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Even if you’re not an avid reader, you’ve probably heard the word “genre” before. But exactly what is a genre, and what else does it apply to?
Here, we’ll give you a simple genre definition, explain how it’s used across different forms of media and entertainment, and outline some of the most common genre conventions.
The Definition of Genre
Let’s start with the burning question: What does genre mean? The best way to think about a genre’s meaning is to consider it as a category, usually used in communication and entertainment like literature, music, and film.
Each genre has a set of conventions that makes it different from another, and the pieces of work that fall under that genre will each display those conventions and characteristics in some way.
How to Pronounce Genre
Now that you have a better understanding of “what is genre”, it’s probably helpful if you know how to say it. Borrowed from French, the genre pronunciation can be tricky to grasp at first. The closest phonetic interpretation to help you pronounce it is zhann-ruh.
As with most Western European languages, the word “genre” stems from the Latin genus and Ancient Greek génos, meaning origin or group. These words were typically used to describe social groups in the ancient world, but were developed by the French in the 1700s to mean “a particular style of art.”
Thanks to this new definition, words like category, class, division, family, kind, set, sort, or type are commonly used to mean the same as genre.
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Types of Genre
In Literature and Writing
Literature and writing genres are usually the first place that you’ll come across the idea of genre and start to understand what it means in real life. Particularly when it comes to fiction, some of the most popular genres of books are probably already familiar to you.
Think Sherlock Holmes or Gone Girl. These books build suspense throughout the plot and, sometimes, trying to solve a crime.
The best horror stories keep you on the edge of your seat and will make you want to sleep with the light on. Elements like death, ghosts, vampires, or witches are usually found in this genre.
Romance writing satisfies a happy ending. While there can be trials and obstacles that the main characters face, love will always win in the end.
The fantasy genre rose in popularity in the 20th century, thanks to works like The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia. Typically inspired by folklore or mythology, this genre focuses on imaginary people, places, and times. The isekai genre of anime is considered to be a subgenre of fantasy.
Like literature, films can also be broken out into categories like fantasy, romance, or horror. But there are a few groups that are unique to the different types of movies that fall under them.
Like romance, these films usually have a happy ending and are built around elements designed to make the audience laugh.
Considered a sub-genre of historical narratives, Westerns focus specifically on the time period of the late 1800s to early 1900s and are usually set in the U.S. or Canada.
Science fiction is focused on real or imaginary scientific settings and how these impact the people that live in those societies. The cyberpunk genre is a sub-category under science fiction, focusing on the blend of technological advancement with the breakdown of radicalization of social order within a dystopian future.
Genre conventions for audio entertainment have become more blurred over the years and often combine several different categories at once, but there are several major genres of music that you’ve likely heard of.
Just about anything can fall under this genre, but it’s traditionally considered to be any form of music that’s accessible to the general public and spread widely through mass media.
Country music originated in the southern United States in the 1920s and has become known for including instruments like banjos, guitars, and harmonicas.
Punk rock emerged in the 1970s out of the early days of rock and roll music. Typically considered to be more aggressive than mainstream rock, punk lyrics are often anti-establishment or political in nature.
Photography genres are usually broken out by the purpose, which then helps to inform their style.
This is generally a broad category of photography but focuses specifically on the human subject. It’s used in anything from fine art photography to commercials and advertising.
Capturing people’s big day is the number one goal of wedding photography. It’s more difficult than you imagine when you’re trying to wrangle family and friends, along with making the couple feel comfortable in front of the camera.
Commercial photography sells a product and can include just the product itself, or people using the products in particular ways.
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