Genre Descriptions for our Book Awards
Science Fiction is a genre that answers the question, I wonder what would happen if… almost better than any other genre. From the second century, Lucian’s A True Story on through history, Sci-fi sets a wide bar that includes alternate histories, inner worlds of the brain and exploration of the human body to outer worlds of an alien planet, alien visitations, space travel, and time travel. Technology, as you might guess, is the thing that distinguishes this genre from others. At Chanticleer Int’l Book Awards, we honor all forms of Science Fiction, be it soft sci-fi (big on story, soft on science) to hard sci-fi (this is the stuff that can and probably will happen if we’re not careful) to everything in between. Here we love to see Steampunk, Cyberpunk, stories with robots and A.I., parallel universes, mutants, enhanced human beings, teleportation, future history, evolution, mind control. The list of wonder is as vast as our imaginations allow. Yet, science fiction need not always be about a dystopian, post-apocalyptic world; after all, where would we be without the satire of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy?
By definition, fantasy is not reality; therefore, the plot of a fantasy novel could never take place in the real world. That being said, fantasy themes and sub-genres are nearly as vast as those of Science Fiction. Children’s literature often captures the hearts and minds of readers through the careful telling of Folktales. Conflict/Resolution stories that help teach valuable lessons. Other sub-genres include Magical Fantasy where someone in the story or some object in the story possesses magical abilities (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl) or Alternative Worlds where the average person is plucked out of their status quo and thrust into a magical reality (think Peter Pan by M.J. Barrie, The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum). The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien and Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games are good examples of High Fantasies where protagonists must answer the call for the greater good, for love, or to vanquish evil. We love all of these types of fantasy novels. A mark of a good and highly effective fantasy story is one that transports the reader completely to another world.
The Paranormal genre enters into the other-worldly explanation of all things pertinent to your well-being and the well-being of those you love. Here is where you are likely to encounter spirits – both good and evil, black magic, voodoo, twists of fate, werewolves, zombies, monsters of all sorts (even the ones who look just like you and me), chupacabras and flawed beliefs that lead to horrendous consequences (Pet Cemetery by Stephen King). The Paranormal fiction genre can mess with your head and cause you to go to sleep with the doors locked and the lights on, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be all that terrifying… Charlaine Harris consistently delivers the other-worldly with sexy characters and relatable storylines. She has the knack of giving us drop-dead (literally) gorgeous vampires and howlingly delicious werewolves, psychics and spirits we want to know. The paranormal touches other genres, too. Like the ever-searching slippery tendrils of a giant sea monster, the paranormal genre reaches into other genres such as Romance, Young Adult, Middle-Grade readers, Fantasy, even Mystery to grab your attention. So, what makes a paranormal story paranormal? These novels will end with an other-worldly explanation – if there is an explanation at all. In classic horror story fashion, these stories will leave you with the knowledge that whatever our hero was fighting is far from over and far more menacing than originally thought. That’s why we love it!
YA or Young Adult Fiction
If you want to read a good story, pick up a Y/A novel. There is so much competition in this genre for writers to get their works known, really only the best books – or near best survive. Complicated storylines wrapped around relatable, flawed characters identifies this beloved genre. And like Science Fiction and the Paranormal groups, Y/A touches on every other genre imaginable. What makes a Y/A novel a Y/A novel? The problems the protagonists face are solved by the protagonists – without adults getting involved. The Twilight Series by Stephanie Meyers is what springs to mind when discussing this genre. This genre explores the world from a young person’s point of view. Young persons are defined as older than twelve years and into their early twenties. However, many adults enjoy reading this genre. There are many sub-categories to this genre.
New Adult deals with more, well, more adult issues, with more intensity. If you were to rate it fiction like films are rated, YA would be G or GP (general with parental guidance); New Adult would be a GP/R rating. It hovers between two grey areas. As “Harry Potter” was definitely G moving into the GP area as the characters came of age, “Twilight” definitely borders between GP & New Adult, as does “Hunger Games.”
Steeped in historical places and dates, the Western/Pioneer/Civil War genre consists of literature that focuses on frontier life and life during the civil war. Works of this genre are almost entirely set in the American West and the American South during the time period from the early 1800s to the late 1800s. This genre can easily contain other sub-genres including mystery, romance, and adventure.
Mainstream Fiction are stories that appeal to a wide audience and a broad cross-section of society. Publishers love mainstream novels because of their ability to attract readers away from their favorites genres. Mainstream novels tend to cut across several genres such as romance, mystery, and comedy along with the stuff from everyday life that we all can identify with. Mainstream is the Holy Grail of authors who want their books to become bestsellers.
Mystery novels involve intricate plotting with clues and a combination of gathering information, deductions derived by reasoning, and inference to solve a puzzle or a crime. The protagonist is unusually challenged by the protagonist such as in the classic Sherlock Holmes Detective series.
Mysteries can also be thrillers when a ticking clock is added to create suspense. The protagonist faces many close calls and must overcome challenging obstacles before she can save the day.
These are novels tend to become old friends. They are not page turners or thrillers, but they are compelling reads. You can read a chapter, then turn the light off and go to sleep. Cozies can be written in any genre and may cut across many genres. They have satisfactory, if not, uplifting happy endings. Cozies generally do not contain gory details, explicit sex, violence, or torture situations.
However, this does not mean that serious topics are not dealt with in the genre of cozy. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is an excellent example of a cozy novel that dealt with the reality of living under a Nazi regime during WWII. The No. 1 Ladies Detective series is another example of a cozy novel series that deals with the reality of living in Southern Africa.
Historical Fiction Novels
Historical fiction are stories that take place in time at least three generations (roughly 50 to 75 years) ago. They need to be accurate as far as technology, dress, habits, historical events, and mores of the time and place in which the stories are situated. Because of the construct of a historical novel, writers should ensure that their stories ring of authenticity by doing research so that their readers will not stumble upon misconstruencies, which will bring any historical fiction to a screeching halt in the readers’ minds. Stories may take place anywhere from Prehistoric times to the 1940s. Historical fiction does not have any elements of fantasy, time travel or sci-fi. Authors of historical fiction use the time period as an interesting backdrop to their plots and characters.
Philippa Gregory’s novels about Tudors are exemplary examples of historical fiction.
CBR follows the Romance Writers of America description of this genre. The basis of romantic fiction is that it contains a central love story, has an optimistic ending, and is emotionally satisfying. There are many categories in this genre from sweet romantic cozy stories to sizzling hot romances (guidelines note: we accept entires with sex scenes, but discourage gratuitous and graphic sex). The romance genre occupies the largest share of the U.S. consumer fiction market. Its sales double any other category of fiction.
Narrative nonfiction is an increasingly popular genre that is inherently based in fact and real life. Creativity is encouraged and the best narrative nonfiction works will utilize many of the elements of good fiction writing to craft a compelling nonfiction story. However, too much “artistic license” or deviation from the facts will quickly turn a nonfiction piece into a work of fiction. Sub genres include travelogues, memoirs, and career experiences, to name a few. This genre is also known as creative nonfiction.