Fiction Sub-Genres

There are several main fiction genres: romance, mystery, speculative fiction (science fiction/fantasy/horror) and western. There are many sub-genres within these genres and new ones are popping up every day. Here is a list of the sub-genres FictionDB uses on our site. The code in parentheses is the code you will see throughout the site on our book lists. You can also hover over the codes wherever you see them to reveal the sub-genre.

Romance (R)

The primary distinction between romance and other types of romantic fiction is the happily-ever-after (HEA). A romance must end with the two main characters in a permanent relationship. We have a theme (Romantic Elements) for books that do not have the romance as the primary focus. More than one of these sub-genres can be applied to any one book. A book can be both a Contemporary Romance and a Paranormal Romance at the same time.

Historical Romance (HR)

Any romance that takes place in the past and where the historical setting is important to the story.

Contemporary Romance (CR)

Romances set in the contemporary world. Books written many years ago, but written as contemporary stories will still have the contemporary romance designation.

Romantic Suspense (RS)

A sibling to contemporary romance, romantic suspense adds high-action drama to the story.

Paranormal Romance (PNR)

Any supernatural element mixed with romance that takes place in our world. These books can be either contemporary or historical.

Fantasy Romance (FR)

Romances set in other realms with fantastical elements often magic.

Science Fiction Romance (SFR)

Romance combined with a heavy dose of science fiction. These books tend to be futuristic Earth or take place in a far-off galaxy.

Chick Lit (CL)

Young women discovering themselves while living in large urban environments.

Gothic (GO)

Woman in peril

Traditional Regency (RG)

Comedy of manners

Category Romance (CAT)

Series like Harlequin and Silhouette

Mystery (M)

Mysteries deal with the solving of a murder or a series of related crimes. Mysteries tend to fall into two categories: whodunit and howcatchem. In a whodunit, the reader tries to figure out who committed the crime and the identity of the murderer is revealed at the end of the book. In a howcatchem, the focus is on the way the police force solves crimes (forensics, autopsies, search warrants). The reader may or may not know the perpetrator's identity.

Amateur Sleuth (AS)
Police Procedurals (PP)
Private Investigator (PI)
Cozy (CZ)

very little onstage violence, usually amateur sleuth

Historical Mystery (HM)
Paranormal Mystery (PM)
Traditional British (TB)

Mysteries reminiscent of classic British works (Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, etc.)

Crime Fiction (CF)

The focus is on the perpetrator of the crime.

Hard-boiled (HB)

Explores the gritty, seamy side of a large city and usually features a private detective.

Psychological Suspense (PS)

These books are characterized by high tension. The reader is waiting for something to happen, knowing that it is coming.

Thrillers (T)

Fast-paced action sequences, good vs. evil plotlines. The consequences are usually large – the terrorists explode a bomb, the president is killed.

Legal Thriller (LT)
Medical Thriller (MT)
Political Thriller (PT)
Espionage (E)

Speculative Fiction

Horror (HORR)

The intent is to horrify the protagonist and in so doing scare the reader.

Dystopian (DY)

Books set in an imagined world or society in which people lead wretched, dehumanized, fearful lives.

Fantasy (F)

Fantasy uses magic and other supernatural elements as the main focus of plot, theme, and/or setting.

Urban Fantasy (UF)

Set in contemporary, real-world, urban settings.

Epic Fantasy (EF)

Themes of grand struggle against supernatural, evil forces. Generally set in alternate worlds

Heroic Fantasy (HF) (Sword & Sorcery)

Swashbuckling heroes engaged in exciting and violent conflicts. Tends to be set in pseudo-medieval settings

Alternate history (AH)

Set on Earth with a different historical twist

Dark Fantasy (DF)

Horror novels with a supernatural element

Magical Realism (MR)

Science Fiction (SF)

Space Opera (SO)

Set in space emphasizing romantic adventure, exotic settings, and larger-than-life characters

Steampunk (ST)

Set in an era when steam power was still widely used — usually the 19th century, and often set in Victorian England with fictional technological inventions


Set on Earth after the end of civilization usually caused by nuclear war, plague or other catastrophic disaster


Near-future settings where technology has overtaken the Earth and individuals feel isolated


The principal characters are members of a military service and an armed conflict is taking place, normally in space, or on another planet

Westerns (W)

Tales set in the American West usually during the last half of the 19th century.

Non-Genre Fiction

General Fiction (GF)

Fiction that does not fall into a particular genre or can be combined with another genre

Literary (L)
Action Adventure (AA)
Historical (H)
Women's Fiction (WF)

May or may not be classified as a romance, but primarily deal with a woman’s journey of self-discovery

Christian (CH)
Graphic Novel (GN)
Manga (MG)