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Genre Guide

Welcome to our handy Genre Guide! There are a host of genres and sub-genre options to choose from — let us school you on the basics:


Sci-Fi/Fantasy: A story that includes some kind of otherworldly element. These are often set in completely new worlds and can include everything from magic and dragons to time machines and alien technology.

Sci-Fi –  A story based on newly emerging or futuristic technological, environmental, or biological advances. Stories in which science, technology, space, and/or the future are central themes.

Fantasy –  A story where myth and impossibilities abound, other worlds are explored, characters may have supernatural powers, and the laws of physics are challenged. Anything is possible.

Alien –  Incorporates beings from other worlds (usually a sub-genre of Sci-Fi).

Fairy Tales –  Stories that draw from fairy tales, such as Cinderella or Beauty and the Beast

Mythology –  Draw from myths, often incorporating gods and goddesses.

Time Travel –  A story that spans across two or more time periods in which the same character is able to move freely between these periods.

Space Opera –  A story with a melodramatic adventure set mainly or entirely in space, generally involving a conflict between opponents possessing powerful (and sometimes quite extraordinary) technologies and abilities. Settings, characters, battles, powers, and themes tend to be very large-scale.

Quests –  A fantasy or Sci-Fi centered around an epic journey.

Political – A story commenting on political events, systems, and/or theories by presenting a fantastic alternate reality.


Contemporary: A story that takes place in the modern world, with no magical, mystical, or otherworldly elements. This means that the internet, iPhones, and Starbucks coffee exist, vampires, magic, and flying cars do not.

Beach/Summer – Stories of realistic summertime/beachside setting, typically during the present day (usually after the World Wars).

School – Realistic stories that unfold in or around school settings or with school related scenarios and problems.

Holiday – Realistic stories centered around a specific holiday setting  (e.g. a tale of Christmas love).

Issue – Realistic, present day story centered around a particular issue such as cancer, addiction or bullying.

Family/Friendship – Realistic, present day stories with the central theme of family and/or friends (the plot tends to arise from character/relationship based problems).


Adventure: A story with a plotline with the highest of stakes -- often life and death. These can include solving murders, going off to war, defeating serial killers, joining a band of pirates, surviving zombie hordes or defeating an evil empire. The point is that the tension and stakes are not solely emotional.

Dystopic –  A story set in an imaginary society where social or technological trends have culminated in a greatly diminished quality of life or degradation of values.

Mystery/Suspense –  A story in which there is a secret or problem that needs to be discovered or solved.. May include a crime, investigators, a process to uncover the crime, and finally the identification of the culprit. Elements of suspense and intrigue drive the story forward.

Steampunk –  An adventure set in a world with themes based on 19th century society and steam-operated machines.

Military/War –  A story in which the primary theme/action/focus of the plot takes place in a field of armed combat, or in a domestic setting/home front where the characters are engaged with the preparations for, or recovery from, war.

Horror –  Meant to frighten the audience, whether your story unfolds in an overtly terrifying setting or a more subtle atmospheric darkness. 


Historical: A story recognizably set in the past, and influenced by that time period. These books usually involve a lot of research, and will incorporate the customs, dress, manners, and level of technological advancement of the time and place the book is set in. These are usually based in times and locations that actually existed on earth at one point, versus creating a new world from scratch.

Civil War/Restoration –  Stories that take place during the Civil War/Restoration period (1865-1877), with all the clothing, etiquette, and events of that historical era.

Medieval – Stories that take place during the Middle Ages (500-1500 AD), with all the clothing, etiquette, and events of that historical era.

Tudor – Stories, usually set in England, that take place during the Tudor period (the years during which England was ruled by Tudor monarchs, from 1485 to 1603)—with all the clothing, etiquette, and events of that historical era.

Regency – Stories, often set in England, that take place during the time period encompassing a particular set of morals, manners, and societal structure between 1811 and 1820.

Victorian – Stories that take place during the Victorian era (the years during which Queen Victoria ruled England, from 1837 to 1901) with all the clothing, etiquette, and events of that historical period.

Colonial – Stories that take place during a historical period of colonization (usually in America between 1492 and 1763), with all the clothing, etiquette, and events of that era.

Western – Stories, usually set in the American west, that take place in a frontier and/or ‘open range’ setting (usually before WWII).

20th Century – Stories that take place during a period of time in the 20th century, with all the clothing, etiquette, and events of that era.

Asian Imperial/Dynasty – Stories that take place during a specific time period in Asian history, with all the clothing, etiquette, and events of that period.


Paranormal: A story that is mostly set in the modern world, but includes characters that have some kind of magical feature. Heroines with psychic or magic powers who also have to go to school, boyfriends that live on blood, villains that also happen to be dead, all of these tend to fall under paranormal. The plot of the story will usually be influenced by this magical feature.

Angel/Demon –  A story that incorporates the paranormal element of angels and/or demons.

Faerie –  A story that incorporates the paranormal element of faeries.

Ghosts – A story that incorporates the paranormal element of ghosts or spectres.

Shifter – A story that incorporates the paranormal element of shape-shifting characters.

Vampire – A story that incorporates the paranormal element of vampires.

Werewolf – A story that incorporates the paranormal element of werewolves.

Mermaid – A story that incorporates the paranormal element of mermaids.

Witch – A story that incorporates the paranormal element of witches. 


LGBT: Novels in which LGBTQ relationships are central to the plot. LGBT manuscripts may encompass any other genre as well. Books identified of LGBT usually include a storyline that is driven by these relationships, vs. just featuring characters that happen to be LGBTQ.


New Adult: Realistic, present day stories with protagonists aged 18 to 25 years old. Think college, not high school. But also not adult. So maybe it’s the second time you fall in love, or it can be a new set of firsts, like the first time that you have to live on your own or the experience of being in a college dorm or your first drunken frat party. We wrote a blog post with more details on this. 


Inspirational: A story that inspires the reader and evokes hope, often containing religious beliefs context.


Other: For if you feel your story just doesn’t fit into any of these genres!

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