Welcome to the sixth day of March BOOK Madness. (For a complete schedule and explanation, see below this post. If you’ve missed any days, make sure to catch up! It’s been awesome! I’ve learned so much already.)
Today my niece, Tricia Pease, is here discussing the importance of honing in our genres. Tricia is a talented writer and avid reader. Her input on my manuscripts helps a ton. She and her family recently moved out east to be closer to me (or so I tell myself; really her hubby just got a new job), and I love her to pieces! :)
So here she is.
Why Genre Matters by Tricia Pease
I can’t believe it’s been three years since I wrote my first March Book Madness post. Back then I had just decided to get serious about working on my first book and expected to be a New York Times Bestselling Author by 2015. Three years later, I’m still working on my first book and planning on winning a Pulitzer for all this effort.
I console myself (and my incredibly supportive husband) by pointing out that I’ve been hard at work creating political climates, actual climates, trade routes, maps and weaving historical themes into the plot.
Why am I spending so much time on those things instead of writing the actual story?
I want to publish my book as a high fantasy work. That means the world building needs to stand up to the critical eye of high fantasy readers, who are notoriously nitpicky. I was just enjoying a discussion yesterday about how absurd it is to use English when writing a story set in another world. I love, love, love fantasy fans.
I do, however, wish someone would have helped me better understand the high fantasy genre expectations right from the start. Even though I had read thousands of hours of fantasy books, I didn’t appreciate the subtle details that set a fantasy apart from, say, a romantic comedy. I knew the obvious difference, add fantastical elements.
But what POV is most common and why? How is the pace different? What archetypes should I include?
More importantly, why do these things matter?
So many writers out there are mixing genres and even creating new ones. Sadly, Steampunk Fantasy was not a genre when I was growing up. Actually, most people still grouped sci-fi and fantasy into one genre. With all these changes, do we really have to stay within conventional genre structures?
Here’s my opinion, mostly created during hours of reading internet chat rooms on writing and then analyzing what I was reading:
Writing for your genre matters.
Most of us know it’s almost impossible to get published when you don’t have a genre, or if you try to mix too many genres. A good dystopian romance is popular right now, but if you have a paranormal sci-fi murder mystery with a dose of steampunk and a Christian message to boot, you’re probably stretching too far. Agents and publishers don’t know how to market that. Where do you put it?
Some writers may say, in this day and age of self-publishing, it doesn’t matter because, darn it, they’re being creative and nothing is going to stop them.
But before you take on that mindset, consider your readers. How many sci-fi fans are excited to have their flight through the future interrupted by a detective looking for clues? And on the flip side, avid mystery readers may quickly tire of space battles interrupting their clue-finding quest.
So, the first thing you should ask yourself is,
What does a reader want?
Romance readers enjoy the protagonist’s struggle to find happily ever after. This fits well in a dystopian setting where the characters are fighting against a broken society to find peace. A modern murder mystery may not spend much time describing the characters’ wardrobe, but most Regency readers love to know what the heroine is wearing to the ball.
Why is your reader picking up a genre?
If they enjoy the emotional satisfaction of a happily ever after romance, the intellectual puzzle of a detective story or the heart-pounding fear of a horror story, you need to deliver.
What is the rhythm of the genre?
Beyond the reason a person picks up a book, each genre also has a rise and fall that readers anticipate, a rhythm if you will.
In an Epic Fantasy the rise takes a long time, as much as the first third of the book, since the author is creating a world that should hold the readers’ attention for many thousands of pages to come. Thriller novels should jump right into a fast-paced, adrenaline pumping storyline.
Why type of antagonist should you use?
Another big difference between genres is the identity of the antagonist. In a romance, your antagonist is the love interest. On the flip side, the antagonist in a fantasy book is a pretty evil character, falling well within the archetype of a villain. Often, in a dystopian story, the antagonist isn’t one person, but a system. In a detective novel, the antagonist is normally not revealed until the resolution.
Each of these antagonists creates a dynamic for the story that is crucial and universally recognizable.
What are the stakes?
You should also know what the stakes are in your genre. The key difference between a mystery and a thriller lies in the stakes. A mystery novel usually is about getting justice. A thriller has much higher stakes, a catastrophic event will occur if the hero fails, like a terrorist strike or presidential assassination. Think Jack Bauer as opposed to the Hardy Boys.
How much character depth?
Character depth is something else that varies between genres. If your genre is a fast paced thriller, people don’t want to stop and get to know your protagonist, just the basic details are fine. In a romance, character depth defines why these two people should be in love.
In the end…
This is just a surface analysis of why I think understanding genre is so essential to writing a solid story. There will always be authors who can combine genres masterfully, but I believe they do so with a full awareness of each genre they choose.
If you’re like me and hoping for a long line of five-star reviews, make sure you appreciate the genre you’ve picked and why it matters to your reader.
Rebecca: Wonderful thoughts! I think many rookie authors (including myself) go into writing with the notion of: I WANT EVERYONE IN THE WHOLE WORLD TO READ MY BOOK! So if I throw in some romance, a murder, a talking dog, maybe a rocket, and a beautiful regency gown, I’ll hit all the target audiences.
However, the longer I write and the longer I struggle to market my own books, I realize how important genre is. In fact, authors who have a specific genre, like crazy specific, like ‘Space Opera’ (a real genre), have a better chance of being discovered in the vast black hole we call Amazon. So hone in that genre. Become an expert in your genre like Tricia is doing with her high fantasy. Not only will it give your story a firm direction now, but it will aid later on when people say, “So what’s your book about?”
Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us today, Tricia!
What about you? How does genre affect what you read/write? Do you cross genres? Does it bother you when authors do? Comment here.
Tricia spends most of her time being a wife and mom. She has 4 beautiful girls and loves every minute of it. In her free time she pursues her love of books through reading and writing. Tricia started writing poetry when she was 14 and started her first book at 16. Right now she’s polishing her first fantasy book. Living in the mountains of New Hampshire helps to spur her creative process and leads to many snowy and forest-filled scenes in her writing.
Previous March Book Madness Posts:
Make sure to check back on Tuesday, March 24, for our next guest presenter, Whitney Award finalist A.L. Sowards, who will be discussing editing strategies.
MARCH BOOK MADNESS:
Welcome to the fourth year of March BOOK Madness. Every Tuesday and Thursday in March, I’ve invited fellow authors to share their thoughts on the writing world, giving them an open mic to talk about anything book-ish. If you’ve missed any posts, make sure to catch up.
2015 MARCH BOOK MADNESS SCHEDULE
- Tue, Mar 3: Intro and 3 Tips to Balance Writing Time, by Rebecca Belliston
- Thu, Mar 5: Top 5 Reasons To Get (or Not Get) Your MFA, by Sarah Belliston
- Tue, Mar 10: Unique Tips for Successful Blog Tours by Danyelle Ferguson
- Thu, Mar 12: Writing–A Hobby or a Career? by Charity Bradford
- Tue, Mar 17: The Importance of Book Reviews by Charissa Stastny
- Thu, Mar 19: 6 Reasons Why Genre Matters by Tricia Pease
- Tue, Mar 24: 7 Editing Strategies by A. L. Sowards
- Thu, Mar 26: Writer’s Block? Using Mind Mapping by Chris Rosche
- Tue, Mar 31: So You Want to Write Funny? by JoLynne Lyon
2014 MARCH BOOK MADNESS:
- Our Connection to Book Covers and the Characters Within, by Danyelle Ferguson
- Four Essential Elements of Good Writing, by Gerald N. Lund
- Welcome to Niche-land! by JoLynne Lyon
- Developing Plot and Characters Together, by Tricia Pease
- ”Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson,” by Sarah Belliston
- Using Repetition To Improve Your Book by A.L. Sowards
- Getting the Most Out of Your Critique Group, by Charity Bradford
- The Moral of the Tale, by Christopher Rosche
- Querying: The Method to the Madness, by Chantele Sedgwick
- Creating Context Clues, by Charissa Stastny
- 6 Places to Find Novel Ideas, by Janice Hardy
- Avoiding Didacticism in Our Writing, by Braden Bell
2013 MARCH BOOK MADNESS:
- Weeding Your Words, by Charissa Stastny
- Know Your Audience–Even the Subtle One, by Cindy Piper
- Beating a Dead Horse, by Julie L Casey
- Why Everyone Should Be a Writer, by Sharon Belknap
- Reading in the Digital Age, by JoLynne Lyon
- The Art of Accepting Criticism, by Mary Bateman-Mercado
- Pinterested in Books, by Sarah Belliston
- The Power of Storytelling, by Christopher Rosche
- Never Pity the Adverb, by Anthony Mercado
- Creating Flawed but Likable Characters, by A.L. Sowards
- Priorities and Choices for Writers, by Braden Bell
- Premise vs Plot – Which Do You Have? by Janice Hardy
2012 MARCH BOOK MADNESS:
- Tips on Querying, by Lynn Wiese Sneyd
- Plotting vs. Plodding, by Tobi Summers
- 10 Marketing Tips, by JoLynne Lyon
- 8 Editing Tips by Cassie Mae
- Editing, by Jessica Khoury
- Reading for Writers, by Tricia Pease
- For the Love of Reading, by Sharon Belknap