Genre fiction is the term used to describe popular fiction that falls into easily-definable categories. For example, romance, science fiction, and horror are all considered genres. Genre fiction is usually written primarily to entertain the reader, but sometimes it can also be socially-conscious and deal with important political or societal subjects. Genre fiction is usually considered a separate thing from so-called “literary fiction,” because some individuals see it as a less artistic medium, but many genre fiction writers disagree with this assessment.
Some kinds of genre fiction deal with totally imaginary versions of reality, or bring imaginary elements into worlds that are otherwise relatively mundane. For example, fantasy and science fiction stories usually deal with totally invented worlds, either futuristic or magical. Then there is horror, which usually involves the introduction of dangerous supernatural elements into worlds that are relatively commonplace and, therefore, unprepared to deal with the dangers these supernatural factors pose.
There are also some varieties of genre fiction that exist in relatively realistic worlds, but bring larger-than-life stories into those worlds. For example, adventure novels put characters into exciting and dangerous situations that wouldn’t be common in most people’s lives. Mysteries and thrillers are also usually fairly realistic in their depiction of reality, but there are exaggerated elements in terms of the crimes committed, the deviousness of the villains, or the cleverness of the heroes.
Romance is a very particular kind of genre fiction with a long history of great popularity. This fiction can often be very formulaic, but not always, and there is a lot of variation within the existing formulas. In any case, some fiction experts believe that people are actually drawn to experience the typical romance formula again and again because it appeals to them on an instinctive level. For these reasons, formulas in romance fiction aren’t always seen as a bad thing, even by critics, especially when they are handled effectively.
There are some kinds of genre fiction that are a little harder to define because they mix elements from different genres. For example, some people consider Western or historical novels to be singular genres, even though they often mix many different elements, and may function as romance or adventure novels in terms of structure and overall purpose. Both those genres also offer readers the ability to escape into a different world in much the same way as fantasy or science fiction novels do. Another example would be detective novels with larger-than-life heroes, which seamlessly blend exciting elements from both detective and the adventure genres.