Writing fiction is a versatile art form. In this series of “types of fiction,” I’ll not only identify and define different types and styles of fiction, I’ll help you find resources right here in Long Beach.
Genre fiction defined
Fiction has been broken into two basic kinds: literary and commercial. Commercial fiction is often referred to as popular fiction, and can be further broken down into genre and mainstream. As I mentioned in a previous post, literary fiction focuses on style, psychological depth and character development. On the other hand popular or commercial fiction tends to focus more on narrative and plot.
Within popular fiction, there are several genres which appeal to groups of people who prefer stories of that type. The most commonly acknowledged genres are romance, western, mystery, science fiction, fantasy and horror. Each genre has its own set of literary rules that readers of that genre have come to expect. Popular commercial fiction that appeals to a wider, less niched market is considered mainstream.
That said, there are crossovers between genres and there have been commercial works that were also literary. Art is like that … you can’t box it in.
Examples of genre fiction
Romance – Currently the largest and best-selling fiction genre in North America, these stories feature mutual attraction and love between a man and a woman as the main plot. More often than not that have a happy ending. Popular authors in this genre include Jude Deveraux, LaVyrle Spencer and Julie Garwood.
Western – These tales are set in the American west and take place in the second half of the 19th century. They usually feature rugged, individualistic cowboys as the heros. Louis L’Amour is probably the best known author in this genre and Shane by Jack Schaefer, one of the best known books in the genre.
Mystery – Detective and crime fiction fall into this genre. Basically, mysteries involve solving a crime. The hero is often a detective by profession, or can be an arm chair or amateur detective. Sometimes the hero is none of the above, but must solve the mystery out of necessity or curiosity. Well known mystery writers include Arhur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, Mary Higgins Clark and Kinsey Millhone.
Science fiction – This genre probably has the best developed fandom of the genres and is very diverse. The common aspect of all science fiction is the integral role that science and technology plays in the story line. This is not the fiction for luddites. Best known authors in this genre include Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, Jules Verne and H.G. Wells.
Fantasy – This genre features invented worlds, magic and magical creatures. Some fantasy is based on myth, others legend, and others fairy tales. Best known authors of fantasy fiction include J.R.R. Tolkien, Roger Zelazny, Michael Moorcock, Terry Brooks and Raymond Feist.
Horror – The point of horror fiction is to elicit in the reader the emotion of fear, loathing and horror. To do this, horror stories often include monsters and monstrous creatures or monstrous people and monstrous acts. Some horror is set in an almost make-believe world where supernatural beings exists, while others take place in very real worlds where terrible people do terrible things. Some of the best known horror authors include Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, Clive Barker, Dean Koontz, Algernon Blackwood and Peter Straub.
Resources for writing genre fiction
- Writing Genre Fiction: A Guide to the Craft by H. Thomas Milhorn
- Many Genres, One Craft: Lessons in Writing Popular Fiction by Michael A. Arnzen and Heidi Ruby Miller
- The Romance Writer’s Handbook: How to Write Romantic Fiction & Get it Published by Rebecca Vinyard
- How to Write Western Novels by Matthew Braun
- How to Write Mysteries by Shannon O’Cork
- How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card
- On Writing Horror: A Handbook by the Horror Writers Association by Horror Writers Association and Mort Castle
Genre fiction in Long Beach
- Jill Marie Landis, historical romance writer, Long Beach resident
- Wesla Kerr, mystery writer, Long Beach resident
- Sheila Finch, science fiction writer, Long Beach resident
- James Blaylock, fantasy author, born in Long Beach (resides in Orange County)
- Daniel P. Coughlin, horror film and fiction writer, earned a degree in Film and Television from California State University at Long Beach
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