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What Are the Different Types of Adult Fiction?

By Bobby R. Goldsmith
Updated May 23, 2024
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Adult fiction comes in many types. Each type can be expressed as a novel, short story, movie, television show, or play. There are four main genres of adult fiction — drama, comedy, romance and action, each with subgenres. In many cases, a particular book or story will blend elements of two or more genres for depth, comic relief, or simply to appeal to a broader audience. Each type of adult fiction incorporates characters in mature situations, as opposed to fiction geared toward youth, which tends more to simple narratives with binary moral lessons.

Drama is a wide-ranging genre of adult fiction that involves complex, nuanced narratives that feature a protagonist in a moral or ethical quandary. The narrative involves the resolution or failure of resolution of this quandary. Drama focuses more on the development of character than on the development of a series of plot points, giving this genre of adult fiction a deep focus on the human condition. An example of drama is the film Leaving Las Vegas in which the protagonist battles his personal demons and progressively worsening alcoholism.

Comedy provides a mirror image of drama. Rather than focusing on complex, dynamic characters in serious but often static situations, comedy as adult fiction involves the opposite. Static characters become embroiled in a serious of complex and often exaggerated plot points for comedic effect. There are several sub-genres to comedy, including black humor, satire, slapstick absurdism, and parody. Comedy can often blend with elements of the romance genre, as well.

Romance novels and stories comprise a large share of adult fiction. Romance narratives involve matters of the heart with a protagonist that either pursues a love interest, has a love interest thrust upon her, or must somehow reconcile one love interest with another. The plots of a romance narrative can run the gamut, from basic and straightforward to convoluted and cyclical. Popular romance novels often involve a female protagonist but this is not always the case. The novels of Danielle Steel are a typical example of romance fiction.

Action fiction has fast-paced narratives with static, heroic protagonists battling against antagonistic forces that are attempting to subvert some natural status quo. An action thriller novel often includes numerous plot points because the development of the plot is the driving force of the narrative. Events drive action fiction, leaving the protagonist to respond to such events. The Bourne Identity novels are a textbook example of action fiction.

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Discussion Comments
By Ivan83 — On Apr 05, 2012

I am a writer and for me the hardest kind of adult fiction to write is comedy. It is easy to make things that are comedic but really really hard to make something that is legitimately funny. Think about it, how many times have you actually laughed out loud when you were reading a book? Probably not that often, not nearly as often as you have read things designed to be funny.

I have tried to tackle comedy projects in the past but everything ends up sounding so scripted and forced. There is none of the surprise that has to accompany a really good joke or gag. I know that I'm not the only one who struggles to write this way. Luckily some people excel at it and there are a few really great comic novels.

By chivebasil — On Apr 05, 2012

I think that the most interesting dramas have a legitimate ethical conflict at their center. This is the blood of good drama. Questions about right and wrong are ultimately the most profound and tricky that you can ask.

But it cannot be a superficial conflict. I have seen so many movies that try to present you with a conflicted character trying to weight between two different choices but you always know what they will do. Having real shades of grey is much trickier. The best dramas leave you wondering throughout, what will they do, what is right, what would I do?

By nextcorrea — On Apr 05, 2012

The gap between adult fiction stories and young adult fiction is smaller than it has ever been before. There is literature being written for young adults that has just as much dramatic depth and thematic depth as anything written for adults.

This is a tribute to both young adult authors and the young men and women who have made this genre of books so popular. It seems like when I was a kid you only had Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. It was like a bolt of lightning when S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders came out. Now books of this caliber are published every month.

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