Genre & Theme
3 min read

Understanding reality genres

A blue and pink image of a tree branch.

Reality genres form the foundation of a story's setting and determine the level of realism or fantasy - which in turn influences how far your readers will have to suspend their disbelief. These genres help establish the world where your story takes place, and can influence the plot, characters, and themes. As a fiction writer, understanding the nuances of reality genres can help you craft immersive and captivating stories that resonate with your readers. This article will closely examine the various reality genres and their unique characteristics.


The factualism reality genre strongly emphasizes accuracy and reality, with stories grounded in real events, historical facts, or actual experiences. This genre is usually applied to stories that are based on true events, and writers often conduct extensive research to ensure that their portrayal of events, people, or settings is as authentic as possible. Factualism can be applied to any content or style genre, but it is especially prevalent in historical fiction, biographical novels, and some crime or mystery stories.


The realism reality genre is a genre that aims to depict life as it is, with believable characters and relatable situations. The stories are made up, but they could happen in real life. Realism focuses on capturing the essence of everyday experiences, often emphasizing life's mundane or ordinary aspects. Character-driven stories that explore human emotions, relationships, and personal growth are common in realism. This genre can be applied to various content genres, such as romance, drama, or society novels.


The absurdism reality genre explores life's chaotic, irrational, and unpredictable aspects, challenging the notion of logic and order. Stories in this genre often feature characters who struggle to find meaning in a seemingly random and indifferent world. Absurdism can be darkly humorous, thought-provoking, or disorienting, and narratives often push the boundaries of conventional storytelling. This literary device can be applied to various genres, such as literary fiction, drama, and science fiction or fantasy stories.


All fantasy stories require a suspension of disbelief on the part of the reader. There are several significant sub-genres of fantasy, each with its own conventions.

Human fantasy

The human fantasy reality genre features fantastical elements and experiences, or an anthropomorphized reality. It often incorporates supernatural or magical elements while grounding the narrative in the human experience. Common themes in human fantasy stories include love, friendship, family, and personal growth, which can be found in various content genres such as romance, coming-of-age, and adventure.

Human fantasy can be contemporary or set in a historical time period:

Contemporary human fantasy

The contemporary fantasy reality genre is set in the modern world that includes fantastical elements woven into the story. It often explores the intersection of the ordinary and the extraordinary, with characters who navigate the mundane aspects of daily life and the extraordinary challenges they encounter. Contemporary fantasy can be applied to various content genres, including urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and magical realism.

Historical human fantasy

The historical fantasy reality genre combines historical settings with fantastical elements, creating an alternate world where magic coexists with actual historical events or figures. This genre often reimagines history, weaving together accurate historical details with imaginative storytelling. Historical fantasy can be found in various content genres, such as adventure, romance, or mystery.

Magical fantasy

The magical fantasy reality genre revolves around magic, magical creatures, and enchanted worlds. These stories often feature epic quests, battles between good and evil, and detailed world-building. While some characters can master magic, not everyone has the ability to do so. This genre typically involves intricate magical systems, diverse races or species, and richly detailed settings. Magical fantasy is common in adventure, epic, sword, and sorcery content genres.

Science fiction

All science fiction stories require a suspension of disbelief on the reader's part. There are several significant sub-genres of science fiction, each with its own conventions. The genre is characterized by technology that enables individuals to harness new capabilities, as long as they can access it.

Alternate history science fiction

The alternate history science fiction reality genre reimagines history by introducing alternative outcomes or events, often incorporating advanced technology or scientific developments. This genre explores "what if" scenarios, speculating how the world might differ if certain historical events unfolded differently. Alternate history can be applied to various genres, such as war novels, thrillers, or dystopian fiction.

Cyberpunk science fiction

The cyberpunk reality genre is a subgenre of science fiction that focuses on a dystopian future characterized by advanced technology, artificial intelligence, and societal upheaval. Often set in urban environments, cyberpunk stories explore themes such as corporate control, wealth disparity, and the impact of technology on humanity. This genre frequently features antiheroes, hackers, and complex plots and can be applied to various content genres, such as thrillers, action, or noir fiction.

Hard-science science fiction

The hard science fiction reality genre emphasizes scientific accuracy and plausibility, often exploring the impact of technology or scientific discoveries on society. Writers in this genre typically have a strong understanding of scientific principles and conduct thorough research to ensure the credibility of their story. Hard science fiction can be applied to various content genres, such as space exploration, time travel, or dystopian fiction.

Military science fiction

The military science fiction reality genre explores warfare in futuristic settings, often focusing on advanced technology, military strategy, and the experience of soldiers. This genre delves into the complexities of war, examining themes like loyalty, leadership, and the ethics of conflict. Military science fiction can be found in various content genres, such as action, adventure, or space opera.

Post-apocalyptic or dystopian science fiction

The post-apocalyptic and dystopian science fiction reality genres are set in a world that has experienced a catastrophic event. They often explore themes of survival, oppression, and societal collapse. Stories in these genres may focus on characters navigating a harsh, dangerous environment, or they may delve into the intricacies of a repressive regime. Post-apocalyptic and dystopian science fiction can be applied to various content genres, such as action, adventure, or thriller.

Romantic science fiction

The romantic science fiction reality genre combines elements of romance with futuristic or fantastical settings. This genre often explores themes of love, passion, and commitment in the context of advanced technology, alien worlds, or time travel. You can find romantic science fiction in various content genres, such as space opera, paranormal romance, or time-travel romance.

Soft-science science fiction

The soft science fiction reality genre prioritizes character development and storytelling over scientific accuracy. It often explores social, psychological, or philosophical themes. This genre may feature futuristic settings or advanced technology, but the primary focus is on the characters and their emotional journeys. Soft science fiction can be applied to various content genres, such as literary fiction, drama, or speculative fiction.

Space opera science fiction

The space opera reality genre is a subgenre of science fiction characterized by epic, galaxy-spanning adventures. It often involves interstellar travel, advanced technology, and complex political dynamics. This genre typically features larger-than-life characters, high-stakes conflicts, and intricate world-building. Space opera can be found in various content genres, such as action, adventure, or romance.

Understanding the nuances of reality genres is crucial for fiction writers who want to create immersive and captivating stories. By selecting the appropriate reality genre for your story and combining it with the right content and style genres, you can craft a narrative that resonates with your readers and meets their expectations. As you explore the various reality genres, consider how they can enrich your storytelling and help you build unique, engaging worlds for your characters.



  1. Coyne, Shawn. 2015. The Story Grid. New York, NY: Black Irish Entertainment.