Monday 4 December 2017

Exploring Genre 2017

by Jeanette O'Hagan

This year, the cross posts between Christian Writers Downunder and Australasian Christian Writers are focusing on genre. I've found it an interesting series and some more in depth look at different sub-genres in more depth. So just to recap -

Why Genre?

Iola Goulton started off the year asking the question - why genre?  She reminded us that genre's are useful for managing reader expectations and in helping to target promotion and marketing.

Then over the next several months we've looked at specific subgenres - or some broader categories - in fiction, non-fiction and poetry.


Fiction has a number of broad categories such as romance, speculative fiction (science fiction and fantasy), crime and detective fiction, historical dramas, thrillers, military, women's fiction and literary - among others.  Fiction can also be aimed at children (picture books, chapter books, middle-grade), young adult (teens), new adults (teen-early twenties) or adults.


While romance can often be a subplot or theme in a range of other genres, in category romance the focus is on the relationship and the obstacles to a romantic relationship between the hero and heroine or romantic couple.  Category romance is hugely popular and generally has some firm expectations. It can also range from sweet to steamy (or blend into erotica, which is really another category).

There are a wide range of sub-genres with romance.

Carolyn Miller introduced us to historical romance (romance set before the present day) and in particular regency romance - romance inspired by Jane Austen and set in or around the regency period - eg. early 19th century.  You can find her delightful post here.

Nicky Edwards took us on a tour of rural romance (set in the country) and medical romance (with nurses or doctors as protagonists and which includes medical drama), usually set in contemporary times. You can read more here.

Speculative Fiction

Speculative Fiction images a different reality - whether that be a variation of earth as we know it or different world altogether. It is generally divided into Science Fiction (where science or a imagined science explains the world) or Fantasy (in which a non-scientific - often super-natural - explanation is given), though these can cross-overs such as science fantasy and mixtures. There is easily over 100 sub-genres within this field - including crazy mash-ups like gaslamp fantasy or weird west.

Adam Collings  introduced us to Space Opera - epic Science Fiction set in space with a focus more on the story than a detailed or hard science - think Star Trek or Doctor Who.  And, also the Superhero sub-genre which can used a scientific (Superman) or a supernatural (eg Thor) explanation for the special powers.  Read more here.

Jeanette O'Hagan introduced Secondary World and Portal fantasies - both of which are set on an alternative (non-earth) world. In the first the world exists without reference to earth, whereas in the second, the protagonist travels through a door or portal to the other world. Read more here.

Ian Acheson introduced us to Supernatural Fiction - which focuses on supernatural beings such angels, demons and/or ghosts (and is related to paranormal and urban fantasy). It can have a faith or Christina focus or be more 'secular' in its approach. Read more here.


We also looked at 'short fiction' from flash to novellas (though it could also be non-fiction). Read more here.


Poetry can be non-fiction or fiction, it can be strongly narrative (ballads, for instance) or focus on a moment or a feeling or be metaphorical.

Valerie Volk gave a wonderful introduction to Poetry (here)  while the following week we explored Free Verse (poetry without a set rhyme) and Verse Novels (telling a narrative in verse)  (read more here).


And finally, Nola Passmore introduced us to creative non-fiction (and how that differs from reportage). Read more here.

It can be tempting to see genre as a straitjacket or a way of pigeon-holing our fiction.  It can be seen as restrictive or reducing writing to formula (the HEA, the red herrings and clues, etc).  Some genres have stricter guidelines  - the category romance, the cozy mystery - while others almost by their nature tend to push the boundaries  or like cross-overs with a meld of different genres (speculative fiction, Young Adult).

Writing within a genre still allows amazing variety and ingenuity, especially when there are so many.

ACW & CWD are thinking of extending this dip into genres and subgenres next year. With that in mind,

Have  your found the series helpful? How?
What did you learn (if anything)?
And are there any particular genres you'd love to find more about?

List of posts (chronological order)

Creative Non-Fiction

Spaceship image courtesy of digitalart at
Cover Image Valerie Volk  In Due Season
Other images copyright Jeanette O'Hagan


Jeanette started spinning tales in the world of Nardva at the age of eight or nine. She enjoys writing secondary world fiction, poetry, blogging and editing. Her Nardvan stories span continents, time and cultures. They involve a mixture of courtly intrigue, adventure, romance and/or shapeshifters and magic users. She has published numerous short stories, poems, two novellas and her debut novel, Akrad's Children. Find her on Facebook or at her webpages Jeanette O'Hagan Writes or Jenny's Thread.


  1. Thanks for the summary, Jenny. I did enjoy this series and be good to continue it. It would be great to perhaps start it with some indication of what the leading categories in ChristFic and Non-fiction are now. Romance no doubt continues to lead the way in fiction. But is Amish now dwindling? And are there any categories that are now moving the dial. There was a good piece on Library Journal last week about some current trends. I must find it and share.

    Romantic Suspense is very popular ... as is Biblical fiction - be good to explore those. We could ask a friend who writes in those categories to perhaps guest post.

    1. Hi Ian, Thanks for some great suggestions for next year. Worth following up, for sure.

  2. I have enjoyed the posts, especially your post on secondary world and portal fantasy. I'm not a big fantasy reader, so it was good to learn some of the relevant terminology. Thanks for this recap!

  3. Jeanette, great post! Thanks for your summary of our genre learning journey in 2017.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.