So you’ve decided you want to become a fiction writer. Congratulations! It’s one of the most enjoyable creative pursuits out there. The world needs more fiction, and it’s a better time than ever before to start, thanks to the ease of self-publishing. But there are so many types of fiction – so what if you don’t know exactly what to write?
It’s more common than you might think to have a desire to write a fiction book without knowing exactly what type. If that sounds like you, don’t worry! In fact, it’s great that you’re taking the time to stop and make a conscious choice.
Exploring the various types of fiction you may wish to write prevents you from one of the major writing sins – trying to write something that is aimed at everyone. If you attempt that, you’ll likely end up writing something confusing that pleases no one at all!
These days, there are more types of fiction than ever before, with a whole list of book genres and subgenres springing up seemingly all the time. That’s a good thing, as it provides readers with huge amounts of choice and exactly what they’re looking for.
While it would be impossible to cover all the types of fiction out there, today we will cover some of the major types of fiction you can consider for your next novel. Before we get into the types of fiction specifically, let's make sure you have a good understanding of fiction books on the whole.
This Guide to the Types of Fiction Covers:
What Does the Phrase “Types of Fiction” Refer To?
When we talk about types of fiction, we are talking about one of two major ways to categorize novels and short stories that aren't factual events. You can categorize types of fiction by genre, or the age of the reader they are intended for. Knowing both classifications is useful, as your story will most likely combine them.
For example, you might want to write sci-fi for young adults, or historical fiction for adult readers.
There are other ways fiction can be categorized, such as its mood and tone, the decade in which it was written, the geographical location of its author, or whether it belongs to a particular artistic movement. These are all valid but they won’t be the focus of this article.
Instead, we’ll explore some of the most popular parent genres of fiction as well as the major age ranges writers choose to target.
14 Popular Types of Fiction
As stated earlier, this list of fiction genres is by no means exhaustive. Instead, it is intended as an overview. If you find types of fiction that pique your interest, by all means jump on Goodreads or Amazon and delve deep into its more obscure subgenres!
Here are 14 of the most common types of fiction you can write:
1. Contemporary fiction
Contemporary fiction refers to fictional stories that revolve around realistic events set in (or close to) the present. This stands in contrast to historical fiction or that set in the past.
A contemporary novel is intended to be grounded in the real world, avoiding anything that could be construed as fantasy or sci-fi (see below). It will often refer to contemporary events, brands, and people and is usually easy to modern readers to relate to.
2. Historical fiction
Historical fiction is exactly what it sounds like – a story set in a past time period. Historical fiction is often intended to shine a light on the ways in which societies and nations operated in decades and centuries past. Often, historical fiction will attempt to humanize a major historical event, such as love stories set during famous wars.
Historical fiction requires a good level of research and familiarity with the time period to be convincing and effective. It also requires writers to strike a balance between sharing historical detail and providing a gripping and moving human story.
Readers have always had a taste for tales that terrify and scare. Some of the most-loved classics are horror stories, and horror continues to be very popular to this day. Just consider the colossal success of Stephen King if you need convincing.
Horror readers expect to be scared or the book simply isn’t worth it from their perspective. You should therefore know how to create and sustain tension as well as the types of events that are likely to induce a feeling of fear.
Related: How to Write a Horror Story
Fantasy is one of the most popular genres of fiction out there. Fantasy readers have a long lineage of great writing to draw on, from Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings to the more recent success of the Harry Potter series.
Fantasy can also be broken down further into two types of fiction: high fantasy vs low fantasy.
Writing a good fantasy novel requires strong powers of imagination and the ability to create captivating worlds that live long in the minds of readers.
5. Literary fiction
Literary fiction is a highbrow type of writing that tends to please critics more than the average reader. This type of fiction draws on literary techniques and artistic themes to create books that are as much about skill and intellectual showcasing as they are story and character.
Literary fiction doesn’t sell as many copies as other genres of fiction. However, there will always be a readership for it, as certain readers and critics alike are satisfied by nothing less than writing with intellectual depth and substance.
Books that take readers along for a gripping ride through murder and mystery will always do well. Classic whodunnits such as Agatha Christie novels through to contemporary, gritty Nordic noir stories please critics and readers alike.
There are so many subgenres of mystery and thriller that in order to learn how to write a mystery series successfully, you need to know exactly what type of mystery you are writing. This allows you to hit all the right notes and give the readers what they expect and want.
Romance is one of the bestselling types of fiction out there and that probably won’t change any time soon. Romantic fiction can exist anywhere along the spectrum from sweet and family-friendly to spicy and steamy erotica.
At its core, no matter which of the infinite subgenres it takes the form of, a romance story usually involves two people falling in love or lust and overcoming the obstacles that stand in their way. If you want the chance to carve out serious commercial success, mastering a subgenre of romance is one of the surest paths to take.
8. Science Fiction
Sci-fi has always been a few steps ahead of reality, allowing readers to discover amazing concepts and mind-blowing technologies while also enjoying a gripping plot.
Sci-fi has a huge range of subgenres, such as hard science fiction, military sci-fi, and sci-fi that borrows heavily from the world of horror or fantasy. If you are fascinated by the chance to explore the possibilities of technology and the universe, sci-fi could be the right type of fiction for you.
Fiction set during times of conflict has fascinated readers ever since the time of Greek mythology – and even before. War fiction is a great way of humanizing conflicts and exploring the personal and interpersonal impact such events have.
War fiction can focus on real wars that took place, or imaginary conflicts. One major advantage of writing war fiction is that it has inherent levels of dramatic tension thanks to the possibility of death and loss. However, if you want to write war fiction, make sure to do so sensitively. It’s a subject that can easily offend people if portrayed inaccurately.
Books featuring cowboys are one of the iconic types of fiction. Although westerns are perhaps less popular than they were in their heyday, their archetypes and tropes are so firmly embedded in our culture that they’re unlikely to ever truly vanish.
Western books are often combined with other types of fiction, such as romantic tales, or even a sci-fi twist.
11. Picture books
Now we will move into types of fiction not defined by fiction genres, but by reader age groups. Picture books are for the youngest readers who may be just grasping the concept of language and basic vocabulary.
Needless to say, your story should not contain a large number of words if you intend it to learn how to write a children's picture book. Simple stories suited to visual telling and age-appropriate subjects are essential here.
12. Children’s books
Books for younger readers will always be popular. Sadly, many children end up losing their love of reading as they grow older. But thanks to schools mandating reading, and summer library reading challenges, many people will at least enjoy a period of time where they read regularly.
If you want to write for children, make sure to research the level of language, length of book, and type of subject matter that is suitable for the specific age group you hope will read your work.
13. Young adult books
If this is the age group you’re aiming at, pick a genre and try and read at least ten books aimed at young adults. Choose a mixture of classics and contemporary favorites. This will give you a solid grounding in what this age group is seeking from a book.
14. Adult books
Adult books are often categorized as a single age category. On the one hand, this makes sense. A lover of horror is likely to enjoy Stephen King whether they are in the college dorms or the retirement home lounge. However, if you know the type of book you want to write is enjoyed by a younger or older subset of adult readers, you may wish to adjust your characters, language, and cultural references accordingly.
You can use more difficult language and themes of violence, drugs, and sex more liberally in adult books.
Choose the Type of Fiction Meant for You!
Now that you have an idea of the most popular type of fiction, it's time to get to writing! Read some books in the genre of your choice to get acquainted with the style, and then set your fingers to that keyboard.
If you're still not sure what type of fiction is right for you, take our free Author DNA Quiz below to learn about your unique writing style.