Writing Genres

Writing genres are a category or type of writing that has preconcieved ideas and literary tropes. The Oregon State Guide to English Literary Terms has a good explanation of writing genre.

My practice draws from multipe writing genres rather than a few. For me, it is all about the story. Where does the story need me to go in order to tell it at its best?

Genre conventions fascinate me. On this page, you will find:

  • A few of the writing genres I explore.
  • My musings on genre.
  • Genre conventions (of some of the genres I explore).
  • About speculative fiction.

Genres That I Explore




Short Story

Micro Fiction



Science Fiction

Real Life

Historical Fiction

Speculative Fiction


Musings on genres

How do authors use tropes to reinforce ideas or break them to achieve something new?

Author’s use genre to learn more about their reader’s epectations. By using the conventions of a genre accepted by readers, authors establish a connection.

Accepted generalisations of a specific genre can include:

  • Archetypes.
  • Themes.
  • Topics.
  • Tropes.
  • Formulas.
  • Structures.
  • Situations.
  • Plot beats.
Isles filled with books in a library sorted into reading and writing genres.

Genre conventions that interest me

From adult fiction to new adult fiction

One of the topics of inquiry explored during my Master of Arts (Writing), looked at changing the age genre of a novel. Aimed at a mature adult audience, I wanted my novel to have a broader readership and attract a younger adult audience. New adult fiction’s themes focus on leaving home, exploring sexuality, mental health and negotiating higher education and career choices.

Magical realism

I find this genre challenging but worth persuing. It has a realistic, real world setting where magic is regarded as normal and requires no explanation and there are four more key elements defined by Wendy B Farris in Ordinary Enchantment: Magical Realism and the Remystification of Narrative (2004).

Dark Fantasy

This is the main sub-genre of my WIP based around the original fantasy world, Azur. This genre’s conventions include:

  • Often viewed as a combination of fantasy and horror.
  • A protagonist who is helpless in the face of a supernatural threat.
  • High fantasy stories that feature anti-heroic or morally ambiguous protagonists.
  • Stories that contain an underlying thred of hope.
  • Dark worlds (such as dystopian or atmospherically light challenged).
  • Bad things happen to everyone, good or bad.
  • The protagonist general wins but suffers great loss or they could have a horrible ending.
  • There are Inner demons to fight such as mental health struggles.
  • Good and evil are huge grey areas, open for debate.

Creative Nonfiction

I fell in love with this genre during my MA. Creative nonfiction has very few rules although it borrows elements of fiction such as setting, dialogue and description, to convey a true story. It encourages experimental writing and borrows from poetry, essay and journalism.

Speculative fiction versus science fiction

The differences or similarities between speculative fiction and science fiction have been a hot topic over the the last few decades. Speculative fiction was first coined by Robert A. Heinlein in an essay in 1947. In the essay, he describes it as another type of science fiction story.

There is another type of honest-to-goodness science fiction story that is not usually regarded as science fiction: the story of people dealing with contemporary science or technology. We do not ordinarily mean this sort of story when we say “science fiction”; what we do mean is the speculative story, the story embodying the notion “just suppose-” or “What would happen if–.

– Robert A. Heinlein, (1947).

Margaret Atwood and speculative fiction

Margaret Atwood has stepped on several toes in trying to define her application of the speculative fiction genre over the years. Atwood implies a similar meaning to Heinlein but also attempts to use the genre to distance her writing from other types of science fiction. Unfortunately, in doing so, Atwood has used language that implies other types of science fiction writing are lesser than her own. 

Atwood explains that science fiction must contain something new that doesn’t exist in real life, such as “monsters and spaceships” (2016, Cecilia Mancuso, Speculative or science fiction? As Margaret Atwood shows, there isn’t much distinction, The Guardian). In contrast, speculative fiction (the genre that Atwood applies to her work) incorporates what already exists now in a what-if possible future scenario on Earth.

Some critics, either in retaliation for speculative fiction’s literary acceptance or because of a difference in opinion as to its conventions, have adopted speculative fiction as the umbrella term for all things science fiction. Writers, such as Brenton Dickieson (2021, Ursula K. Le Guin’s Manifesto Against Genre Snobbery, A Pilgrim in Narnia), openly acknowledge their use of the term speculative fiction as subversive. This political application confuses different types of science fiction sub-genres and their conventions.

One of the biggest publishers in the English-speaking world, Penguin Random House, uses science fiction as the umbrella term for this category on their website, where Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tales and The Testements sit under their Science Fiction genre. Speculative fiction bares no mention in their categories.

What is literary?

Rather than use speculative fiction as a subversive umbrella term for all science fiction, perhaps if we wish to to have our works acknolwedged as literary, it is that term which we should be addressing instead.

What makes a work, literary?

Sarah Fallon’s dive into speculative fiction on Overland (2016, What does everyone have against speculative fiction?), makes a similar suggestion where certain “stories are not escapist fiction but challenging on an intellectual level and stimulating on an emotional one” and is well worth the read.

In this shared space, Speculative Fiction is a type of Science Fiction writing, as it was originally defined by Robert A. Heinlein.

You can discover more discussions on genre in my author’s blog.