How To Choose Your Story’s Genre

A book opened to the middle laying on its binding with a page flipped downward to form a loop in the middle.

Now you’re ready to write. But what are you going to write?

You need to know the type of story you’re going to write before putting words to paper.

You want to fit solidly within a genre, so your readers come back for more.

But this doesn’t mean you can’t include elements of other genres in your book as well.

It just has to fit the expectations of your main genre.

Readers will usually choose from among the authors they’re familiar with when they’re looking for a book to buy.

However, if they’re looking for something new, they’ll go to the genre and subgenre they like the most and pick whatever interests them.

If you place your book in a genre it doesn’t belong in, you stand a very slim chance of it being bought because you’re either appealing to the wrong group of readers, or your book stands so far outside the norm it doesn’t belong in one specific genre.

Now it’s time to pick the genre your story belongs in.

To help you decide, I’ve provided a list of the genres and some of my favorite subgenres below.


Fantasy is the world of make-believe where magic and fantastical creatures reside, heroes save the day, and wars of epic proportions between good and evil determine the fate of all.

Dark Fantasy: a disturbing or scary story containing supernatural and fantasy elements that ventures into the violence of horror.

Heroic Fantasy: deals with a war and its heroes. This is similar to military fiction but based in an imaginary world.

High/Epic Fantasy: the fate of an entire race or nation is in jeopardy with the plot ultimately being about the fight against a great evil. A great example of this would be The Lord of The Rings series.

Romantic Fantasy: a fantasy world with a major romantic subplot. This is usually coupled with another subgenre such as high/epic fantasy.

Urban Fantasy: the modern world is combined with fantastical elements.


This is a story where monsters exist, the dead come to life, and the lines between Hell and Earth become blurred to present a story that makes us question the very nature of reality as we know it.

Violence, blood, and gore is a staple of this genre.

Magic Realism: the appearance of fantastical creatures in normal-day life.

Religious Horror: ventures in the realm of angels and demon. A common theme of this subgenre is the Devil seeking a way into the world of man through sacrifice or possession of another.

Science Fiction Horror: this subgenre deals in alien invasions and experiments gone wrong with violence at the heart of it.

Supernatural Menace: vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and demons menace the world of man and push the boundaries of what is possible.

Zombie Horror: in this story, the dead are coming back to life to terrorize the living.


A mystery is where there is a puzzle to be solved, and one must look beyond the obvious to find the truth.

Cozy Mystery: a detective being called into a small town where everyone knows each other, and he must find out who committed a crime.

Espionage: a mystery involving international spies and terrorists. Usually based in the home country but not always.

Locked Room Mystery: the mystery must be solved under impossible circumstances.


Love is at the heart of these stories and centers around the relationship of the main characters as they face obstacles that threaten their future together.

Contemporary Romance: exploring relationship issues in a current-day setting.

Historical Romance: a romance based in a recognizable period of history.

Paranormal Romance: this romance contains aspects of fantasy or science fiction as a background.

Romantic Suspense: the romance develops as the characters face an enemy force.


This is the realm of possibility either in the future or in another civilization, usually involving technology.

Dystopian: the plot is set in a bleak future society where humankind has fallen on hard times.

Post-Apocalyptic: man is struggling to survive after civilization as we know it is destroyed.

Space Opera: this is the traditional good vs. bad plot with lots of action somewhere in outer space.


These stories are designed to keep you on the edge of your seat constantly wondering what’s next and how the characters are ever going to succeed.

The stakes are high and the tension higher in these stories.

Action Thriller: the tension is kept high in a race against the clock to defeat the enemy.

Conspiracy Thriller: the hero is the only one who can see the true intentions of an influential group and is trying to take them down with no outside help.

Disaster Thriller: this is the fight against nature (earthquakes, avalanches, volcanoes, etc.).


New genres appear all the time, but usually, it’s best to write within one that’s already popular with the readers.

The best way to choose your genre is to research the best-seller categories of Amazon or another similar marketplace.

What genre appeals to you, and why did you choose it?



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Renea strives to help writers develop the focus and skills they need to finish their first novel, offering writers practical writing advice they can apply one step at a time.

She is the author of Conquering Writing Pressures: Living a Balanced Writing Life in a Busy World where she helps writers find the courage to accept life will never be perfect. And if we want our dreams to succeed, we must fight to make them a reality.

She currently lives in St. Joseph, Missouri, with her husband Joe, her three children, and her five lovable furballs.

From a young age, Renea was mad for books and reading, and especially loved Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series, which she read in the ninth grade.

She is an avid reader, with her main interests residing in history, mythology, and fantasy, along with some romance and science fiction in her earlier years.

When Renea’s not writing, she enjoys genealogy, role-playing games, and dreams of traveling the world. In a past life, she plucked chickens and milked cows.

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5 thoughts on “How To Choose Your Story’s Genre

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