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Picking your genre is an important first step when writing a book.  Why?  Genres are types of literature.  They have certain characteristics, themes, and styles that are unique from other types of literature, and are designed to accomplish certain things.

  • Romances are boy meets girl stories, and what happens as their relationship develops.
  • Mysteries deal with unknown circumstances and how they are resolved.
  • Westerns are good versus bad in a lawless United States town or country side during the Old West.
  • Action-Adventure uses a fast-moving plot that involves physical danger, near misses, daring feats, and a lot of adventure.
  • Suspense books have a main character(s) that evades capture and has near brushes with death.
  • Horror involves pursuit and escape of characters (often supernatural).
  • Fantasies are fictional works that contain elements which do not exist, such as dragons and fairies.  It has myth-like characters and settings, and often includes magic.
  • Historical fiction use historically correct facts and events woven into a made up story or characters during a particular time period.
  • Science fiction incorporates technology that does not exist (although it is sometimes very close to reality) and frequently takes place in the future.

There are other types of literature (techno-thriller, police procedural, historical romance, family saga, women’s fiction, realistic fiction, myth & legend, etc.), but these are the main types of fiction novels.  Your work may have elements of two or more genres, but one genre should be more prevalent than the others.  For beginners, it is helpful to identify the one genre and write toward that style.

The common elements in all successful genre fiction include:

  • Genre has a plot that requires and delivers a resolution.  Each genre is different: mysteries are solved (mystery), the escape is made by the protagonist (suspense), the relational conflict is resolved (romance).
  • There is enough predictability for the reader to guess where the story might head and what the reader expects, but not too much to ruin the story.
  • There is often elements of justice.  Bad guys are caught, lies are brought to light, wrongs are made right.
  • The central character(s) is admirable with qualities that are likable to the reader. For example, physical strength, courage, and intelligence are qualities that most people admire.  A character’s “flaws,” on the other hand, makes them more realistic and perhaps even more likable (more knowable) to the reader.  In fact, they may hinder the character, or the character may need to overcome the “flaw.”
  • It has emotional impact consistent with the type of genre.  Action (rush of excitement), romance (heart-ache), The genre helps defines the emotional impact of the reader, and the emotional impact of the book is consistent with the genre.  Readers expect a certain type of emotion and delivery when reading a genre book.
  • Perhaps most importantly, it should be entertaining, fun, relaxing, and exhilarating to read. If not, readers may not want to finish your book and won’t recommend it to others.
The book cover above is from of the 1911 edition of The Princess and the Goblin published by Blackie & Son.  (Source 5-31-10: