Monday, July 26, 2010

The Big 4 - Genre Options in Christian Fiction

On Friday, Krista had a fantastic post about the differences between Inspirational Fiction and Christian Fiction. If you want to read about it, go here.



Genre is a tricky thing anyway, I think. There are SO MANY possibilities. And so many ways to mix them together. I’ve been trying to figure them out for a while now, so I wanted to share some of the basics I’ve learned.

Here is a list of the BIG FOUR genres in Christian Fiction, and I’ll try to break some of these down into subcategories.

One of the MOST popular genre in Christian circles is Historical Fiction. Usually the ‘line’ for historical is WWII or maybe even the 1950s. I say ‘historical’ a bit loosely because there are basically two different camps of historical writers.

- People who give great historical detail, including true historical events and even historical figures (such as Nancy Moser’s historical books)

- Others use a historical period as a backdrop for their stories, but use purely fictional characters throughout.
Romance can be a part of these stories, but it usually isn’t the MAIN part of the story. Not if it’s a pure historical. For those of you who write romance in a historical setting, then the next genre is for you ;-)

THE MOST POPULAR Genre in Christian fiction is ROMANCE. Which means, the stories are about love, but that’s about all they could have in common. There are so many subgenre, it’s one of the easiest for first-time writers to enter. MANY of my favorite authors fit into here, of course. Mary Connealy, Julie Lessman, Laura Frantz, Siri Mitchell, Deeanne Gist… you get the point :-)

Historical romance

Romantic Suspense

Prairie Romance

Amish Romance

Fantasy Romance

Romantic Comedy

Those are just a few of the possibilities. We could add various combinations to romance and get another sub-genre, but remember some (BASIC) rules apply to romance. Most publishers want the hero and heroine meeting in the first chapter. The relationship between the hero and heroine is the ‘heart’ of the story and usually the story takes place over a relatively short period of time. There can be some pretty important stereotypes placed on the hero and heroine as well – so researching is an important starting point. :-)

Another BIG Genre is Christian Contemporary Fiction – which is really the ‘catch all’ of novels set in a contemporary world. Christian Women’s Fiction is usually placed within this genre. Chick-lit and Mom-lit would have fit in here, or any character driven novel. Angela Hunt comes to mind and some of Deb Raney and DiAnn Mills novels as well.

The fourth BIG genre (and one of the newest) is Christian Suspense and Mystery. The ‘who done it’ stories as well as the ‘thrillers’. The three main subgenre here are:

Romantic mystery

Romantic suspense

Cozy Mystery – these are your ‘sweet’ mysteries, without the graphic violence.

(Legal suspense novels and the new Christian ‘thrillers’ are becoming a larger subgenre here – Steven James, as an example)

A few other subgenres are – Christian Biblical Fiction (The Centurion’s Wife, Abigail), SciFi & Fantasy, Westerns, Adventure (House of Wolves is a VERY good example here), and even Horror – I might be tempted to put some of Ted Dekker’s books here)

So, when it comes to you – what genre do you read? AND what genre do you write?

Can you narrow it down to a subgenre, or do you get stuck in the gray sometimes like me? I have a historical novel that has a strong romantic element, but the heroine’s journey is as strong by itself as the romantic journey. So what do I do? Is it historical or is it romance?

Do you guys ever get a little lost in the genre fog?

10 comments:

Beth K. Vogt said...

Ir's so interesting to turn a book over and read how it's been categorized. How many forward slashes (/) are there in that lower corner dividing the book into genre, sub-genre, sub-sub-genre?
What genre do I like to read? While I've wandered a little bit into romantic suspense/thriller, I'm not a Tedd Dekker fan--but I do buy those books for my daughter. I like romance--Susan May Warren & Siri Mitchell, but their books can also be found in the historical section.
And I like to write contemporary romance, with a dash of humor. Literary agent Chip MacGregor told me not to label my book "romantic comedy" because that doesn't sell in CBA.
Really? What, Christians don't laugh? We had a fun (gasp!) discussion about that.

Sherrinda said...

Oh my goodness. There are so many genres and sub genres. Don't you think alot of the sub-genres overlap within the genres? There's can be humor in almost any sub-genre, right? It can be confusing to try and label it.

I don't know exactly what I write yet. I wrote a historical...medieval. Now I am plotting out a contemporary...fantasy? It has a bit of magic (not witches)...think When In Rome. Neither are really sell-able in CBA, but that's what I want to write. :)

Diane said...

Never knew there were so many subtitles! eeeek :O)

Casey said...

Love it Pep. :)

Beth, I got a kick out your last comment, that "romantic comedy" doesn't sell. I agree; I love to laugh, who cares what it is called! :)

I genre hop all the time. Historical, women's fiction, contemp, some chick lit. All over the place. But I write women's fiction. At least that was my last story and I think I might continue in that genre for a while.

Pepper Basham said...

AHHH Beth, romantic comedy doesn't sell?!? Well, it sells at my house ;-)
I wonder what they 'call' it, then?
yeah, I'm no Ted Dekker fan either, but I like Steven James. I have to be in a certain 'mood' to read his though - you know, daytime :-)

Mary Vee said...

I am a hopper as well. I am a complex person, so depending on the day, I will read another chapter in Sherlock Holmes, Writing Help, historical fiction, suspense that is not horror, or basque in Romona Quimby:)
Most writers are complex...I don't think there are many successful authors who wanted to be in a rut--if nothing else, they cheat (inventive creativity) and write something else under a pen name.
I don't think I could wedge myself in a single type of specific genre. Which causes a problem with branding. But that is another topic for another day.

Pepper Basham said...

Sherrinda,
I'm with you girl - evidently everything I want to write isn't very 'sell-able' in CBA. LOL
Supernatural Thriller
Romantic Comedy
Oh well - I'll just write it and see what God wants to do with it from there. But it is hard to 'label' some stories because there IS so much overlapping.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

I mostly read romance, varying genres in the category, though contemporary is my favorite. I enjoy romantic suspense sometimes, too.

I mostly write what I read, though I get lost in the genre fog as well sometimes. It took me a long time to narrow down just what it is that I write :)

Shmologna said...

I write both contemporary and historical fiction. I like reading romantic (both historical and contemporary) and I'm in a critique group with someone who is writing romantic suspense. It's soooo good that I want to read more!

~Britt Mitchell

rbooth43 said...

I enjoy reading all the romances mentioned. I thought everyone would like a good laugh. If so, watch Jeanne Robertson "Don't send a man to the grocery store!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-YFRUSTiFUs

God Bless everyone.