A while back I asked about What Genre is This questions. Looking back on this and thinking about Adrian's recent answer, it seems like we could do something to address genres. I've seen genre-related questions on several sites and forums, so there is some demand. However, I still feel like trying to pigeonhole the original poster's story is of limited value, as it's very specific (too localized?), somewhat subjective, and has limited value to the community - the next person asking the question will want to know about their own story, not someone else's.

I think questions like "What are common attributes of genre X?" might be more useful.

  • This seems better than "Define genre X," which seems to me to invite answers that try to be a "complete" or "final" definition, and thus, disagreements. It allows several people to build a cumulative definition.
  • It leans toward defining a genre by what it is, rather than what it isn't. This could be good or bad, but a definition of what something is is a lot more concise than a definition of what it isn't.
  • It invites attributes that can be backed up, so it feels less subjective. If you say genre X frequently has a particular attribute, you can point to specific works in the genre where that is the case.

One concern I have with these is that we might initially get quite a lot of them and it may feel a bit spammy. However, if they're useful to the community, that's probably not a big problem.

So, do people think these types of questions would be useful, or not?

  • I think questions such as you describe ought to be on-topic, and ones that are close should be edited to what you describe.
    – justkt
    Feb 14, 2011 at 13:08

2 Answers 2


Question: What are common attributes of genre X?

Answer: [Insert relevant TV Tropes link here.]


It's hard for me to view such a question as useful - at least for most genres.

As TRiG pointed out so succinctly, this question is best answered by a link to TV Tropes or to Wikipedia, which cover these very comprehensively.

These questions also aren't useful because they don't answer any difficulty - who needs to know, without any further purpose or focus, what the attributes of, say, Victorian Steampunk are? It's a terminology debate, not a Q&A.

If somebody knows whether their story fits the genre... or what themes are explored well by this genre... or what tropes are already considered overused within the genre... those are specific, useful, answerable questions. Asking for a debatable definition simply serves no such purpose.

I'm happy to make an exception for genre who's basic definition is unclear or confusing - e.g. What is Literary Fiction?, or Magical Realism, or pretty much any question that makes clear why there's no quick obvious answer (or that such answers are generally unclear and confusing, so a Q&A would be helpful). But I don't see any use in a spate of "What are common attributes of queer romance?" "What are common attributes of legal thrillers?" "What are common attributes of Supernatural YA?".

I will say that in this case, my disinterest might possibly be better represented by downvoting questions I see as unhelpful than by ruling them off-topic. I guess they're basically on-topic, they just seem to me like bad questions.

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