J.R.R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings series
    Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea Cycle
    Robin Hobb’s Realms of the Elderlings series
    Patrick Rothfuss’ The Kingkiller Chronicle
    Historical Fantasy Definition: Incorporates magic into historical fiction, often mixed with the “sword and sorcery” subgenre.

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    Doubled Edge
    Piers Anthony’s Hasan
    Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series
    Magical Realism Definition: Inspired by Latin-American authors, it includes elements of fantasy, myth, or the supernatural in a world that is otherwise objective and realistic.

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    It differs from urban fantasy in that the magic itself is not the focus of the story.

    A.k.a., magical realist

    Gabriel García Márquez
    Aimee Bender’s The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
    Ramona Ausubel’s A Guide to Being Born: “Chest of Drawers”
    Salman Rushdie’s The Enchantress Of Florence
    Paranormal Fantasy Definition: Set in a normal world and designates experiences that lie outside “the range of normal experience or scientific explanation” or that indicates phenomena that are understood to be outside of science’s current ability to explain or measure.

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    It may speculate about the things that cannot be seen or proved, such as extrasensory perception (ESP) and alien life.

    Characters may include psychics, mediums, telepaths, time travelers, magic, or supernatural people or creatures on the edges of it.

    Romance may be one of the threads in a paranormal story but it will be a side theme. See paranormal romance for more on this distinction. It is also a subgenre under Thriller.

    A.k.a., supernatural fiction, speculative fiction

    Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series
    Alex Hughes’ Mindspace Investigations series
    Kim Harrison’s The Hollows series
    Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series and Harper Connelly series
    Urban Fantasy Definition: Set in a normal world but with magic or supernatural people or creatures on the edges of it. The normal people aren’t aware that magic of any sort exists, but the magic is the focus of the story. Romance will be but one thread in the story.

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    It differs from magical realism in that the magic is the focus of the story.

    Joanna Penn has written a useful post, “Writing Fiction. What Is Urban Fantasy Anyway?“, that defines urban fantasy as one in which “magic and weird stuff creeping in at the edges of a world in which magic is not the norm. Everything appears normal until you walk down a particular alleyway after midnight on the third Tuesday of the month. The person sitting opposite you on the underground train looks normal but is in fact looking for a particular flavour of grief to steal and bottle up to take back to his master.”

    Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London, a.k.a., PC Peter Grant, Peter Grant, series
    Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely YA series
    Definition: Literature in the form of prose that describes imaginary events and people who may have some resemblance with real life events and characters while entertaining, educating, and inspiring your readers.

    It includes novels, novellas, short stories, poetry, plays, etc.

    Yep, that includes absolutely everything that is not non-fiction.


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    Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland
    Plays by Shakespeare, Brecht, Marlowe, Bernard Shaw, Arthur Miller, Eugene O’Neill, etc.
    Jane Austen, Charlotte Brönte, Charles Dickens
    Patricia Briggs, Faith Hunter
    Ayn Rand, George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, H.G. Wells
    James Patterson, Taylor Caldwell
    and on and on and on…
    Bildungsroman Definition: A German word referring to a novel structured as a series of events that take place as the hero travels in quest of a goal.

    A.k.a., coming-of-age

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    Henry Fielding’s The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling
    Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield
    James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
    Chick Lit Definition: It’s a shorthand for chick literature, meaning a book genre which addresses issues of modern womanhood, often humorously and lightheartedly.

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    Although it sometimes includes romantic elements, chick lit is generally not considered a direct subcategory of the romance novel genre, because the heroine’s relationship with her family or friends is often just as important as her romantic relationships.

    Also see Chick Lit Romance.

    A.k.a., chick literature


    Kate Mertz’s Stiletto Safari
    Rachel Naples’ Dirty Laundry
    Sophie Kinsella
    Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones series
    Lauren Weisberger’s The Devil Wears Prada series
    Epistolary Definition: A novel (or non-fictional biography) written as a series of documents such as letters, diary entries, newspaper clippings, etc.

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    Today, eDocuments such as emails, text messages, blogs, recordings, and radio are also being used. They may be letters from one person or between different characters which means multiple points-of-view.

    Epistolary may also be non-fiction.

    Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
    Abraham “Bram” Stoker’s Dracula
    C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters
    Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary
    Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa, or, the History of a Young Lady
    Tobias Smollett’s The Expedition of Humphry Clinker
    Fanny Burney’s Evelina
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s La Nouvelle Héloïse
    Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ Les Liaisons dangereuses.
    C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters
    Alice Walker’s The Color Purple
    Erotic Definition: Fictional tales of human sexual relationships which have the power to or are intended to arouse the reader sexually.
    It takes the form of novels, short stories, poetry, true-life memoirs, and sex manuals.

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    A common feature is sexual fantasies on such themes as prostitution, orgies, homosexuality, sadomasochism, and many other taboo subjects and fetishes, which may or may not be expressed in explicit language.

    Other common elements are satire and social criticism.

    The erotic subgenre can also be found under fantasy, romance, science fiction, and thriller.

    Wikipedia: Erotic Literature

    John Cleland’s Fanny Hill, or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure
    Anaïs Nin’s “Little Birds
    Pauline Reage’s Story of O
    Emmanuelle Arsan’s Emmanuelle
    Historical Definition: An altered sense of reality and storyline using historical facts and happenings as a base for the writing.

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    Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series
    Kathryn Stocket’s The Help
    Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha
    Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind
    Tracy Chevalier’s Girl with a Pearl Earring
    Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall
    Literature Definition: Written works, especially those considered of superior or lasting artistic merit.

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    To Kill a Mockingbird
    J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye
    William Golding’s Lord of the Flies
    George Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984
    J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace
    Richard Henry Dana’s Two Years Before the Mast
    Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe
    Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park
    Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You
    Military Definition: The primary action takes place on a battlefield or in a civilian setting (or home front), where the characters are either preoccupied with the preparations for, suffering the effects of, or recovering from war.

    Many war novels are historical novels.

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    Joseph Heller’s Catch-22
    Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace
    Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five
    Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls
    Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage
    Bernard Cornwell’s Richard Sharpe
    Poetry Definition: Written in a verse and rhythm, it tries to invoke a more emotional, primal response from within our minds.

    Poetry will include sonnets, lyric poetry, etc.

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    Ralph Waldo Emerson
    William Wordsworth
    W.B. Yeats
    Langston Hughes
    Emily Dickinson
    Allen Ginsberg
    Khalil Gibran
    Günter Grass
    Walt Whitman
    Alfred, Lord Tennyson
    Dylan Thomas
    Heroic Poetry Definition: Narrative verse that is elevated in mood and uses a dignified, dramatic, and formal style to describe the deeds of aristocratic warriors and rulers. It is usually composed without the aid of writing and is chanted or recited to the accompaniment of a stringed instrument.

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    Lord George Byron’s “The Siege of Corinth
    Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “The Charge of the Light Brigade
    Metaphysical Poetry Definition: Refers to poetry that explores highly complex, philosophical ideas through extended metaphors and “paradox.

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    John Donne
    George Herbert
    Richard Crashaw
    Andrew Marvell
    Henry Vaughan
    Narrative Verse Definition: Poetry written as if it were a story.

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    Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queen
    Roman à Clef Definition: A novel in which actual people and places are disguised as fictional characters.

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    Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men
    Jack Kerouac’s On the Road
    Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar
    Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
    Definition: A book about real people, real places, and real events in the past.

    See Non-Fiction: History

    Definition: A book or series genre that creates a sense of fear, panic, alarm, and dread in the reader through a portrayal of their worst fears and nightmares.

    The plot usually centers on the arrival of an evil force, person, or event and includes a large amount of violence and gore in the storyline.

    Horror may focus on non-supernatural or the supernatural and are built around suspense and the idea that the end could indeed be nigh.

    The genre continues to evolve with a number of different subgenres and can mix with completely separate genres.

    Writer’s Digest

    Child in Peril Definition: Horror that involves the abduction and/or persecution of a child.

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    James Kahn’s Poltergeist series
    William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist
    V.C. Andrews’ Flowers in the Attic
    Comic Horror Definition: Horror stories that either spoof horror conventions or that mix the gore with dark humor, giving the reader a reason to laugh at their fears, yet at the same time allowing the reader to feel safe, like the monsters can’t get them.

    In placing characters in familiar settings with relatively predictable stories, the reader is prepared, safe.

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    Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
    Sam Raimi’s Army of Darkness
    Mike Mignola’s Hellboy series
    R.L. Stine’s middle-grade Goosebumps series
    Creepy Kid Definition: Children who come under the influence of dark forces begin to turn against the adults.

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    Stephen King’s “The Children of the Corn” and Carrie
    Erotic Horror Definition: Sex and horror mixed together…sounds like a lifelong session on a therapist’s couch to me.

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    Poppy Z. Brite and Caitlin Kiernan’s Wrong Things
    Erotic Vampire Definition: A fairly new subgenre in horror linking sexuality and vampires, but with more emphasis on graphic description and violence.

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    Poppy Z. Brite’s Love in Vein
    Fabulist Horror Definition: A horror-oriented version of the fable subgenre, in which objects, animals, or forces of nature are anthropomorphized in order to deliver a moral lesson.

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    H.P. Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu
    Stephen King’s Pet Semetary
    Clive Barker’s Weaveworld
    Gothic Horror Definition: A traditional form depicting the encroachment of the Middle Ages upon 18th century Enlightenment, filled with images of decay and ruin, and episodes of imprisonment and persecution.

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    Edgar Allan Poe
    Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
    Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
    Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray
    Bram Stoker’s Dracula
    Hauntings Definition: A classic form centering on possession by ghosts, demons or poltergeists, particularly of some sort of structure.

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    Stephen King’s The Shining
    Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House
    Historical Horror Definition: Horror tales set in a specific and recognizable period of history.

    Historical horror may also be a subgenre under Mystery, Romance, and Thriller.

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    Seth Grahame Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
    Tonia Brown’s Skin Game
    Dan Davis’ The Immortal Knight Chronicles series
    Psychological Horror Definition: Based on the disturbed human psyche, often exploring insane, altered realities and featuring a human monster with horrific, but not supernatural, aspects.

    This subgenre may sometimes overlap with Psychological Thriller.

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    Thomas Harris’ Silence of the Lambs
    Robert Bloch’s Psycho and American Gothic
    Stephen King’s Misery and The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon
    Koji Suzuki’s Ring
    Quiet Horror Definition: Subtly written horror that uses atmosphere and mood, rather than graphic description, to create fear and suspense.

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    It stimulates the intellect, evokes dark emotions, and conjures imagery, artistically hitting your fear buttons, teasing you with clues, and employing the suggestive-then-cut-away Hitchcock style of suspense.

    And often, this quiet darkness will hold a message that is not only cleverly hidden but also symbolic. That “ah-ha” moment is one we all love to experience.

    Quiet Horror, Still the Darling of the Horror Genre

    Charles L. Grant
    John Harwood’s The Séance
    Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black
    Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories
    W.W. Jacob’s “The Monkey’s Paw
    Peter Straub’s In the Night Room
    Religious Horror Definition: Makes use of religious icons and mythology, especially the angels and demons derived from Dante’s Inferno and Milton’s Paradise Lost.

    Mike Duran has a post, “On ‘Christian Horror’ and Atheist Dread“, that explores both sides of religious horror.

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    H.P. Lovecraft’s The Whisperer in Darkness
    William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist
    Science Fiction Horror Definition: A darker, more violent twist, often revolving around alien invasions, mad scientists, or experiments gone wrong.

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    George Langelaan’s “The Fly
    H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau
    Splatter Horror Definition: A fairly new, extreme style of horror that cuts right to the gore with graphic, often gory, depictions of violence and “hyper-intensive horror with no limits”. Sounds like horror porn…

    A.k.a., splatterpunk

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    Michael Shea’s “The Autopsy
    Jack Ketchum’s Off Season (the original version or the release by Dorchester)
    David J. Schow’s The Kill Riff
    Supernatural Menace Definition: The rules of normal existence don’t apply; often featuring ghosts, demons, vampires, and werewolves.

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    Aaron B. Larson’s Weird Western Adventures of Haakon Jones
    Arthur J. Burks’ Horror Stories

    Technology Definition: Features technology that has run amok, venturing increasingly into the expanding domain of computers, cyberspace, and genetic engineering.

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    Stephen King’s The Lawnmower Man
    Dean Koontz’s Demon Seed
    James Kahn’s Poltergeist series
    Rachel Caine’s Revivalist
    Weird Tales Definition: inspired by the magazine of the same name, a more traditional form featuring strange and uncanny events, but all events can be explained rationally.

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    There isn’t anything supernatural in the story.

    “The horrors in a weird menace story are recounted in great detail and with extreme intensity.

    The monster must be human: mad scientists, cult leaders, psychopaths, fiends, ‘gnarled dwarves, brainless mutants, [and] horny hunchbacks’ abound.”

    Tellers of Weird Tales

    Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone
    X-Files series
    Algernon Blackwood’s Four Weird Tales
    Zombie Definition: Tales featuring dead people who return to commit mayhem on the living.

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    Mira Grant’s Newsflesh Trilogy
    John Joseph Adams’ anthology, The Living Dead
    Diana Rowland’s White Trash Zombie
    Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill’s Dead Reckoning
    Definition: A book or series genre in which the main character solves the puzzle of a crime or series of crimes without knowing who the killer is — the whodunnit.

    To create a feeling of resolution with the reader through more cerebral means and at a slower pace, unraveling slowly, with the reader exposed to the same information as the detective and allowing the reader to take in every aspect of the investigation.

    If the protagonist is in any danger, it is usually moderate and becomes a problem only as the detective approaches the truth.

    Mysteries range from detective hunts to police crime scenes.

    It’s easy to confuse mystery with suspense or thriller as they are so similar, however, remember that in mystery, you don’t know who the killer is until the end. Suspense continues to evolve with a number of different subgenres and can mix with completely separate genres.

    A.k.a., detective novel

    Amateur Sleuth Definition: Features a person with the skills and desire to investigate mysteries. It’s a close cousin to the cozy.

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    John Creasey’s The Toff series
    Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, etc.
    Robin Allen’s Poppy Markham, Culinary Cop series
    Cozy Definition: Includes a lighthearted tone and generally features an intelligent woman as the protagonist with particular skills, an occupation or particular hobby, and lives in a small town or village which makes it more likely that she knows many of the people who may be involved or know something.

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    Frequently, her best friend, husband, or significant other is involved in law enforcement as a medical examiner, lawyer, policeman, detective, etc.

    The Cozy Mystery List website has a great post on “What Makes a Cozy Just That?“.

    Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple series
    Diane Mott Davidson’s Goldy Bear Culinary Mysteries series
    Cleo Coyle’s Coffeehouse Mystery series
    Donna Andrews’ Meg Langslow series
    Katherine Hall Page’s Faith Fairchild series
    Crime Definition: Fictionalizes crimes, their detection, criminals, and their motives. It focuses on a specific crime or set of crimes, and solves the mystery or tracks down the criminal(s) with no or little violence but more drama throughout and at a slower pace.

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    They may focus more on the gangster life, personal drama of the criminals and even their personal lives.

    It usually offers a more serious, grim, and realistic portrayal of the criminal environment, emphasizing character development and complex narratives over suspense sequences, chase scenes, and violence.

    In crime fiction, the hero might be a police officer, or a private eye, who is usually tough and resourceful. He or she is pitted against villains determined to destroy him or her, although, unlike in thrillers, not necessarily other people, the country, or the stability of the free world.

    Crime may also be a thriller.

    Mario Puzo’s The Godfather
    Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train
    Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White
    Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood
    Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose
    Craig Johnson’s Walt Longmire
    Detective Definition: The detective usually concentrates on a single crime.

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    Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series
    Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus series
    Charles Todd’s historical Inspector Ian Rutledge series
    Forensics See Forensics Thriller.
    Hardboiled Definition: A cynical detective, a classical antihero, who fears nothing, an attitude conveyed through the detective’s inner monologue using narrative voice and various flashbacks (think Sam Spade).

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    The cynicism comes from dealing with the violence of organized crime during Prohibition and later AND a corrupt legal system.

    It shares some of its characters and settings with crime.
    Suspense is created by emphasizing apprehension, awe, horror, and terror.

    A.k.a., hard-boiled

    Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer series
    Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe series
    Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer series
    Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon with Sam Spade and the The Continental Op series
    Ken Bruen’s Jack Taylor series and his Inspector Brant series
    Noir Definition: The protagonist is a victim, a suspect, or a perpetrator — not a detective.

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    The self-destructive protagonist is typically dealing with the legal, political, or other system that is no less corrupt than the perpetrator by whom the protagonist is either victimized and/or has to victimize others on a daily basis, leading to a lose-lose situation.

    A.k.a., dark mystery, noir fiction, roman noir

    Matthew McBride’s A Swollen Red Sun
    James M. Cain‘s The Postman Always Rings Twice
    Cornell Woolrich
    Dorothy B. Hughes
    Jim Thompson
    David Goodis
    Elmore Leonard
    Historical Definition: Set in a time period that the author sees as being in the past with the central plot solving a crime or murder.

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    Margaret Frazer’s Sister Frevisse
    Ellis Peters’ Chronicles of Brother Cadfael
    Candace Robb’s Owen Archer
    Anything by Agatha Christie
    Locked-Room Definition: The focus in this sun-genre is not on the protagonist, but the circumstance, i.e., a crime (usually murder) is committed, in which it is seemingly impossible for the perpetrator to commit the crime and/or evade detection in the course of getting in and out of the crime scene.

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    The reader has no idea who the primary antagonist is until the very end of the book, and there are a variety of characters who are possible suspects all of whom are usually called together at the end when the killer’s identity is revealed.

    The reader is normally presented with the puzzle and all of the clues and is encouraged to solve the mystery before the solution is revealed in a dramatic climax.

    A.k.a., closed-room, locked-door

    Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express and Ten Little Indians
    Adrian McGinty’s In The Morning I’ll Be Gone
    Edgar Allan Poe’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue
    Gaston Leroux’s The Mystery of the Yellow Room
    John Dickson Carr’s The Hollow Man
    Ellery Queen’s The King Is Dead
    Open-Mystery Definition: The opposite of locked-room, the main antagonist is revealed at the beginning of the story and showcases “the prefect crime” scenario. The suspense comes less from the whodunit aspect and more from how the crime was committed.

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    Dewey Gram’s Oceans 11
    Evan Lee Heyman’s Thomas Crown Affair
    Police Procedural Definition: A detective deals with more than one crime or mystery in a single story and usually with the bad guy’s identity known ahead of time.

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    A police procedural will usually feature police-related topics such as forensics, autopsies, the gathering of evidence, the use of search warrants, and interrogation.
    John Creasey’s Inspector West
    Åsa Larsson’s Rebecka Martinsson
    Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad
    Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct, etc.
    Private Investigator Definition: Private Eye Writers define a private eye as any mystery protagonist who is a private citizen who is a paid professional investigator (licensed and unlicensed), but not a civic or state police officer, member of the military or a federal agency.

    Private Eye Writers and The Thrilling Detective Website

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    P.I.s can be: P.I.s can’t be:
    Traditional private investigators Works centering on law enforcement officers or amateur sleuths
    Lawyers and reporters who do their own legwork FBI or CIA agents
    Other hired agents
    TV or newspaper reporter
    Insurance investigator
    Employee of an investigative service or agency (think Pinkertons)
    Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot
    Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski
    Clive Cussler’s Isaac Bell series (which also fits under Historical Thriller)
    Rhys Bowen’s Molly Murphy series
    Thriller (Mystery) See Mystery Thriller for details.
    True Crime Definition: Deals with a real crime and examines the motives of real people and real events.

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    The crimes may be pulled from current headlines or examine cases from the past, such as JFK’s assassination, the Ripper murders, Marilyn Monroe’s death, or the Manson family.

    True crime may be highly speculative or stick to the basic facts; in the end, it allows readers to draw their own conclusions.

    New Adult Definition: New Adult (NA) is primarily a target audience. Because NA is primarily a writer’s target audience, the definition in New Adult Romance covers this “genre”.

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    Protagonists are in the same age range as the reader, the 18-25 crowd, filling the gap between YA and contemporary romance, currently experiencing some kind of monumental first: first love, first time away from home, or first real job, first sense of adult responsibility, but is also appealing to those of us who look back on that era of our lives with nostalgia, smiles, or regrets.

    Characters are college-age, not high school, and very focused on life and love in the now with steamier sexual situations, profanity, graphic violence, and romance. They are coping with college life, having a baby, abuse and anger management issues, and dysfunctional families.

    Plots are more dramatic with soap-opera-like plots.

    Voice: Often uses first-person narrative, sometimes alternating with his-and-hers first person points-of-view.

    Romance is the genre most common for New Adult, but is not restricted to romance.


    Robert and Dayna Baer’s The Company We Keep
    Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood
    Ulrich Boser’s The Gardner Heist: The True Story of the World’s Largest Unsolved Art Theft
    Ed Sanders’ The Family
    Definition: Writing that is true or factual.
    Art Books Definition: There are two kinds of art books:

    1. Works of art that utilize the form of the book. They are often published in small editions, though they are sometimes produced as one-of-a-kind objects.
    2. Books that reproduce images of art

    A.k.a., artist’s book

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    Lauris Morgan-Griffiths and Ansel Adams’ Ansel Adams: Landscapes of the American West
    Daniel Wildenstein’s Monet or The Triumph of Impressionism
    Mary Lynn Kotz’s Rauschenberg: Art and Life
    Mitzi Humphrey’s The Landscape Book
    William and Catherine Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience
    Kurt Schwitter and Kate Steinitz’s The Scarecrow
    Tristan Tzara’s Sete Manifestos Dada
    Biography Definition: A narrative full of true stories and anecdotes of the life of someone famous told by another. The topic is usually an historical personage, a celebrity, a politician, or an athlete.

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    Chris Abani’s Becoming Abigail
    Tracy Borman’s Queen of the Conqueror: The Life of Matilda, Wife of William I
    Henry Bushkin’s A Hard Act to Follow
    Eric Metaxas’ Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery and his Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy — A Righteous Gentile vs. the Third Reich
    Anecdote Definition: A short and amusing or interesting story about a biographical incident. More particularly, it is a short description, tale, or account of an event that encourages laughter while giving readers a better understanding of a character, providing truth, or describing a quirk or trait of a character while making it humorous.

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    It may also serve as a cautionary tale of what may happen if one doesn’t follow particular methods and techniques.

    An anecdote is not a joke, and it is not strictly a genre — it’s too short!

    When used in marketing, it is referred to as a testimonial.

    Literary Devices.

    “Forget it,” the experts advised Madame Curie. They agreed radium was a scientifically impossible idea. However, Marie Curie insisted, “I can make it happen.”

    Journalists, friends, armed forces specialists, and even Orville and Wilbur Wright’s father laughed at the idea of an airplane. “What a silly and insane way to spend money. Leave flying to the birds,” they jeered.

    “Sorry,” the Wright brothers responded. “We have a dream, and we can make it happen.”

    As a result, a place called Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, became the setting for the launching of their “ridiculous” idea.

    You know, when I was a kid, my dog was my best friend. My childhood was better because of him.

    That reminds me of a wild party I went to with the groom, before he got that new ball and chain! If you had told me back then that he would choose just ONE woman, I never would have believed it!

    Examples courtesy of BizMove and Literary Terms.

    Autobiography Definition: A narrative full of true stories and anecdotes of the life of someone famous as told by that someone. The topic is usually an historical personage, a celebrity, a politician, or an athlete.

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    Phil Donahue’s Phil Donahue: My Own Story
    Ursula Hegi’s Tearing the Silence: Being German in America
    Bill Mason’s Confessions of a Master Jewel Thief
    Angela’s Ashes
    Epistolary Definition: A book written through a series of documents such as letters, diary entries, newspaper clippings, blog posts, and emails.
    Epistolary may also be fiction.

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    Kathleen Langdon-Haven McInerney’s Dear Nell: The true story of the Haven sisters
    Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl
    Memoir Definition: A written factual account of someone’s life and tells a story about their experiences, usually about a specific time of their life and involves reflection on some particular events or places.

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    Josh Kilmer-Purcell’s Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanites became Gentlemen Farmers: An Unconventional Memoir
    Hari Daoud’s Translator: A Tribesman’s Memoir of Darfur
    Larry McMurtry’s Books
    Cookbook Definition: A book containing recipes and other information about the preparation and cooking of food.

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    Betty Crocker’s Cookbook
    Julia Child and Simone Beck’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking
    James Beard’s Beard on Bread
    Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution
    Essays Definition: A composition that tries to give a detailed and thorough outlook or opinion on a specific subject.

    Access to English: Social Studies has some useful tips on how to write any of the various essays below.

    Descriptive Essay Definition: Paints a picture with words of a person, place, object, or even memory of special significance, but it is not description for description’s sake.

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    You must show, not tell, communicate a deeper meaning through description, and yank on your reader’s emotions.

    Related to the narrative essay.

    A.k.a., description essay

    Jeffrey Tayler’s “The Sacred Grove of Oshogbo”
    Zadie Smith’s “Fail Better”
    Virginia Woolf’s “Death of the Moth”
    George Orwell’s “Shooting an Elephant” and “A Hanging
    Nora Ephron’s “A Few Words About Breasts”

    Examples courtesy of Rafal Reyzer’s “40 Best Essays of All Time“.

    Expository Essay Definition: It’s “just the facts”, as you present a balanced analysis of a topic, using examples, definitions, facts, statistics, and comparison and contrast.

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    As the expository essay is based on facts and not personal feelings, you do not reveal your emotions or write in the first person.

    There are a number of variations on the expository essay:

    1. Comparison and contrast essay
    2. Cause and effect essay
    3. “How to” or process essay

    A.k.a., exposition essay, informational essay, explanatory essay

    David Sedaris’ “Laugh, Kookaburra”
    E.B. White’s “Once More to the Lake”
    Meghan Daum’s “My Misspent Youth”
    Kurt Vonnegut’s “Dispatch From a Man Without a Country”
    George Orwell’s “You and the Atomic Bomb” and “A Nice Cup of Tea

    Examples courtesy of Rafal Reyzer’s “40 Best Essays of All Time“.

    Narrative Essay Definition: It tells a story about a real-life experience and is usually written in the first person. Do your best to involve the reader by making the story as vivid as possible — show, don’t tell.

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    The narrative essay will give reasons and build towards drawing a conclusion or making a personal statement.

    A.k.a., narration essay, analytical essay

    John Russell’s “The Autobiography of a Kettle”
    Charles D’Ambrosio’s “Documents”
    Annie Dillard’s “Total Eclipse”
    Gloria E. Anzaldúa’s “How to Tame a Wild Tongue”
    John Jeremiah Sullivan’s “Mister Lytle”
    George Orwell’s “In Defence of P. G. Wodehouse

    Examples courtesy of Rafal Reyzer’s “40 Best Essays of All Time“.

    Persuasive Essay Definition: Presents your opinion and tries to convince your readers to adopt your position by using facts and logic, as well as examples, expert opinion, and sound reasoning. You should present all sides of the argument and providing them with solid reasoning why your argument is correct.

    It requires a lot of research to claim and defend an idea.

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    Francis Bacon’s “Of Love”
    Roger Ebert’s “Go Gentle Into That Good Night”
    Christopher Hitchens’ “Assassins of The Mind” and “The New Commandments”
    Jonathan Lethem’s “The Ecstasy of Influence: A plagiarism

    Examples courtesy of Rafal Reyzer’s “40 Best Essays of All Time” and Harper’s Magazine.

    Argumentative Essay Definition: You prove that your opinion, theory, or hypothesis about an issue is correct or more truthful than those of others.

    In this, you are arguing for your opinion as opposed to others, rather than directly trying to persuade someone to adopt your point-of-view.

    A.k.a., argumentation essay

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    needs examples
    History Definition: A book about real people, real places, and real events in the past.

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    Elie Wiesel’s Night
    David McCullough’s 1776
    Simon Winchester’s The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary
    Laura Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit: An American Legend
    Stephen Ambrose’s Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest
    How-to Manuals Definition: Provides information on a topic.

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    Any of the Dummies books
    William Strunk, Jr. and Joseph Devlin’s The Elements of Style: How to Speak and Write Correctly
    Matteo Cossu’s Silkscreen Basics: A Complete How-To Manual
    John Wiseman’s SAS Survival Handbook: How to Survive in the Wild, in Any Climate, on Land or at Sea
    Journalism Definition: Books that are examples of journalism or about the practice or history of journalism and storytelling.

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    Patrick S. Washburn’s The African-American Newspaper
    Alan Tompkins’ Aim for the Heart: Write, Shoot, Report and Produce for TV and Multimedia
    Carl Bernstein & Bob Woodward’s All the President’s Men
    Robert Frank’s The Americans
    David Halberstam’s The Best American Sports Writing of the Century
    Military Definition: Nonfiction military can encompass everything from biography to politics, strategy to history, military differences between countries, discussions on weaponry or equipment, or generals, presidents, or other leaders who make decisions about war.

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    Dexter Filkins’s The Forever War
    Mark Bowden’s Black Hawk Down
    Harold Moore and Joseph Galloway’s We Were Soldiers Once… And Young
    Sun Tzu’s The Art of War
    Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August

    Find more examples at The Book Genre Dictionary.

    Narrative Non-Fiction Definition: Presented in a story format, the information is all completely accurate and true — just told in a more “exciting” manner.

    A.k.a., creative nonfiction, literary nonfiction

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    Anything by Bill Bryson
    Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks
    Erik Larson’s Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania
    Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood
    Jon Krakauer’s Into The Wild
    Nathaniel Philbrick’s In The Heart Of The Sea: The Tragedy Of The Whaleship Essex
    Reference Definition: Anything from an atlas to a dictionary .

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    Oxford Dictionary
    Collins Dictionary
    Scientific, Technical, or Economic Writings Definition: Communicating facts about science, economics, and technical and occupational fields.

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    Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time
    Brian Greene’s The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory
    Richard H. Thaler’s Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics
    P.J. O’Rourke’s Eat the Rich: A Treatise on Economics
    Michelle Goldberg’s The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power, and the Future of the World
    Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
    Timothy Beatley’s Handbook of Biophilic City Planning & Design
    Speech Definition: A public addressing or ceremonial speech to give an answer to specific questions or demands.

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    Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream
    Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address
    Winston S. Churchill’s “Never Give In!: Winston Churchill’s Speeches
    Text Book Definition: A detailed and in-depth analysis or description of a specific topic, used to educate and improve others’ understanding of the subject, i.e., books you use at school.

    A.k.a., coursebook

    Definition: A book or series genre which places the primary focus on the relationship and the development of romantic love between two characters with a, usually, happily ever after.

    Romance can be attached to any variety of other genres from fantasy, horror, science fiction, and more.

    The sexual aspect of the romance varies depending upon the intention behind character growth, story and relationship development, and how important the sex is to the storyline itself. Explore the Sexual Distinctions of the Romance Genre below as it reveals the differences between erotic romance, erotica, porn, sexy romance, and sweet romance.

    Romance Writers of America

    Chick Lit Romance Definition: Explores the often humorous romantic adventures geared toward single working women in their twenties and thirties.

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    Stephanie Perkins’s Anna and the French Kiss
    Simone Elkeles’ Rules of Attraction
    Nicholas Sparks’ The Last Song
    Contemporary Definition: Focuses primarily on the romantic relationship and is set from 1950 to the present.

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    Jill Shalvis’ Animal Magnetism vets series and her Lucky Harbor village series
    T.S. Krupa’s Safe & Sound
    Jaci Burton’s Play-by-Play sports series
    Janet Evanovich’s Full cozy series
    Judith McNaught’s Second Opportunities series
    Kim Barnouin’s Skinny Bitch vegan cooking series
    Vicki Lewis Thompson’s Thunder Mountain Brotherhood western romance series
    Historical Definition: Set in any historical time period from 1950 on back with a focus on romance.

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    Georgette Heyer‘s Regency romances
    Jane Austen, Charlotte Brönte
    Mary Balogh’s Bedwyn Saga series
    Maya Banks’ McCabe Trilogy series
    Jude Deveraux’s Chandler Twins and a subseries within the Montgomery/Taggert series
    Inspirational Romance Definition: Incorporates “religious or spiritual beliefs in anyone’s religion or spiritual belief system as a major part of the romantic relationship”.

    A.k.a., Christian romance

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    Anita Higman’s A Marriage in Middlebury
    Brenda Minton’s Lone Star Cowboy League series
    Lancaster Courtships series
    New Adult Definition: New Adult is both a target audience and a subgenre.

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    Protagonists are in the same age range as the reader, the 18-25 crowd, filling the gap between YA and contemporary romance, currently experiencing some kind of monumental first: first love, first time away from home, or first real job, first sense of adult responsibility, but is also appealing to those of us who look back on that era of our lives with nostalgia, smiles, or regrets.

    Characters are college-age, not high school, and very focused on life and love in the now with steamier sexual situations, profanity, graphic violence, and romance. They are coping with college life, having a baby, abuse and anger management issues, and dysfunctional families.

    Plots are more dramatic with soap-opera-like plots.

    Voice: Often uses first-person narrative, sometimes alternating with his-and-hers first person points-of-view.

    Romance is the genre most common for New Adult, but is not restricted to romance.


    Ryan Ringbloom’s Flaw
    Erin McCarthy’s True Believers series
    Paranormal Romance Definition: The plot moves romantically between two characters with true love following at the end of the story and blends the supernatural with reality, using the future, a fantasy world, or paranormal elements as an important part of the plot.

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    If romance is not one of the primary themes, it would be considered paranormal. It is also a subgenre in Thriller.

    Characters may include psychics, mediums, telepaths, time travelers, magic, or supernatural people or creatures on the edges of it.

    J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood.
    Nora Roberts’ The Cousins O’Dwyer Trilogy series
    Jenn Bennett’s Roaring Twenties (also historical)
    Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld series
    Sexual Distinctions of the Romance Genre:
    🔥🔥 Erotic Definition: A romance that develops between two participants with sex an important aspect of the story and essential to character growth and relationship development. Its removal would damage the storyline.

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    It may include toys, bondage, or games, and it always ends in a happily ever after.

    The sexual terminology used will vary from subtle references to the characters’ body parts to more explicit and will include the primary “c” words: cock, cunt, and clitoris.

    See also romance, erotica, porn, sexy romance, and sweet romance.

    The erotic subgenre can also be found under fantasy, fiction, science fiction, and thriller.

    A.k.a., sensual

    Lorelei James; Sorcha Grace; Sylvia Day

    Angela Knight’s Mageverse series which is a crossover with paranormal romance
    Josh Lanyon’s Adrien English Mysteries (m/m)
    Tacie Graves’ Making Mina series
    🔥🔥🔥 Erotica Definition: Explores the sexual journey of the participants (usually two or more) and how it affects them as individuals.

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    It may or may not show the development of a romantic relationship.

    Love and/or lust may be an element in the story; may include toys, bondage, or games; usually ends with happy; but, not necessarily happily ever after.

    The primary difference between an erotic romance and erotica is the number of participants — there are always two, but erotica can expand beyond a paltry two, lol.

    I consider D/s, bondage and discipline, etc., to be within the erotica category.

    The sexual terminology used will include the primary “c” words: cock, cunt, and clitoris as well as more sexually explicit words.

    See also romance, erotic romance, porn, sexy romance, and sweet romance.

    Sorcha Grace; Sylvia Day

    Maya Banks’ Sweet series
    Kate Douglas’ Chanku series
    Tiffany Reisz’s The Original Sinners series
    Tara Sue Mi’s Submissive series
    Lora Leigh’s Men of August series
    🔥🔥🔥🔥 Porn Definition: Written strictly to gratify the reader sexually.

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    Plot, character development, and romance are NOT primary to these stories; the sex does nothing to move the story forward. They are designed to incite the reader to orgasm and nothing else (Sylvia Day).

    Cock, cunt, and clitoris are the mildest sexual terminology used and may be considered too tame.

    See also romance, erotic romance, erotica, sexy romance, and sweet romance.

    Cat Grant & Rachel Haimowitz’s Power Play series
    Anna March’s “Ménage a Tracy
    Sexy Definition: The development of a romantic relationship that just happens to have more explicit sex.

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    The sex is not an inherent part of the story, character growth, or relationship development, and could easily be removed or “toned down” without damaging the storyline. A happily ever after is a REQUIREMENT as this is basically a standard romance with hotter sex.

    The sexual terminology used will vary from subtle references to the characters’ body parts to more explicit and will include the primary “c” words: cock, cunt, and clitoris.

    Sylvia Day

    Kathleen Woodiwiss’s The Flame and the Flower (it’s also historical)
    Shirlee Busbee’s Louisiana series (and another historical)
    Sweet Definition: The romance is centered on a virgin heroine with a storyline containing little or no sex.

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    Debbie Macomber
    Publishers include Harlequin Romance and Silhouette Romance titles.
    Betty Neels’ The Final Touch series
    Lisa Wingate’s Carolina Heirlooms series
    Romantic Suspense Definition: Suspense, mystery, or thriller elements constitute an integral part of the plot.

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    J.D. Robb’s In Death series
    Christy Reece’s Last Chance Rescue series
    Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series
    Cindy Gerard’s overall series starts with The Bodyguards, is followed by Black Ops, Inc., and then continues with One-Eyed Jacks
    Lora Leigh’s Tempting SEALs and Elite Ops series
    Young Adult Definition: A romance geared toward young adult readers with a suitably lower level of sexual content.

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    Katie McGarry’s Pushing the Limits series
    Teresa Mummert’s White Trash Trilogy series
    John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars
    Nancy Garden’s Annie on My Mind
    Science Fiction
    Definition: A book or series genre which focuses on scientific, technological, social, and/or environmental changes that affect the potential future of our race.

    It frequently includes space or time travel and/or life on other planets and tends to be set far in the future or on a new world entirely.

    The genre continues to evolve with a number of different subgenres and can mix with completely separate genres.

    Alternate History Definition: A reality in which historical events diverged from the main timeline through the actions of a time traveller or other temporal phenomena, what-if scenarios. These alterations can be prevented from having ever come to pass, although memories of them are usually retained.

    A.k.a., alternate timeline, alternative history

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    Taylor Anderson’s Destroyermen series in which a WWII destroyer is sent to an alternate timeline during a battle
    Sophia McDougall’s Romanitas series in a world where Rome never fell
    Rachel Caine’s The Great Library series in which the Library of Alexandria never burned
    Eric Flint and David Drake’s Belisarius series
    Alternate Planes of Existence Definition: A world that exists along with our world, but can’t be seen or accessed without supernatural means: subspace in science-fiction games, astral planes, or any time you enter a world where things look all funky.

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    Many times this is how cloaking technology is explained, a person is “out of phase”, and as such can’t be seen by those in this dimension.

    It’s also quite a popular way to depict how demons or shadows can move around without being seen.

    A.k.a., alternate dimensions

    Giant Bomb

    Sandy Williams’ Shadow Reader series in which the heroine pops back and forth from one plane to another
    Angela Knight’s erotic paranormal romance series, Mageverse, with its Disney-gone-wild architecture

    Examples courtesy of Giant Bomb.

    Alternate Universe See Parallel World.
    Apocalyptic Definition: It revolves around a world-changing, cataclysmic event: floods, an EMP burst, zombies, the super flu, earthquakes, solar flares, the moon falling out of alignment, etc.

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    The event could have already happened, or is in the process of happening, but post-apocalyptic novels are about the survivors and how they deal with this new, deadly world.

    It could even have hints of dystopia in it, as new societies emerge from the remains of civilization.

    A.k.a., post-apocalyptic

    Faith Hunter’s Rogue Mage series
    S.M. Stirling’s Emberverse series
    John Varley’s Slow Apocalypse
    Dystopian Definition: Focuses on what society has done wrong that led to this awful world.

    If the story incorporates fantasy, you may want to check out Grim Dark.

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    Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series
    George Orwell’s 1984
    Alexandra Bracken’s Darkest Minds series
    Mercedes Lackey, Cody Martin, Dennis Lee, and Veronica Giguere’s The Secret World Chronicles series
    Erotic Definition: Offers up the same possibilities as other genres (fantasy, fiction, romance, and thriller) creating new cultures with imagined genders, different sexual relationships, different social structures surrounding sex, and even completely different sexual acts.

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    When the erotic expands into erotica, it becomes “more than just explicit sex in a sci-fi setting” with explorations of “atypical sex with nonhumans (aliens, machines, robots, etc.), sexual equality, changes in the construction of gender roles, homosexuality and bisexuality, virtual reality, taboos and morality, and the impact of technology on sex.

    Best Science Fiction Books.com

    Jaid Black’s The Empress’ New Clothes
    Laurann Dohner’s Cyborg Seduction
    Evangeline Anderson’s Brides of the Kindred
    Military Science Fiction Definition: Involves “conflict of the worst kind, usually with all-out warfare. Oftentimes, the main characters are part of a military organization and are involved in conflicts much greater than their own parts, but they might be pivotal to the overall conflict to some degree”.

    There is a lot of overlap with space opera.

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    John Ringo’s Posleen War series
    Tanya Huff’s Confederation series
    Timothy Zahn’s Blackcollar, Cobra, Cobra War, and Cobra Rebellion series
    Parallel World Definition: Worlds that exist on top of our own, occupying the same space and in existence since the dawn of time.

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    They may be similar, they may be completely different with the very laws of nature being different — for example, one in which there are no relativistic limitations and the speed of light can be exceeded or telekinetic abilities exist or cybernetic forms are common — would, in general, count as a parallel universe, but not an alternative reality.

    Most stories in a parallel world depict the same characters in each universe, but each has made a different choice which resulted in different life outcomes.

    A multiverse is a specific group of parallel universes.

    A.k.a., parallel universe, alternative reality (sometimes defined as being a variant of our own), alternate universe (sometimes defined as being a variant of our own)

    Carol Linn Miller
    ; Stack Exchange

    Robert Heinlein’s The Number of the Beast
    Steven King’s The Dark Tower series
    Harry Turtledove’s Crosstime Traffic series
    C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series
    Space Opera Definition: Space opera was originally a pejorative term referring to simple and melodramatic science fiction.

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    Today, it’s defined as “colorful, dramatic, large-scale science fiction adventure competently and sometimes beautifully written, usually focused on a sympathetic, heroic central character and plot action (often pitting the protagonists against powerful opponents), and usually set in the relatively distant future, and in space or on other worlds, characteristically optimistic in tone.

    It often deals with war, piracy, military virtues, and very large-scale action, large stakes. The actual science that defines science fiction is not necessarily at the forefront of the story.

    And, yes, it’s easy to mistake space opera for military science fiction as there is a lot of overlap.

    Hartwell and Cramer, 10-18

    David Weber’s Honor Harrington series
    The Star Wars saga
    Timothy Zahn’s The Conquerors’ Saga series
    Steampunk Definition: Typically features steam-powered machinery and/or gears.

    Inspired by industrialization, steampunk is generally a Victorian or Victorian-inspired setting in a parallel world.

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    Meljean Brook’s The Iron Seas series
    Gail Carriger’s YA series, Finishing School and her adult series Parasol Protectorate
    Caitlin Kittredge’s Iron Codex
    Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan series
    Time Travel Definition: Characters travel through time instead of space. It’s usually into the past, but Dr. Who tends to go every which way.

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    A few include Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court has been a longtime favorite.
    L. Sprague de Camp’s Lest Darkness Fall
    H.G. Wells’ Time Machine
    Eoin Colfer’s middle-grade reader W.A.R.P. series
    Jack Finney’s Time series
    Julie Cross’ Tempest series
    Connie Willis’ Oxford Time Travel series
    Definition: A book or series genre which features a danger of which the main character may only become gradually aware, even as the reader has the slowly growing feeling that something bad is going to happens (and knows things that the character does not, which only increases the reader’s anxiety over something happening in the future).

    The pace is sometimes slower, and it’s not necessarily action-oriented and violence is optional, although there must be some level of threat and recognizable fear to/or the main characters.

    Suspense will have elements of mystery and thriller. God knows, it’s easy to confuse suspense with mystery or thriller as they are so similar, however, in suspense, you may know who the killer is — or at least experience the killer’s point of view — but the goal is the “emotional roller coaster” of watching the hero’s struggle to escape great danger.

    If you want to further categorize suspense, refer to other subgenres under Mystery and Thriller.

    Best Mystery Books: Suspense

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    W.W. Jacob’s “The Monkey’s Paw
    Gillian Flynn
    Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train
    S.J. Watson’s Before I Go To Sleep
    Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s The Shadow of the Wind
    Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None
    Definition: A book or series genre that begins with a catastrophe and the reader and/or hero knows who the villain is early on with the hero’s objective to stop the bad guy through action. The protagonist is in danger from the outset and the thrill is in wondering if our hero(ine) is successful!

    Sometimes involving larger-scale villainy such as espionage, terrorism, and conspiracy, thrillers rely heavily on suspense, tension, threat, mystery, psychology, and excitement as the main elements to stimulate the readers’ moods, giving them a high level of anticipation, ultra-heightened expectation, uncertainty, surprise, anxiety, and terror to keep them on the “edge of their seats”.

    The thriller is usually a villain-driven plot in which the antagonist presents obstacles that the protagonist must overcome and includes plot devices such as red herrings, plot twists, and cliffhangers.

    A thriller usually focuses on the emotions and inner workings of the protagonist who is: a) often running away from or running towards something that is both very dangerous and life-threatening, an ordinary person caught in extraordinary circumstances or b) a protagonist with the skills to fight back, but who is facing overwhelming odds. Typically, the protagonist will turn to face and ultimately triumph over the danger.

    It’s easy to confuse thriller with mystery or suspense as they are so similar, however, the thriller has higher stakes with the entire town, country, or world in danger. And the thriller does overlap with horror and crime genres and continues to evolve with a number of different subgenres and can mix with completely separate genres.

    Wikipedia; Writing to Publish

    Action/Adventure Thriller Definition: Stories that range from treasure hunters to exploration to survival to mercenary and more, and often features a race against the clock, lots of violence, and an obvious antagonist.

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    Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt, NUMA Files, and Fargo Adventure series
    John Darnton’s Neanderthal
    Michael Crichton’s Congo
    Jerry Ahern’s Survivalist series
    David Brin’s The Postman
    Frederick Forsyth’s The Dogs of War
    Comedic Thriller Definition: A thriller that goes against type by playing for laughs, albeit amid serious action.

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    Carl Hiaasen
    Mabel Maney’s Bond parodies: Kiss the Girls and Make Them Spy and The Girl with the Golden Bouffant
    Dave Barry’s Big Trouble
    Conspiracy Thriller Definition: The protagonists of conspiracy thrillers are often journalists or amateur investigators who find themselves (often inadvertently) pulling on a small thread which unravels a vast conspiracy that ultimately goes “all the way to the top”.

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    Usually the hero becomes a threat to the conspirators and must escape their response.

    Often these stories depict the aberrations caused by secrecy and the corrupting influence of power. Sometimes the conspiracy is broken up, or at least revealed to the world, but in many tales it is not, and the broken protagonist is allowed to live.

    A.k.a., paranoid thriller

    Wikipedia: Conspiracy Fiction

    Robert Ludlum’s The Chancellor Manuscript
    John Le Carré’s The Karla Trilogy series
    David Khara’s Consortium series
    Corporate or Financial Thriller Definition: The corporate environment is the backdrop with the financial system and economy playing a major role.

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    Joseph Finder’s Nick Heller series
    James Patterson’s Black Friday
    Michael M. Thomas’ Black Money
    Michael Crichton’s State of Fear
    Paul Erdman’s The Billion Dollar Sure Thing
    Luca Pesaro’s Zero Alternative
    Crime Thriller Definition: Incorporates the suspenseful aspects of a thriller with a crime plot, which usually centers on a serial killer, murderer, robbery, or manhunt.

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    The storyline focuses around the point-of-view of the criminal and the impact of the crime on the protagonist generally running for their lives due to some criminal activity or other, using action and psychological aspects to build tension and suspense.

    The pace is fast, less dramatic than crime mysteries, and usually involves espionage, frequent killings, and other non-criminal conflicts.

    Crime may also be a mystery.

    Eric Matheny’s The Victim
    Robert Galbraith’s Career of Evil
    Sara Paretsky’s Critical Mass
    Robert Crais
    John Connolly’s Charlie Parker series
    Jeff Abbott
    Simon Kernick
    Disaster Thriller Definition: Usually involves the response of those in power to an impending threat. Often some industrial carelessness provides the threat, and thus an incentive to cover it up. A policy that “panic must be prevented” via secrecy gives the hero (often a reporter) something to pursue.

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    Thomas N. Scortia and Frank M. Robinson’s The Glass Inferno and The Prometheus Crisis
    Stanley Johnson’s The Virus
    Paul Gallico’s The Poseidon Adventure
    Eco-thriller Definition: The hero battles some ecological calamity — and often has to also fight the people responsible for creating that calamity.

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    Richard Rashke’s The Killing of Karen Silkwood: The Story Behind the Kerr–McGee Plutonium Case
    Paul Tabori’s The Green Rain
    John Grisham’s The Pelican Brief
    Erotic Thriller Definition: A blend of illicit romance or erotic fantasy with suspense, tension, and excitement.

    The erotic subgenre can also be found under fantasy, romance, fiction, and science fiction.

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    James Dearden and H.B. Gilmour’s Fatal Attraction
    Robert Bloch’s Psycho
    Tess Gerritsen’s Body Double
    James M. Cain’s “Double Indemnity
    Elizabeth McNeill’s “Nine and a Half Weeks: A Memoir of a Love Affair
    Forensics Thriller Definition: Features the work of forensic experts, whose involvement often puts their own lives at risk.

    Forensics may also be a mystery.

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    Karin Slaughter’s Grant County series
    Kathy Reichs’ Temperance Brennan series
    Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta series
    Historical Thriller Definition: Takes place in a specific and recognizable historic period.

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    Clive Cussler’s Isaac Bell series
    Katharine Weber’s Triangle
    Legal Thriller Definition: Combines thrillers AND crime fiction, in which the major characters are lawyers and their employees.

    The system of justice itself is always a major part of these works, at times almost functioning as one of the characters.

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    John Grisham
    Scott Turow’s Kindle County series
    David Ellis’ Line of Vision
    Medical Thriller Definition: The major characters are doctors, hospitals and their employees, medical researchers, scientists, etc.

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    Often a doctor’s life is threatened (perhaps because they helped a certain patient) or a mysterious (usually artificial) disease has broken out.

    Often the authors are themselves doctors.

    Nelson DeMille’s Plum Island
    Robin Cook’s Coma
    Tess Gerritsen’s Harvest and Life Support
    Sandra Wilkenson’s Death On Call
    Military Thriller Definition: Features a military protagonist, often working behind enemy lines or as part of a specialized force.

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    Lee Child’s Tripwire
    Tom Clancy’s Threat Vector
    Dale Brown’s Iron Wolf
    Mystery Thriller Definition: The hero must stop the horrific plans of an enemy — serial or mass murder, terrorism, assassination, or the overthrow of governments — rather than solve a crime that has already happened, because there is always something bigger and more important at stake behind the crime that may endanger more lives.

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    It climaxes when the hero finally defeats the villain (after the reveal), saves his own life (sometimes) and often the lives of others.
    Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy series
    Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl
    Lee Child’s Killing Floor
    Steven King’s Mr. Mercedes
    Lee Child
    Paranormal Thriller Definition: Set in a normal world, it incorporates experiences that lie outside “the range of normal experience or scientific explanation” or that indicates phenomena that are understood to be outside of science’s current ability to explain or measure.

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    It may speculate about the things that cannot be seen or proved, such as extrasensory perception (ESP) and alien life.

    It’s very similar to horror, but incorporates mystery elements and plot twists that keep us on the edge of our seats, a sort of excitement characterized by fast-paced frequent action and resourceful heroes who must thwart the plans of more-powerful and better-equipped villains.

    If romance is one of the primary themes, it would be considered paranormal romance; if romance is merely one of the themes, it would be paranormal.

    A.k.a., supernatural thriller

    Dianne Emley’s The Night Visitor
    Chrysler Szarlan’s The Hawley Book of the Dead
    Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas series
    Political Thriller Definition: Reflects poorly upon politicians and/or governments, usually on what Mark Twain called “America’s only native criminal class” — the U.S. Congress.

    Usually a low-level protagonist attracts unwelcome attention from the powerful and desperate.

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    Brad Meltzer
    Jeffrey Archer’s Shall We Tell the President?
    Chester D. Campbell’s Overture to Disaster
    Psychological Thriller Definition: Builds up slowly, with ever-increasing doubt and tension, until some explicit action/violence takes place, usually at the finale.

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    Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley
    Dennis Lehane’s Shutter Island
    Religious Thriller Definition: Uses the history and myths of religion — usually a sacred artifact or historical secret — to go up against known or secretive groups who vie for ownership and dominance.

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    The protagonist is often drawn in through research into a seemingly innocent topic.
    Jon Land
    Julia Navarro’s The Brotherhood of the Holy Shroud
    Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code
    Spy or Espionage Thriller Definition: Deals with fictional espionage, but is seldom about the routine lives of actual spies or analysts, but rather the mythical havoc created by relentless agents and those who oppose them.

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    It’s usually set in periods of international tension, such as World War Two, the Cold War, and more recently the war against Islamic extremism.

    The authors frequently have some real-life experience.

    Ian Fleming’s James Bond series
    John le Carré
    Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne series
    Clive Cussler’s The Oregon Files (could also slip into action/adventure)
    John Le Carré’s The Karla Trilogy series
    Gay Courter’s Code Ezra
    Vince Flynn
    Techno-thriller Definition: Overlaps with science fiction, in that cutting-edge technology always plays a key role in the premise and ongoing conflicts.

    Keep in mind that, that cutting-edge technology is “cutting-edge” for the time in which the story is set.

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    Tom Clancy
    Dale Brown
    Harold Coyle
    Dean Ing’s Loose Cannon
    Jerry Hatchett’s Unallocated Space
    Elleston Trevor’s The Flight of the Phoenix

    Resources for Genres

    Literary Genres.

    Aarne-Thompson-Uther Classification System

    This relates to the Fiction: Folklore genre and provides links to different sites that may be useful in exploring the ATU. AT Types of Folktales seems to focus on Norwegian folktales and has a different take on the ATU’s usefulness. I rather like how D.L. Ashliman at the University of Pittsburgh has organized his Folklore and Mythology Electronic Texts. Now if you’re looking for a map to focus in on a particular tale type, explore Tale type and motif indices: maps (you’ll need an ATU #!). Wikipedia has a fabulous list of tons of folklore subgenres.

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    “Read”, by MorningbirdPhoto, is in the public domain, via Pixabay.com.

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