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Book Genre Encyclopedia: 144 Genres and Subgenres Explained

Tonya Thompson

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From fantasy to western—and everything in between—we cover the major genres and subgenres available to readers today. We also included a few links to books within that subgenre if you find one that catches your interest in particular. Happy reading!


Fantasy genre and subgenres
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Alternate History

This subgenre of fantasy offers a fictional account set within a real historical period, often with actual historical events included although rewritten to include some element of magic or fantasy. There are often "what if" scenarios that occur at important points in history and present outcomes that are different than what's on the historical record. Literary Examples: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Wild Cards I, His Majesty's Dragon

Children's Story

This subgenre of fantasy often offers a child protagonist who faces a struggle or possesses some unique ability. There are often mythical/fantastical creatures who both help and hinder the young protagonist. In these stories, which are intended for an audience that is not yet classified as Young Adult (YA), the themes are often life lessons such as overcoming adversity, working with others, finding allies, learning from your elders, or facing one's fear. Literary Examples: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, A Wrinkle in Time, The Phantom Tollbooth


These stories are humorous and often set in fantasy worlds, and might include parodies of other more serious works. It is considered part of low fantasy (as opposed to high fantasy) but not all low fantasy is comedic in nature. Literary Examples: The Princess Bride, Small Gods, The Tough Guide to Fantasyland


This subgenre of fantasy is a fantasy story in a modern-day setting (or one that resembles contemporary times). It often contains magic but it is not obvious, or perhaps able to be explained logically. There is often an intersect between the "real world" and the fantastical one that includes magic or characters with paranormal abilities. Literary Examples: American Gods, Hounded, The Raven Boys

Dark Fantasy

This subgenre is the darker side of fantasy, with added elements of horror, mystery, and/or an overall feeling of dread or gloom. A common element is supernatural occurrences with a dark and brooding tone. It is often contemporary Fantasy, with the major difference being horror elements included. Literary Examples: The Sandman: Book of Dreams, Gardens of the Moon, The Blade Itself

Fairy Tale

This subgenre of fantasy is for stories told like fairy tales for adults or that are modern retellings of classic fairy tales. There is heavy use of motifs from fairy tale stories, particularly tropes from Grimm's fairy tales. Literary Examples: Uprooted, Cinder, Ella Enchanted

Fantasy of Manners

This subgenre contains stories that rely heavily on the Comedy of Manners, which focuses on social commentary. Often taking place in an urban setting, this type of story will contain very little magic or fantastical creatures. Rather, it will focus on morality and social structures, particularly for women, sacrificing an elaborate plot in some cases to do so. Literary Examples: Shades of Milk and Honey, The Tropic of Serpents: A Memoir by Lady Trent, An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors


This subgenre of fantasy contains heroic adventures in imaginary places. You will often find intricate plots and lineages in this subgenre, along with a protagonist who is often reluctant to be a champion and from humble beginnings. Literary Examples: The Legend of Deathwalker, The Crimson Queen, The Wolf of the North

High Fantasy

This subgenre contains fantasy set in a fictional world, with a focus on epic characters or settings. The distinction between high fantasy and low fantasy involves the world in which it takes place (the "real" world with magical elements for low fantasy). Literary Examples: The Fellowship of the Ring, A Game of Thrones, Crown of Midnight


Fantasy set in a historical period, generally before the 20th century, with an added element of magic. Fantasy stories from legends focusing on Arthurian, Celtic, or Dark Ages historical timelines generally fall within this subgenre. Literary Examples: On Stranger Tides, Grave Mercy, The Golem and the Jinni

Low Fantasy

A subgenre of fantasy depicting a realistic world, where magic is often present but not necessarily so. This is in contrast to High Fantasy, which occurs in a fictional world with magical elements present. The word "low" is in reference to the prominence of traditional fantasy elements within the work, rather than being a remark on the work's quality. Literary Examples: The Indian in the Cupboard, Lies Ripped Open, Tiger's Dream

Magical Realism

This subgenre presents a world in which the mundane and magical exist together without conflict. It refers to magic or the supernatural that is presented in an otherwise real-world or mundane setting. Literary Examples: One Hundred Years of Solitude, The House of the Spirits, The Night Circus


This subgenre of fantasy draws heavily from myth to create a unique blend of fantasy and folklore. It often includes gods or goddesses as characters or could be a retelling of older myths set in a fantasy world or the real world. Mythic fantasy and urban fantasy often overlap, but Mythic fantasy includes many contemporary works in non-urban settings. Literary Examples: The Lightning Thief, The Mists of Avalon, The Sacred Band


This subgenre includes characters who have superhuman abilities. Characteristics tropes are secret identities and crime fighting. The protagonist often displays superhuman strength or special abilities, creating a juxtaposition between "normal" humans and those with "superhuman" traits. Literary Examples: Steelheart, Renegades, Vengeful

Sword and Sorcery

This subgenre contains medieval-type adventures, with an element of romance that is often part of the story. You're also likely to find magical characters or supernatural factors involved in the plot. Common tropes are sword-wielding heroes engaged in exciting and violent adventures, along with elements of magic and the supernatural. Distinct from high fantasy, Sword and Sorcery tales focus mainly on personal battles rather than world-endangering matters. Literary Examples: The Hour of the Dragon, Reign of Madness, The Disappearance of Winter's Daughter


This subgenre of fantasy involves magical elements that take place in an urban setting. Books in the subgenre of Urban Fantasy are set primarily in the real world and contain aspects of fantasy, such as the discovery of earthbound mythological creatures, coexistence or conflict between humans and paranormal beings, and other changes to city life. Settings are not necessarily futuristic—they could also be historical settings, actual or imagined. Literary Examples: Moon Called, City of Bones, Vampire Academy

Young Adult

In this subgenre of fantasy, a teenager is often the protagonist. There is usually magic involved, as well as companions to help the protagonist defeat a magical foe. Common tropes are dramatic character growth, magic elements, and unexpected interactions between magical elements and the real world that influence the protagonist to become an adult. Literary Examples: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Six of Crows, The Wicked King


Horror genre and subgenres
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Body Horror

This subgenre of horror focuses on graphic, disturbing violations to the human body, including disfigurement and mutation. There are often themes of biological horror, organic horror or visceral horror in which there is unnatural graphic transformation, degeneration or destruction of the physical body. Literary Examples: Annihilation, The Girl With All the Gifts, The Troop


A subgenre that is a spoof or satire based on the typical conventions of horror. In such, it mixes horror/gore with dark humor. Comedy Horror is typically categorized into three types: black comedy, parody, and spoof. Literary Examples: John Dies at the End, Bloodsucking Fiends, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Creepy Kids

A subgenre where the children are often under the spell of evil or are born inherently evil, and turn against the adults in the story. They then become the antagonist of the story and often must be stopped by other children or adults in order for lives to be saved. Literary Examples: The Other, The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea, Such Small Hands

Extreme Horror

A subgenre showing extreme and bloody violence, while focusing on gore and death. Also known as hardcore horror or splatterpunk, this genre contains stories that are the most violent, goriest, scariest ones on the market. Gore is highly detailed and nothing is left to the imagination of the reader. Literary Examples: The Angel of Vengeance: An Extreme Horror Novel, Teratologist, The Girl Next Door


Gothic horror is a subgenre involving mystery, castle ruins, the fall of the aristocracy, spirits/hauntings, and madness. The varying locations in the house tend to be symbolic of the mental and emotional facets of its occupants. It often combines horror, death, and romance in the same tale. Literary Examples: Dracula, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Wuthering Heights


A subgenre within horror in which ghosts or demons haunt a particular house or another setting, such as the woods or near an ancient burial ground. The focus is often on righting some wrong that was committed in order to set the spirits free. Literary Examples: The Woman in Black, Ghost Story, The Haunting of Hill House


A story that takes place in a historical setting that includes elements of horror. These stories are often based on real-life events or historical eras, sometimes including fictional retellings of real historical figures or atrocities that occurred. The protagonist offers an alternative point of view to known history. Literary Examples: Twelve, The Terror, The Edinburgh Dead


A subgenre in which it is assumed aliens or otherworldly beings originally ruled our planet and will someday return to destroy all of humanity. It is fiction that emphasizes the cosmic horror of the unknown (or unknowable) more than gore or other elements of shock, and is named after American author H. P. Lovecraft (1890–1937), who was one of the first authors to explore the genre. Literary Examples: A Study in Emerald, Sherlock Holmes and the Shadwell Shadows, The Rhesus Chart


A subgenre of horror in which man-made creations become a source of terror. In these stories, you'll often find apocalyptic wastelands and mad scientists, with common tropes like terrible disease, rampant pollution, and mutated animals. Literary Examples: Feed, The Shrinking Man, Swan Song


A subgenre in which non-human creatures hunt, kill and otherwise prey on humans. These creatures could come in the form of classic monsters/ mythological monsters, neo-monsters, small creatures, aliens, giant monsters, werewolves, vampires, or zombies. Literary Examples: The Mongrel, The Sorrows, Little Black Spots


A subgenre in which ancient mythology and folklore play a large role in the story, particularly the darker, terrifying elements of it. One way in which mythic horror is distinguished from fantasy is that mythic horror often takes place in the human world as opposed to a fantastical realm. Literary Examples: The Selkie, The Djinn, The Queen of the Damned


A subgenre of horror involving witchcraft, wizardry, esoteric brotherhoods, and communication with spirits. Other common themes and tropes are spiritualism, psychic phenomena, Voodoo, and characters who have mysterious or secret knowledge and power supposedly attainable only through magical or supernatural means. Literary Examples: A Discovery of Witches, The Mark, The Witches of New York

Psychic Abilities

A subgenre in which humans have psychic abilities. These could include reading minds, speaking with the dead, seeing the past or future, or being able to move objects telepathically. This subgenre is often referred to as paranormal horror and shares crossover tropes with science fiction. However, in science fiction, these psychic abilities are generally explored in ways that are good, while in psychic abilities horror, psychic powers are a source of terror. Literary Examples: Carrie, A Stir of Echoes, Horns


In this subgenre, the character's mind becomes his or her own undoing, such as a serial killer. These stories often involve human fears, mental instability, and emotional insecurities. Psychological horror is often similar to supernatural and haunting subgenres, because the protagonist may be confusing the horrors plaguing their mind with something supernatural. You will often encounter an unreliable narrator in this genre. Literary Examples: American Psycho, Haunted, Diary Of A Madman

Quiet Horror

This subgenre of horror offers a subtler form of fear, rather than explicit gore or violence. Also known as soft horror, quiet horror most often contains a creeping sense of dread in which much of the violence is left to the reader's imagination. Much of the horror presented is cerebral instead of gory. Literary Examples: The Yellow Wallpaper, The Hour of the Oxrun Dead, The Nameless

Young Adult

A subgenre that does not have excessive gore and usually has a teenager protagonist. It could involve monsters, violent deaths, disturbing creatures, or slight gore. There are often coming-of-age issues present, such as autonomy from adults, friendships, young romance/sexuality, and rebellion. Literary Examples: Anna Dressed in Blood, Asylum, Rot & Ruin


Mystery genre and subgenres
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Amateur Sleuth

This subgenre usually involves a non-law enforcement character without ties to a detective or sleuthing agency who tries to solve a crime that has been committed against someone close to him or her. It is a subgenre of cozy mystery. Literary Examples: A Willing Murder, Small Town Spin, Prose and Cons

Bumbling Detective

A subgenre in which a character makes a lot of mistakes in solving a mystery, but manages to solve it anyway. There is usually a lot of comedy involved in the process and the protagonist misses important clues, making the process of solving the crime more difficult than it should be. Often, the plot is intricate. Literary Examples: The Spellman Files: Document #1, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie: A Flavia de Luce Mystery, Heat Wave


A subgenre in which the protagonist(s) perpetrate the crime(s). There is usually humor and cleverness involved, along with a sense of adventure. The typical caper story involves thefts, swindles, or kidnappings perpetrated by the main characters and "seen" by the reader. The police investigation attempting to prevent or solve the crimes may also be chronicled, but it is not the primary focus of the story. Literary Examples: The Lies of Locke Lamora, Heist Society, The Hot Rock

Child in Peril

A subgenre of mystery in which a child is kidnapped or disappears. Often, it is the child's parents (or other guardians) who come to the child's rescue. There is often great focus on the parents' anguish and loss as they play a role in finding their child. While there may be violence, it is rarely seen or very understated if toward the child. Literary Examples: Home, The Couple Next Door, The Boy in the Suitcase

Children's Story

A subgenre of mystery intended for a young audience who are not yet classified as young adult (typically 6 – 12 years old). There is usually a child protagonist who solves a mystery, often with the help of his/her friends. Violence is minimal if it exists at all, and there are often life lessons learned. Literary Examples: Three Times Lucky, The Secret of the Old Clock: Nancy Drew #1, The Westing Game


A subgenre often containing a bloodless crime and a victim that the audience has not developed empathy towards. The detective is almost always amateur, while sex and violence are downplayed. Often, the crime takes place in a small community where everyone knows each other. Literary Examples: The Golden Tresses of the Dead, Crewel and Unusual, Death by Committee


A subgenre in which a professional chef is involved, usually as the protagonist. Murder and/or other elements of crime are often combined with food and recipes. Common settings or themes include bakery/dessert, barbeque, chef, coffee/tea, cooking class, farm/orchard, cheese, chocolate, food clubs/critics, organic food, pizza, restaurants, and wine/vineyards. Literary Examples: Catering to Nobody, Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder, Prime Cut


A subgenre in which the detective has a disability that helps him/her solve a crime. For example, he or she might be blind, deaf, or unable to walk, but the disability helps the main character see things from a different perspective in order to solve the mystery. Literary Examples: The Question of the Dead Mistress, For Whom the Minivan Rolls, The Question of the Felonious Friend

Doctor Detective

A subgenre of mystery in which a physician plays the role of a detective to solve a murder or crime. In these stories, physicians apply their own specialized scientific knowledge to solve crimes that cannot otherwise be solved by police officers or detectives. Literary Examples: Diagnosis Murder: The Dead Letter, The Doctor Digs a Grave, Blood Dancing

Furry Sleuth

A subgenre in which a dog or cat investigates a crime. It is most often told from the animal's point of view, depicting them as fully intelligent and able to communicate with each other. Most books that qualify as furry sleuth mysteries are subgenres of cozy mysteries in their tone. Literary Examples: Tail Gait, Downton Tabby, The Bark Before Christmas


A subgenre of mystery that usually contains overtly graphic violence and sex, and is often set in an urban setting that is gritty. Slang is often used and credit for the invention of the genre is often given to Dashiell Hammett (1894–1961), a former contributor to pulp magazines. Literary Examples: The Big Sleep, The Maltese Falcon, The Black Dahlia


In this subgenre, the detective is in a historical setting and must solve a crime there. Many authors of historical mysteries focus on particular eras or periods, such as Elizabethan England or Ancient China. Literary Examples: The Lost Girls of Paris, The Paragon Hotel, The Golden Tresses of the Dead


This subgenre of mystery leaves no doubt "who" the perpetrator is. Rather, the story revolves around "how" the criminal is caught. These novels begin with the reader witnessing the murder, thus the plot revolves around how the perpetrator will be caught. Literary Examples: The Demolished Man, The Crossing, A Kiss Before Dying


A subgenre of mystery in which the protagonist is usually an attorney who solves the case on his/her own, while the police are unable to do so or are corrupt. The protagonist's life is often at peril, as is the lives of his significant others or family. This subgenre also includes courtroom dramas. Literary Examples: The Runaway Jury, The Lincoln Lawyer, The Gods of Guilt

Locked Room

Also known as puzzle mysteries, this is a subgenre of mystery in which a crime is committed in a location that seems impossible to enter/exit without being noticed. The protagonist must use careful observation and extraordinary logic to solve the mystery. Edgar Allen Poe is considered to be the first writer in this subgenre with his 1841 short story "The Murders in the Rue Morgue." Literary Examples: And Then There Were None, The Sign of Four, The Mystery of the Yellow Room

Multicultural and Diverse

While typically heavy on characterization, this subgenre of mystery shows a unique, foreign culture with culturally diverse characters. These stories can range from cozy to hardboiled, where the clues and action stem from the differences in the cultures. Literary Examples: Murder in Mesopotamia: A Hercule Poirot Mystery, The Perfect Murder, The Gigolo Murder


Often overlapping with fantasy, these stories contain traditional mystery tropes, with a strange crime or murder. However, a ghost or otherwise supernatural being is responsible for a crime. They are often part of the cozy mystery subgenre, without extensive gore or violence. Literary Examples: Final Shadows, Secondhand Spirits: A Witchcraft Mystery, Better Read Than Dead

Police Procedural

A subgenre of mystery in which police detectives (or a detective and team of technicians) catch a criminal. The point of view in this type of subgenre often switches back and forth between that of the detective(s) and that of the criminal(s). Serial killer mysteries are often included in this subgenre, as are forensic mysteries. Literary Examples: The Black Echo, Rules of Prey, Faceless Killers

Private Detective

A subgenre in which a private investigator—whether professional or amateur—solves a crime or locates a missing person. This subgenre began around the same time as speculative fiction in the mid-nineteenth century and has remained extremely popular for mystery novels as a genre. Literary Examples: Career of Evil, G Is for Gumshoe, Maisie Dobbs


A subgenre in which the perpetrator of the crime or murder is discovered at the end to be one of the least likely characters. These stories are often complex and plot driven, allowing the audience the opportunity to engage in the same process of deduction as the protagonist throughout the investigation of a crime. Literary Examples: The Sentence is Death, Dead Girl Running, The Cabin

Woman in Peril

A subgenre of mystery in which a woman is kidnapped (or in some other kind of trouble) and needs to be saved. A newer, feminist, and more modern take on this subgenre is a story that involves a woman being kidnapped (or becoming the victim of a crime) and saving herself through her own wit and action. Literary Examples: The Shining Girls, Kiss the Girls, Room

Young Adult

A subgenre in which a teenager is the protagonist and solves a crime or murder. Adults in these stories are generally unable to be of much help, corrupt, or ignore the help offered by the protagonist. There are often "coming of age" themes and violence is sometimes downplayed. Literary Examples: One of Us Is Lying, Pretty Little Liars, A Study in Charlotte


romance genres and subgenres
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Steadily growing in popularity, this is a subgenre of romance focusing on a relationship with a wealthy and/or powerful lover. There is often an aspect of being a "Cinderella story," and the woman is often of a lower socioeconomic class than the man.

Writing Prompts: Billionaires
Literary Examples: Fifty Shades of Grey, The Marriage Bargain, Bared to You


A subgenre of romance in which laughter and fun helps the couple overcome all emotional obstacles to finding love. There is often the theme of strangers who are perfect for each other finding love, or childhood sweethearts coming back together after heartbreak and loss.

Writing Prompts: Comedy
Literary Examples: Wallbanger, Can You Keep a Secret?, Perfection


In this subgenre, the story takes place in the present (post 1950) and is focused on complex plots and realistic situations of the time. For example, women in the contemporary romances written prior to 1970 usually quit working when they married or had children, while the female protagonists of contemporary novels written after 1970 usually maintain their career after marriage and children.

Writing Prompts: Contemporary
Literary Examples: We Shouldn't, Unmarriageable, Faking It

Fantasy Romance

A subgenre in which the relationship between lovers occurs in a fantasy world that contains magic (and/or magic creatures). There is often adventure that occurs and common tropes such as time travel or superhuman abilities.

Writing Prompts: Fantasy Romance
Literary Examples: Sin & Magic, White Stag, Nightchaser


A subgenre of romance set in an old house or castle that is haunted, with some light horror/mystery elements present. Common tropes are family secrets, insanity, incest, and secrets hidden within the home. There is also often a woman in peril theme that is prevalent in this subgenre.

Writing Prompts: Gothic
Literary Examples: House of Shadows, Nocturne for a Widow, Mist of Midnight


A subgenre set before 1950 with realistic situations occurring between lovers (based on the time period). Many stories in this subgenre are set amongst real historical events, offering a parallel viewpoint to famous historical characters from the past. Common tropes are relationships across socioeconomic statuses and within feuding families. This subgenre has also been known as "bodice rippers," famed for the female protagonists wearing corsets.

Writing Prompts: Historical
Literary Examples: The Parisians, Duchess By Deception, Tempt Me with Diamonds


A subgenre of romance in which lovers meet or unite during the Christmas or Hanukkah season. Common tropes are family, restoring past heartache, and returning to holiday tradition, as it was experienced in childhood.

Writing Prompts: Holidays
Literary Examples: Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor, Unwrapping Her Perfect Match: A London Legends Christmas Romance, Baby, It's Cold Outside


A subgenre of romance in which a religious or spiritual connection is an important part of a relationship. In these novels, there is a spiritual journey that the characters take that is an inherent part of their connection and romance. They can be set in any context or belief system.

Writing Prompts: Inspirational
Literary Examples: What the Wind Knows, LASS: A Friends to Lovers Standalone Romance, Down a Country Road


A subgenre of romance featuring military personnel. These novels usually include some action and/or suspense, and the hero or heroine (or both) are active duty or former military personnel. The subgenre also includes stories that are set on military bases or vessels.

Writing Prompts: Military
Literary Examples: The Darkest Hour, The Unsung Hero, Whispers in the Dark


In this subgenre of romance, there is often a relationship with a supernatural being, such as a vampire, werewolf, demon, shapeshifter, angel, ghost, witch or other entity. This subgenre can also include settings that are science fiction or fantasy, or any world with extraordinary elements that are magical.

Writing Prompts: Paranormal
Literary Examples: Summoned to Thirteenth Grave, Vengeance Road, Alpha's Secret: A Bear Shifter MMA Romance


A subgenre set during the period of the British Regency (1811–1820) or early 19th century. They have their own unique plot and stylistic conventions, such as much intelligent, fast-paced dialogue between the protagonists without explicit sex. The plots often involve social activities such as carriage rides, morning calls, dinner parties, plays, operas, and balls, and marriages of convenience is a common trope.

Writing Prompts: Regency
Literary Examples: Not the Duke's Darling, Beauty and the Baron: A Regency Fairy Tale Retelling, Ten Kisses to Scandal

Romantic Suspense

A subgenre involving suspense or mystery elements that add to the romantic plot. While the focus of these stories is on the romance itself, they contain common tropes to mystery novels such as stalkers, crimes to be solved, kidnapping, or even murder.

Writing Prompts: Romantic Suspense
Literary Examples: A Merciful Fate, Moonlight Scandals: A de Vincent Novel, You Will Suffer

Science Fiction Romance

A subgenre that is set in the future and often involves aliens. In many cases, there is a romantic relationship between humans and aliens. There are also common tropes that are shared with science fiction, such as technological innovation, space exploration, and living on other planets/worlds.

Writing Prompts: Science Fiction Romance
Literary Examples: Nightchaser, Angie's Gladiator: A SciFi Alien Romance, Rising From the Depths


A subgenre of romance in which one or both of the lovers is involved with sports, such as a football player or race car driver. Much of the romantic interaction takes place during practicing or performing this sport, and there are often elements of action combined with romance.

Writing Prompts: Sports
Literary Examples: Ruthless King, Overnight Sensation, Fired Up

Time Travel

A subgenre of romance in which a character travels through time to encounter his or her love interest. A recurring theme in this subgenre is the conflict of falling in love and making the decision to stay in the alternate time or return to the time the protagonist came from. Some time travel romance settings are set in present day, and the character travels to the past. In others, the character travels to the future.

Writing Prompts: Time Travel
Literary Examples: Outlander, The Time Traveler's Wife, A Knight in Shining Armor

Western Romance

A subgenre of romance set in the Wild West (or West, if contemporary) and often with a cowboy/cowgirl as a main character. This subgenre contains both historical western romance and contemporary western romance novels. Historical western romance contains common tropes such as a wagon train journey, a bank robbery, a land war, a cattle drive, a saloon brawl, or a gunfight. Contemporary western romance novels are generally set near small towns with ranches, ranges, rodeos, and honky-tonks, and the protagonist rides a truck (in addition to a horse).

Writing Prompts: Western Romance
Literary Examples: The Texan's Wager, Comanche Moon, Texas Glory

Young Adult

A subgenre focusing on young adult or adolescent love interests. A common theme is the exploration of sexuality and the obstacles of young love, such as family/socioeconomic class pressure, academic pursuits, and/or competition. There is also a broad spectrum of relationship types in these novels, such as LGBTQ relationships.

Writing Prompts: Young Adult
Literary Examples: King of Scars, Be The Girl, Even if I Fall

Science Fiction

science fiction genre and subgenres
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A subgenre of science fiction in which extraterrestrial beings are encountered by humans. These encounters can range from romantic to traumatic, and common themes are communication, fear of the "other," intergalactic war, and a greater sense of one's place in the universe.

Writing Prompts: Watch the video or read them
Literary Examples: Galactic Pot-Healer, Foreigner: 10th Anniversary Edition, The Mount

Alternate History

In this subgenre of science fiction, the world as we know it is different due to alternate events taking place in history. There is often "what if" scenarios that occur at important points in history and present outcomes that are different than what's on historical record.

Writing Prompts: Watch the video or read them
Literary Examples: The Man in the High Castle, 11/22/63, The Red Garden

Alternate/Parallel Universe

A subgenre in which there is another reality co-existing with the present reality. These stories are typically about traveling to parallel worlds or universes that are either vastly different from our own, or very recognizable. There is a connection with this subgenre and the time travel subgenre, as well.

Writing Prompts: Watch the video or read them
Literary Examples: Zero World, The Gods Themselves, The Long Earth


A subgenre in which a world disaster has occurred, such as a pandemic virus or nuclear holocaust. Common themes in this subgenre are community, destruction of ecosystems, pandemic viruses, survival, human nature, and dystopian societies.

Writing Prompts: Watch the video or read them
Literary Examples: Wool, CyberStorm, The Road


A subgenre of science fiction in which there is use of biotechnology, genetic manipulation, and/or eugenics that occur in the near future. The subgenre stems from cyberpunk but focuses on the implications of biotechnology rather than information technology. Common themes are bio-hackers, biotech mega-corporations, and oppressive government agencies that manipulate human DNA. The examination of bio-engineering is often a dark one.

Writing Prompts: Watch the video or read them
Literary Examples: Unwind, The Dervish House, Leviathan

Children's Story

A subgenre of science fiction written for younger audiences, with protagonists who are early adolescents or younger. "Coming of age" scenarios are often present. Science fiction themes such as aliens, advanced technology, and dystopian societies are often common, but violence and other "adult" themes are downplayed.

Writing Prompts: Watch the video or read them
Literary Examples: The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet, Aliens for Breakfast: A Stepping Stone Book, Whales on Stilts!


A subgenre in which humans (or other lifeforms) move to a distant area or world and create a new settlement. Humans may start a colony for various reasons such as the Earth's overpopulation, an uninhabitable Earth, the discovery of other worlds, acquisition of resources, or threat of human extinction.

Writing Prompts: Watch the video or read them
Literary Examples: Last and First Men: A Story of the near and far future, The Word for World is Forest, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress


This subgenre contains a lot of humor and satirization of science fiction tropes, with a tendency toward a pessimistic view of humanity. There is often mockery of social conventions. This is a rather small subgenre of science fiction that is more common in short stories than novels and frequently seen in movies.

Writing Prompts: Watch the video or read them
Literary Examples: Stainless Steel Rat Omnibus, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Finders Keepers: The Definitive Edition


A subgenre of science fiction in which man and machine are combined, either literally or metaphorically, and there are multiple forms of virtual reality. The Earth is typically the setting for cyberpunk stories, but it is immersed in a cyber world. Common themes are the exploration of the relationship between humans and computers, often in a dark and bleak world, as well as cybernetics, prosthetics, cyborgs, and the internet.

Writing Prompts: Watch the video or read them
Literary Examples: Neuromancer, Snow Crash, Software

Dying Earth

A subgenre in which the Earth is dying. Stories in this subgenre often take place at the end of the Earth's existence, thus occurring in the future. Common themes are fatality, reflection, lost innocence, idealism, entropy, exhaustion of resources, and hope. Settings in these stories are often barren and sterile, with a fading sun. There is overlap with this subgenre and apocalyptic fiction.

Writing Prompts: Watch the video or read them
Literary Examples: The Time Machine, Zothique, Tales of the Dying Earth


A subgenre of science fiction in which the world has become the opposite of a utopia and the protagonist must liberate himself/herself (or an entire community) from it. Common themes are a police state, overwhelming poverty, government control, and lack of personal freedom. Stories in this subgenre often include deep social control and exploration of what we fear will happen in the future of humanity.

Writing Prompts: Watch the video or read them
Literary Examples: Fahrenheit 451, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, A Clockwork Orange

Galactic Empire

In this subgenre, there is an empire that spans galaxies. The story usually takes place in the capital of the empire and often includes elements of dystopian science fiction. The protagonist is often a member of the empire's military forces.

Writing Prompts: Watch the video or read them
Literary Examples: Constitution: Book 1 of The Legacy Fleet Series, Bloodline: Star Wars, Darkest Hour: Liberation War Book 1

Generation Ship

A subgenre of science fiction in which there is a prolonged voyage on a spaceship and the original occupants have passed away, leaving their descendants to remain or find another place to live. As the ship journeys across the universe, generations have lived and died onboard, and social change often occurs. There is often an advanced ecosystem onboard and usually, the ship will have a destination, such as a distant planet to colonize.

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Literary Examples: Orphans of the Sky, Captive Universe, Promised Land

Hard Science Fiction

A subgenre in which there is extreme scientific details, and less focus on characters or settings. This is a subgenre that concentrates on relating stories from a correct scientific perspective with great attention to technological detail. These stories often include details from hard sciences, with some speculative technology incorporated.

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Literary Examples: Ringworld, The Martian, Dragon's Egg


A subgenre in which there are beings who have lived (and continue to live) infinitely. The focus of this subgenre is eternal life, either as a blessing that is full of limitless opportunity, or the end of change that is full of boredom and stagnation.

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Literary Examples: After Many a Summer Dies the Swan, The Boat of a Million Years, Methuselah's Children

Lost Worlds

A subgenre of science fiction in which there is a voyage to unknown or isolated places such as islands, continents, jungles, or worlds, resulting in a discovery of some wonder or ancient technology. These stories usually contain elements of adventure, and the worlds visited are usually isolated from our own world, containing their own history and unique geography.

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Literary Examples: Journey to the Center of the Earth, A Princess of Mars, Lost Horizon


A subgenre in which there is interstellar or interplanetary armed conflict. Military values such as bravery, sacrifice, duty, and camaraderie are common themes, and the protagonist is typically a soldier. Military science fiction often features futuristic technology and weapons, with the setting being outer space or on a different planet.

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Literary Examples: Ender's Game, Starship Troopers, Old Man's War

Mind Transfer

A subgenre of science fiction in which a human consciousness is downloaded into a computer or transferred to another human brain. This can occur in several ways: via computer, some kind of psychic power, alien technology, physical brain transplantation, etc., and the transfer can be temporary or permanent. Often, the process destroys the original or copies are made.

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Literary Examples: The World of Null-A, Kiln People, Lord of Light

Mundane Science Fiction

A subgenre that is set in the very near future, with believable use of technology that is currently available or could realistically be available in the near future. These stories favor scientific realities, such as biotechnology and environmental change, and are set on Earth.

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Literary Examples: Interzone, Schismatrix Plus, The Beast With Nine Billion Feet


A subgenre of science fiction in which the story is inspired by, or closely imitates, myth and folklore. The story may be a complete retelling of a popular myth or could just draw from tropes and themes that are common in mythology. There is a variable level of real science, since myth has fantastical elements.

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Literary Examples: Rendezvous with Rama, The Queen of Air and Darkness, Perelandra


A subgenre similar to cyberpunk in which the use of nanotechnology is explored, along with its effects on human lives. The nanopunk world is one in which the theoretical premise of nanotech is a reality, and it is well integrated with our world and human existence.

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Literary Examples: Tech Heaven, The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer, Prey


A subgenre in which there are robotics and AI. This subgenre is generally focused on one of three mentalities: pro-robot, anti-robot, or ambivalence. In a pro-robot plot, robots are benevolent. In an anti-robot plot, there is generally confrontation with robots, androids or AI. In an ambivalent plot, robots are useful but there is some anxiety about them.

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Literary Examples: Tik-Tok, The Silver Eggheads, Men, Martians and Machines

Science Fantasy

In this subgenre, there are elements of fantasy, but with the use of advanced technology (making it lean more toward science fiction). These stories show a magical futuristic world, leaning toward soft science. These stories can also contain science that is so well develop that it appears to be magic, and/or characters who possess abilities through scientific technology that seem to be magical.

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Literary Examples: A Game of Universe, The Family Tree, The Dragonriders of Pern

Science Horror

A subgenre of science fiction in which there are also elements of horror. Often, these stories include themes such as medical research resulting in new diseases, aliens attempting to kill humans, artificial intelligence that revolts against its maker(s), or atomic bombs and technology that results in human destruction.

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Literary Examples: Infected, The Hunger, The Sandman


A subgenre with elements of the surreal and postmodern themes. It crosses the genres of literary fiction and speculative fiction, including science fiction, fantasy or both. Slipstream is often defined as fantastical, illogical, surreal, and jarring.

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Literary Examples: The Bridge, Breakfast of Champions, White Noise

Soft Science Fiction

A subgenre with less focus on science and more focus on characters. These stories usually deal with the soft sciences and social sciences, and are more concerned with human activity and affairs than scientific detail.

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Literary Examples: Babel-17, Riverworld, The Left Hand of Darkness

Space Exploration

A subgenre of science fiction in which there is exploration of outer space, and great detail is given concerning the voyage. Some of these stories pose space exploration to be a logical step for humanity, while others use it as a necessity for the survival of the species. In general, these stories focus on the faults and frailties of humanity.

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Literary Examples: Constitution: Book 1 of the Legacy Fleet Trilogy, Titanborn, Rift: The Resistance Book One

Space Opera

A subgenre of science fiction in which there is swashbuckling action and epic, panoramic settings. These stories often contain over-the-top characters, themes, and plots. There is usually a romantic and/or melodramatic approach to storytelling, and the plot contains a lot of adventure. The plot doesn't always stay true to the accepted laws of science, mathematics, or the nature of space as we know it.

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Literary Examples: The Foundation Series, Hyperion, The Ender Quartet


A subgenre of science fiction in which there is espionage, high-tech duels, and over-the-top gadgets. There is less focus on the science behind the gadgets as what can be done with them. The plot often focuses on the glamour, adventure, and daring attitude of spies (think, James Bond), including romantic interludes with beautiful women.

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Literary Examples: The Baroness: Sonic Slave, Crown of Slaves, Call for the Dead: A George Smiley Novel


A subgenre of that is generally set in Victorian times, with the use of steam power as advanced technology. There is minimal scientific detail and the gadgets are often best described as retro-futuristic. These stories contain a sort of reimagining of the capabilities of modern technology through a Victorian lens, and create an alternate history.

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Literary Examples: The Anubis Gates, Homunculus: The Adventures of Langdon St Ives, The Difference Engine

Time Travel

In this subgenre of science fiction, the main characters travel through time. Sometimes, this can mean the character(s) move to a point in time that is in the future; sometimes, they can travel to a point in time that is the past. There is also a trend in these novels for characters to move to travel to parallel or alternate universes in an unknown time.

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Literary Examples: A Sound of Thunder, Guardians of Time, The Time Machine


A subgenre in which humanity lives in a utopia and technology has removed society's problems. In many of these stories, war and sickness have been done away with, often through advanced technology. There is often much discussion of social implications and exploration of social sciences, approaching topics such as: What does a Utopia look like? Is one person's Utopia the same as another's?

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Literary Examples: The Giver, The Dispossessed, Childhood's End

Young Adult

A subgenre of science fiction created for an adolescent or young adult audience in which the protagonist is of the same age range. There is often budding romance within a dystopian society, and the protagonist faces coming-of-age issues such as autonomy, rebellion, survival without adults, etc.

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Literary Examples: Dragon Pearl, The Similars, The Disasters

Thriller and Suspense

Thriller and Suspense genre and subgenres
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A subgenre in which there is much physical action, and the protagonist must fight for his or her survival or to save the victim of a crime or kidnapping. In many cases, the protagonist is a current or former member of the armed forces, special forces, or other government agency. Villains are often internationally located and the hunt for them often occurs across borders. Literary Examples: The Killer Collective, The Cleaner, Freedom Road


A subgenre of thriller & suspense in which there is dark humor surrounding espionage and organize crime. Protagonists often having biting wit while being involved in adventurous activities related to solving a crime or thwarting the evil plans of secret societies. Literary Examples: The Rook, Horrorstör, Crocodile on the Sandbank


A subgenre of thriller & suspense in which a protagonist must face (and defeat) a large, powerful organization or entity to stop a killer or halt a destructive plot. These stories often have protagonists who are scholars, journalists or amateur investigators who play a role in toppling secret societies or conspiracies. Common themes are rumors, lies, propaganda, secret histories, and counter-propaganda. Literary Examples: Betrayal, Mosaic: Breakthrough, The Atlantis Gene: A Thriller


In this subgenre, the protagonist confronts a major crime plot, such as a murder, kidnapping, or theft. These stories often begin with a protagonist, who is going about his or her daily life, before becoming involved in a crime (either as a victim or helping the victim). He or she then uses wit and specialty knowledge to help solve the crime, with or without the help of authorities. Literary Examples: Connections in Death: An Eve Dallas Novel, The Wedding Guest: An Alex Delaware Novel, A Merciful Fate


A subgenre of thriller & suspense in which the protagonist is up against a major natural disaster that he or she must escape or stop. Disasters could include natural disasters, such as earthquakes, meteor strikes or tsunamis; or man-made disasters, such as nuclear explosions, cyber-attacks closing down infrastructure, or a biological weapon. Literary Examples: The Virus, The Last Tribe, Quake


A subgenre in which there are secret agents. These stories are often set during war time. Often, the agent goes rogue to uncover corruption among his or her peers. Common themes include rivalries and intrigues between the major powers, corruption within modern intelligence agencies, rogue states, international criminal organizations, global terrorist networks, maritime piracy and technological sabotage. Literary Examples: The Killer Collective, Betrayal, The Cleaner


A subgenre in which forensic scientists play a major role in solving a crime. Common themes include finding evidence at a crime scene, blood splatter, DNA, bones, fingerprints, or other forensic details. There is usually a race against the clock to catch the perpetrator before someone else dies or another major crime is committed. Literary Examples: Scarpetta, Body of Evidence, Break No Bones


A subgenre of thriller & suspense set in a historical time period that includes details about the era. Real historical figures are often included in the plot, or encountered through a fictional character's point of view. These stories often concern real historical mysteries, documents, or conspiracies but offer an alternate reality connected to them. Some novels in this genre go back and forth between present-day characters and the historical events or documents they are discovering/researching. Literary Examples: A Discovery of Witches, Crucible: A Thriller, The Road Beyond Ruin


In this subgenre, the plot centers on legal dilemmas or courtroom dramas. The protagonist is usually an attorney who encounters danger and solves the crime, while the police are unable to do so or are corrupt. The protagonist's life is often at peril, as is the lives of his significant others or family. Literary Examples: An Innocent Client, The Rule of Law, In Good Faith


A subgenre of thriller & suspense in which the protagonist is in the medical field (or closely tied to it) and must use his or her knowledge of medicine to solve a mystery, cure a virus, halt or pandemic, or catch the perpetrator of a medical-related crime. Often, the story takes place among medical settings and the details that eventually bring the perpetrator to justice (or lead to a cure for a deadly virus) involve medical research or specific medical knowledge. Literary Examples: Blow Fly: A Scarpetta Novel, A Case of Need: A Suspense Thriller, Phantom Limb


A subgenre in which the protagonist is in the military (or former military) and must use his or her training to solve a mystery or crime. The subgenre also includes stories that are set on military bases or vessels. Common themes are brotherhood, avenging wrongs, protecting family members of servicemembers or former servicemembers, cartel interaction, and rogue militias. Literary Examples: The Trident Deception, The Karma Booth, Persuader

Mystery Thriller

A subgenre of thriller & suspense and mystery, in which there is a "ticking clock" or mystery that the protagonist must solve before time runs out. This subgenre is different than a regular mystery in that it is fast-paced and the protagonist is generally on the run or racing against the clock to solve the crime or find a solution. Literary Examples: An Anonymous Girl, Two Can Keep a Secret, The Au Pair


A subgenre of thriller & suspense in which there are elements of the paranormal and some characters display supernatural abilities. Otherworldly elements that are introduced are usually as an antagonistic force, but the plot line and feel are distinctly that of a thriller. Literary Examples: Daughters of the Lake, The Rise of Magicks: Chronicles of The One, The Shining


A subgenre in which the protagonist is connected with the government (usually low-level at the beginning) and must solve a crime or dilemma involving international relations. These stories are usually about a political power struggle, and can involve national or international political scenarios. Common themes are political corruption, terrorism, and warfare. This subgenre often overlaps with the conspiracy thriller subgenre. Literary Examples: Justice Redeemed, Duty and Honor, Target: Alex Cross


A subgenre of thriller & suspense in which the protagonist becomes involved in a situation that threatens his/her sanity or mental state. These stories often emphasize the unstable or delusional psychological states of its characters, and is told through the viewpoint of psychologically stressed characters. There is a combination of tropes from mystery, drama, and action. Literary Examples: The Girl on the Train, Gone Girl, Behind Closed Doors


A subgenre of thriller & suspense in which a religious artifact or sect-held secret is discovered, and different groups (some secret) vie for control. These stories utilize the history and myths of religion, and the protagonist generally has an in-depth knowledge or experience with religious training and/or upbringing. Literary Examples: The Da Vinci Code, The Blood Gospel: The Order of the Sanguines Series, Sanctus


A subgenre in which there is cutting-edge technology that either empowers or threatens the protagonist. This is a hybrid genre drawing on tropes from science fiction, thrillers, spy fiction, and action novels. There are technical details concerning technology and the mechanics of various disciplines (espionage, martial arts, politics). There is often a focus on military action. Literary Examples: Jurassic Park, Daemon, The Martian

Young Adult

A subgenre of thriller & suspense in which the protagonist is a young adult or adolescent. There are often "coming of age" lessons to be learned, such as loneliness, romantic interactions, and survival without adults. Friends, companions, and/or romantic interests often help the protagonist solve the problem or escape the villain, and adventurous, nail-biting chase scenes are the norm. Literary Examples: One of Us is Lying, There's Someone Inside Your House, I Hunt Killers


western genre and subgenres
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Bounty Hunters

A subgenre of western in which there is a morally ambiguous protagonist who hunts criminals to receive a bounty. Common themes include the construction of a railroad or a telegraph line on the wild frontier, ranchers protecting their family ranch from rustlers or large landowners or who build a ranch empire, revenge stories, and outlaw gang plots. Literary Examples: The Bounty Hunters: A Classic Tale of Frontier Law, Bounty Hunter, Broadway Bounty

Cattle Drive

A subgenre in which there a long journey the protagonist must make to move a herd of cattle. There are often life lessons learned along the way and friendships formed, as well as potential for romance. Literary Examples: The Chuckwagon Trail, The Daybreakers: The Sacketts, The Last Cattle Drive

Children's Story

A subgenre created for children that contains western tropes. The typical audience of these stories are children, ages 7 through 12, and western tropes are present but presented in an acceptable form for younger children to read. Common themes are friendships, autonomy, adventure, and relationships with wildlife and nature. Literary Examples: Leroy Ninker Saddles Up: Tales from Deckawoo Drive, By The Great Horn Spoon!, Old Yeller


A subgenre of western in which there is humor, satire, or parody of traditional Western tropes. Common themes include cowboys or "sharpshooters" who don't know how to shoot or ride a horse, or drunken cowboys whose antics are entertaining to their compatriots. Literary Examples: Anything For Billy, Hey, Cowboy, Wanna Get Lucky?, How the West Was Lost

Gold Rush

A subgenre in which the protagonist is on a quest for riches, usually in the form of found gold. These protagonists and plotlines were immortalized in the 1860s by authors Bret Harte and Mark Twain, while the California gold rush was in full swing. Literary Examples: Calico Palace, Daughter of Fortune, Walk On Earth a Stranger


A subgenre of western in which the protagonist must go up against an antagonist in gun battle. The protagonist and antagonist are often experts in pistols, and each tends to own a special weapon whose reputation precedes it. The climax of these stories is a final gun battle with specific "sportsman" rules, usually taking place in an agreed-upon setting and with a crowd watching. Literary Examples: Shane, The Autumn of the Gun, The Dawn of Fury

Land Rush

A subgenre of western in which settlers must travel to and claim land that is available for homesteading, usually in Oklahoma or surrounding states. Common themes are survival within harsh elements, wild animals, benevolent and unfriendly natives, competing/feuding families or gangs, and making the land hospitable to growing food and sustaining life. Literary Examples: Joline's Redemption, Gabriel's Atonement, Sarah's Surrender


A subgenre of western in which the protagonist is a lawman who must help bring order to a town on the frontier. The protagonist is often escaping a violent or tragic past and has often lost family or loved ones to frontier violence. Common themes are saloon brawls, gambling, outsiders, outlaws, and romance with a local resident. Literary Examples: Lonesome Dove, Deadman's Fury, Bowdrie

Mountain Men

A subgenre in which the stalwart, lonely protagonist roams the mountain ranges of the West. Common themes are survival against harsh elements of nature, loneliness, civilization vs. the wilderness, and feuding families. Literary Examples: Power of the Mountain Man, The Last Mountain Man, Revenge of the Mountain Man


A subgenre of western in which there are colorful villains. It usually involves train robberies, bank robberies, or some other form of criminal activity taking place in the West. There is a certain moral ambiguity to protagonists, making them "loveable bad guys" or villains with a heart. There is generally a romantic interest who is in a likewise unsavory career, such as a prostitute or barmaid. Literary Examples: Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West, Three-Ten to Yuma and Other Stories, I Rode With Jesse James

Prairie Settlement

In this subgenre, the protagonist must play a role in settling on the vast plains of the Midwest, usually facing harsh weather and circumstances. Common themes are benevolent or unfriendly natives, surviving harsh winters, finding sustenance in difficult conditions, and a budding romance with other settlers (particularly widows or widowers who are on their own). Literary Examples: Prarie Justice, Prairie Crossing: A Novel of the West, West Winds of Wyoming


A subgenre of western in which a protagonist endures and survives a massacre or some other horrible event, and must find those who are responsible for it to achieve justice. In many cases, the protagonist is seeking justice for loved ones or family members who have been murdered. There is a sense of righteous anger and common themes are retribution, justice, personal peace, and loyalty. Literary Examples: Cade's Revenge, Montana Revenge, The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge

Wagon Train

A subgenre of western in which there is a journey taken by pioneers from the East looking to settle in the West. These tales are of an epic nature and often include drama such as budding romance and feuds between travelers. Literary Examples: Raveled Ends of Sky: Women of the West Novels, A Long Way to Go, Sawbones

Young Adult

A subgenre in which the protagonist is an adolescent or young adult, and comes of age as the story progresses. These stories are intended for an adolescent or young adult audience and contain themes such as friendship, young love, escape from adult or responsible influence, and rebellion. Literary Examples: Vengeance Road, Under a Painted Sky, Gunslinger Girl

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