Earlier this year Wattpad launched verticals. If you’ve been following along, you’ve learned about five of our six verticals: LGBTQ+ Romance, Hot Encounter, Dangerous Love, Pararomantasy, and Werewolf. Our vertical, Speculative Fiction, is up next.
Speculative fiction is our most varied vertical as it covers a great selection of genres and subgenres within it. The main genres within this vertical are fantasy, science fiction, and horror, all of which cover very distinct subgenres. Fantasy has three subgenres: high fantasy, litRPG, and urban fantasy. Science fiction has two subgenres: dystopian/apocalyptic and space opera. Finally, horror just has one subgenre which is monster/slasher.
We know that this many different genres may seem overwhelming, which is why we’re coming at you with this speculative fiction cheat sheet. We’ll be covering all the important things to know about each of these genres and subgenres to make sure you feel confident when it comes to speculative fiction.
Now let’s break this down by each genre of the Speculative Fiction vertical.
High fantasy stories are the ones that make you feel like you've entered a whole new world. The colorful descriptions frequently used in these stories add magic to these worlds that make them feel larger than life. Their unique settings usually come with magical creatures and magic systems. High fantasy stories do not need to follow the laws and norms that we experience in real life but rather should reflect what the expectations of social norms in a magical society could be.
While worldbuilding is very important in this subgenre, readers are aching for a protagonist on a journey against a world-ending antagonist or threat. There needs to be something that is putting pressure on the hero to act now. Provide an immediate reason why this story is happening right now in order to keep readers engaged. Essentially, high fantasy is a subgenre that heavily favors a storycoaster setup to keep readers interested.
LitRPG is a niche but mighty subgenre that we are so excited to highlight through its inclusion in our speculative fiction vertical. LitRPG focuses on characters that get immersed in a virtual reality video game.
One of the biggest draws to this subgenre is making the reader feel just as immersed in the video game world as your main character does. They want to know what the trees in this world smell like, how the foods native to this world taste, what the feeling of a weapon they grab feels like, etc. They want to know all the relevant things this character is seeing and experiencing. In order to make LitRPG engaging rather than redundant, it’s important that you thoroughly consider your world ahead of time.
Since this subgenre is entirely focused on being in a game, game elements must be used consistently throughout the story. Consider including level-up systems, character stats, clues, and more—anything that you can expect to find in a game. This subgenre is a bit of a balancing act; you need both game elements and a clear story arc without sacrificing one for the other.
Readers don't want to just see your character going through the motions, they want to see a character that is playing the game but is also experiencing personal growth throughout the story. It is important to really understand your character's backstory before starting to write a LitRPG story. You can show where they are at the start, how being in the game affects them, and where you hope to see them at the end.
Urban fantasy may sound similar to high fantasy but the biggest difference is their worlds. While high fantasy focuses on elaborate worlds that we’ve never seen before, urban fantasy stories are set in environments that resemble real life.
Urban fantasy stories still incorporate elaborate fantasy elements, like mythical creatures and a protagonist that can access a fantasy world while still mainly residing in the real world. For example, in Twitches, the protagonist mainly resides in the human universe but has access to where the fantasy creatures exist.
Urban fantasy stories may also have a more gritty, intense aesthetic than what we see in other fantasy subgenres. This aesthetic can be revealed as time goes on in your story. The show Wizards of Waverly Place depicts this by beginning as more of a children's story, but getting darker and immersing the characters more and more in the fantasy world as time goes on.
The dystopian/apocalyptic subgenre is made of stories that have a realistic but bleak feeling to them. Think The Hunger Games or Divergent. The characters in these stories are fighting back against evil or oppressive governments that are meant to resemble very exaggerated versions of our own. These stories are speaking against injustice, against political issues we hope never to face, in a world we hope to never live in… but could, one day.
This realism keeps the reader engaged as they worry about and root for these characters to overcome what is blatantly shown to be a harmful world. There may also be physical manifestations of how destructive these dystopian/apocalyptic governments are through incorporating plagues or viruses that present additional obstacles that the character will need to go up against.
Regardless of how broken down society is in these stories, readers love to see community. A popular trope in dystopian/apocalyptic stories is when characters develop a found family that can support them along the way if they have lost their own. This is a beloved part of the genre because it reminds us that no matter how bad life gets, there will always be people there who love and support each other.
Space operas are our science fiction stories that take place in space! Setting a story in space gives you an entirely new landscape that your readers will probably be unfamiliar with. You have the ability to lean on and create a world that is more advanced than the society that we see on Earth and that uses technology that we can only dream of.
The drama in a space opera should not just be bound by spacecraft; you should try to include conflicts across the universe. For example, it may be interesting to incorporate non-human entities such as aliens, advanced robots, or what the future of AI could look like… in space. Incorporate a large cast of characters, including unique and minor, that add a feeling of real community to build your new universe. The sky isn’t the limit here—space offers limitless creativity you can tap into with stories like these.
Horror is a wide and diverse genre that traditionally has many subgenres, however, Wattpad is specifically seeking stories in the monster/slasher subgenre. These stories usually feature a medium-sized core group of characters with a focus character that survives till the end. This character, which is often referred to as The Final Girl, is the character we follow most closely from the beginning. They will discover the betrayals, secrets, and lies within the friend group at the same time they are revealed to the reader.
Readers know from the very beginning that not every character will make it to the end of a monster/slasher story. Ensure each of your characters feels distinct in order to engage your reader—create a character they can root for to survive or celebrate when their enemy gets killed.
In your monster/slasher story, the threat that's killing everyone should feel almost otherworldly, like something that you can't imagine defeating. Readers of this vertical love guessing if one of the core characters is actually behind the threat. For example, the Scream movies each secretly introduce the villain at the start, as one of the main characters is always behind the threat. The audience then eagerly pays attention to every hint of who the killer could truly be and anxiously awaits the reveal. You want to replicate this attachment and anxiousness for your readers as well.
Speculative fiction stories on Wattpad
- The Deathsinger by heater0387
- Roar, Lioness Roar by LemuelMcMillan
- Mezzanine by AmyMarieZ
- Ultima Ratio by laurendoubleu
- The Vampire Always Bites Twice by AHopelessNecromantic
- Whodunit by RSTraylor
Now that you’ve learned about all of the Wattpad verticals, we can’t wait to see the stories you come up with. Keep checking in with our blog and sign up for our newsletter to continue getting more in-depth details on all of the Wattpad Verticals.
Want to learn about how a story is chosen for an opportunity? Visit our help center to learn about Wattpad Originals Verticals.