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Genres: NA, YA, MM, PNR

Genres can be anything from NA, YA, MM, PNR and history, historical, mystery. What does it all mean?

I recently saw a list of literary genres on a website here, trying to help a writer define their genre and find out which one they belonged to. (NO genre definitions are from this site. I don’t agree with any of them!) I also had a conversation with someone online about how authors shouldn’t step outside of their ‘known’ genre because it was confusing for the reader. I, however, don’t agree. My genre is ‘romance’, so as long as I can create a believable romantic story then I don’t care if it’s paranormal, MM, YA or Contemporary. I will write what comes to me and what I think people want to read. But, let’s have a run down of the genres and discuss the options:

YA: Young Adult

This means the story is usually geared toward (teens, 13-18). There can be romance but this element is usually on the tame side. There is absolutely no erotica or explicit sex or language included in this genre.

NA: New Adult

 This genre is the next step between YA and Adult fiction. The characters are generally 18-25, in that awkward stage between teenager and adult. This can often mean that it deals with the end of high school or college themes.

PNR: Paranormal Romance

 Paranormal can be a genre all of its own, but PNR usually always means a paranormal romance story. The romance can be anything from tame, hinted at to erotica and full blown porn. The paranormal can be anything from vampires, witches, shifters, warlocks, hobgoblins etc. Anything that is in the magical realm can fit here, though PNR is usually set in the present day or in our reality. Another world/realm or excessively different time frame would place it more in the ‘fantasy’ category.


 Contemporary stories can be anything in the realm of present year literary fiction. It is primarily romance, but it can also mean a novel about self-worth, self-discovery or friendship.

M/M: Male x Male or Gay

 This is my wheelhouse. M/M stories are any story where men are involved in a romantic relationship with each other. It can be from any genre, with any ending (HEA or HFN) as long as the relationship involved two men. To fit this category your story must also end with a man in a relationship with another man/men. If you’re going to have him walk off into the sunset with a woman then I’d suggest including the M/M/F genre header instead.

F/F: Female x Female or Lesbian

 This is the same as the M/M but with women. Two or more in a relationship together make up the F/F or Lesbian genre.


This is any story that involves a trans male or female. Whether they’re still in transition or haven’t started yet, whether they’ve completed their transition and are living their life, it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that your story involves a trans main character.


 The main purpose of this genre is to terrify, freak out or frighten the reader. It usually involves a lot of gore or inferences of violence. You can have Fantasy-Horror, Contemporary-Horror, Comedy-Horror. The story can be paranormal or not, it can involve ghosts or paranormal creatures. It is mostly meant to shock, frighten and thrill the readers. It is not always happy, romantic and the good guy doesn’t always win.


 Thrillers is similar to Horror except that it is usually psychological. The gore is minimal if anything more than just suggested and can also be as broadly united with other genres. Thrillers tend to be suspenseful, mysterious, psychologically frightening and full of tension and excitement. There is not necessarily romance involved, but there can be. The best example of thrillers is Alfred Hitchcock.


 These stories usually have one scene of action or adventure in each chapter. The main character is either physically active for their career or because they’re forced to be because of the action involved. There can be romance, gore and violence, but the action and adventure aspect is usually always the main focus. The action/adventure can be anything from travelling, spy games, crime, murder or a search for jewels/money/treasure.


 This genre is usually a novel that is specifically written for women. It is generally about friendship or romance with a bit of comedy involved. The main characters are usually always females; strong, empowered or searching for something they think is missing in their life. A lot of stories in this genre are self-discovery.


 Fantasy stories are very similar to paranormal stories. They are stories in alternate universes/worlds, alternate time lines and worlds that are far from similar to our own. Fantasy can involve any type of magical creature or angels, magic, and it can involve a cross with another genre. Some tend to have certain themes or religious elements. Fantasy tends not to involve scientific or horror themes, as they would categories the story in the Sci-Fi or Horror genre instead.


 This genre is very straightforward. It involves a story of any genre that goes back in time to a historical date for the majority of the story. They can or cannot conform to the actual historical facts of that time, but they do involve historical characters and historical times. Anything ‘historical’ in the fiction world is generally considered anything twenty-five years before the novel is written.


 Erotica is a novel that involves explicit sex and romance. Erotica can be anything from BDSM to seductive techniques. It is considered seductive, suggestive and arousing.


 Any type of novel in any genre that uses humour as the main aspect of the story. It can be crossed with multiple genres, as long as the story is funny.


 Children’s books can have any theme or aim; they can be picture books or novels. It’s hard to define what children’s novels are, but they are basically considered the pre-cursor of YA novels. Anything that is aimed at children 13-years or younger. This can include toddlers, babies, and pre-teens.


The romance genre is any story where there is romance, dating, love, or a sexual relationship between two or more characters. It can be anything from M/M which is two men in a relationship; M/M/M which is three men; M/F/M which means that two men are with one women but don’t do anything sexual with each other. M/M/F means that two men are with one woman but they will also have a physical relationship with each other, as well as the woman. F/F is two women who are together; F/F/F means three women and then there is the M/F/M as mentioned above. The generic romance is usually about M/F a male and female relationship.

This also includes trans males and females, gay and lesbian characters and any other orientation you can imagine. Pansexual, Bisexual, Queer…however you want to write it, as long as there is a romance then you fit here.

Any instance of these will make up a romantic novel.

HEA: Happily Ever After

HEA is all about the ending of the story being happy. It means you tie up all loose ends in the story, whether it be a stand alone novel or at the end of a series. It means exactly what it says it means; you must have your couple, be it one or more characters, in a happy relationship at the end of the story. They must be settled, with no drama and be in a solid, stable relationship.

HFN: Happily For Now

 This is the next step for anyone who doesn’t want to tie up their novels with a big shiny bow. A HFN story means that your characters don’t have to have the end of their romantic story right at the end of the book. This is especially helpful if you’re writing a series and want to keep causing trouble for your characters. You can make them relatively happy at the end of a story, without a solid, settled end. Then you can cause more trouble for them in the next book, having a love triangle, a break up or a temptation to distract them.


 Sci-Fi novels are any novel that involves advanced scientific techniques or technology, but the story must be realistically possible. These stories can take place in future worlds, alternate realities or other planets.


These are ‘western’ style stories set in the United States before the 1900’s.


These are sci-fi novels taken a step further. They are mostly a novel that involves a future world that is changed from what is expected. It includes apocalyptic worlds, undesirable societies and natural/environmental disasters. These stories are usually of worlds that denote survival techniques and are unwanted.


 These stories are kind of a prequel to Thrillers. They involve a story that has a puzzle or mystery to solve. Whatever problem or puzzle is presented at the beginning of the novel must be solved at the end of the story. These can be spy stories, romance novels or science fiction stories; they can be private investigation stories or crime novels.

For me, I will always be a romance novelist. I will dip into any of these genres as long as the story fits and the romance can be believable. Whatever you want to do make sure it’s what you want.

2 thoughts on “Genres: NA, YA, MM, PNR

  1. Although, to equate ‘F/F’ with ‘lesbian’ and ‘M/M’ with ‘gay’ opens a whole can of worms. For example, two women getting together to put a show on for their husbands would be F/F but not lesbian, whereas two women separated by time and space discovering a mutual yet unrequited passion would more likely be lesbian rather than F/F.

    That said, these should all really be content descriptors rather than genres. Even ‘erotica’ is more content descriptor than genre. Take a book from any genre, let’s say science fiction, and I mean a book where the primary content and purpose of the book is science fiction. If the two main characters are two women in a romantic relationship, is the genre suddenly F/F or still science fiction? Or both? If the women’s sexual antics are described explicitly – and if Fifty Shades of Grey can do it, then why not? – is it then erotica rather than F/F or science fiction?

    As far as Amazon is concerned, if you choose Erotica as one category, the second choice of category is irrelevant, as if any explicit content automatically invalidates the natural genre. Wouldn’t it be better to choose from a set of standard content warnings?

    Select as appropriate:
    o Warning: Sexually explicit content.
    o Warning: Does not conform to heteronormative cis-gendered stereotypes.
    o Warning: Conforms to heteronormative cis-gendered stereotypes.

  2. I agree with Frank. Content, especially regarding relational status, sexual interest or gender/sexual orientation identity, is not the same as a piece’s literary genre. These designations, above, can be helpful for readers but they are not all in the same category.

    The above list is mixed up.

    Also, DYSTOPIA is spelled incorrectly, above.

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