This is a far-from exhaustive list of genres that I have summarised from this list on Wikipedia.
(I have left out some genres; probably more because of a lack of understanding or appreciation on my part. There are a lot of genres and I feel that some of the ‘labels’ are simply created to re-package essentially the same material, or to try and name blends of genres. There is nothing wrong with either of those reasons, but it does make for an overload of genre types).
- Action – the protagonist usually takes a risky turn, which leads to desperate situations (explosions, fight scenes, daring escapes, etc.). Common sub-genres include military, spy or western fiction. (Sometimes merged with Adventure).
- Adventure – Protagonist journeys to epic or distant places to accomplish something. The protagonist has a mission and faces obstacles to get to their destination. Adventure stories usually include unknown settings and characters with prized properties or features. (Sometimes merged with Action).
- Comedy – tells about a series of funny or comical events, intended to make the readers laugh. Common sub-genres include comedy of manners, humorous, parody, romantic comedy or black comedy.
- Crime – about a crime that is being committed or was committed. It can also be an account of a criminal’s life. Common sub-genres include courtroom or legal thriller, detective story, gangster, murder mystery.
- Fantasy – about magic or supernatural forces, rather than technology. May also include science fiction elements. Common sub-genres include contemporary, urban, epic/high, heroic or mythic fantasy.
- Historical – about a real person or event. Common sub-genres include autobiography, memoir, alternate history, period piece.
- Historical fiction – depicts real historical figures, and actual events, which are woven together with fictitious elements.
- Horror – told to deliberately scare or frighten the reader, through suspense, violence or shock. Common sub-genres include ghost story, monster, slasher, survival horror.
- Philosophical – where a significant proportion of the work is devoted to a discussion of the sort of questions normally addressed in discursive philosophy. These might include the function and role of society, the purpose of life, ethics or morals, the role of art in human lives, and the role of experience or reason in the development of knowledge. Often found in science fiction, utopian and dystopian fiction.
- Political – deals with political affairs, often used to provide commentary on real-life political events, systems and theories. Common sub-genres include utopian or dystopian fiction and survivalism.
- Romance – Traditionally, a romance story involves chivalry, adventure and love. In modern writing, a story about character’s relationships, or engagements (a story about character development and interpersonal relationships rather than adventures).
- Family Saga – chronicles the lives and doings of a family or a number of related or interconnected families over a period of time.
- Science fiction – similar to fantasy, except stories in this genre use scientific understanding to explain the universe that it takes place in. It generally includes computers, travel through space, time or alternate universes; alien life-forms; genetic engineering. Common sub-genres include hard, apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic social or military science fiction, space opera and a whole lot of punk.
- Slice of Life – a story that might have no plot, but represents a portion of (everyday) life.
- Thriller – a story that is usually a mix of fear and excitement. It has traits from the suspense and action genre and is often borderline horror fiction. Common sub-genres include disaster-thriller and psychological thriller.