Literary genres can be compared to the style of house you live in.
A person who lives in a ranch in a subdivision is going to be different to one who lives in a log cabin in the woods or on a boat in a harbor for that matter.
And, the type of novel you will write can vary drastically depending on the genre you choose.
You may know exactly what type of genre you want to write in. For some people it comes naturally.
Some writers write in nothing but a specific genre.
- Mickey Spillane wrote hard boiled crime novels.
- Louis L’Amour is best known for his Westerns.
- JRR Tolkien wrote nothing but Fantasy novels.
You would be hard pressed to think of these writers writing anything out of the genre.
But for other people it may be harder to choose a genre.
Each genre has its own rules, certain things it must include for the readers of those literary genres to keep reading.
Let’s take a look at some of the ingredients.
To Infinity And Beyond…
Science fiction is always one of the best selling genres. Think Star Trek, Star Wars, Star Gate. The possibilities with science finction are endless.
Let’s take a look at some of the building blocks that makes science fiction what it is.
- Has a setting in outer space, space ship or a foreign planet.
- Typically has a hero, heroine, villain and a goal that they are trying to attain or prevent from being attained.
- Usually has a fast paced and exciting plot.
- Usually deals with advanced technology
Now, this may seem obvious. But, keep reading and we will see how to use these ingredients to make more powerful fiction.
Dost Thou Have A Feather In Thine Cap Or Art Thou Just Glad To See Me?
Historical romances are always a favorite, usually with the ladies. The hallmarks of this genre are:
- Always has a strong sense of place, Ancient Rome, Napoleonic Europe etc.
- Usually has a dashing and attractive hero and heroine
- The plot may be fast paced and adventurous or more leisurely depending on the story.
Again, this may seem obvious. But, the thing to understand is that these are the things the reader is expecting to find. You really need to portray and elaborate on the details of what makes this genre what it is.
If you don’t, the reader won’t keep reading.
Is Yonder Spaceship Thine?
Steampunk is a type of speculative fiction where the writer imagines what might have happened in the past if they had modern technology. It is a blending of science fiction and historical fiction
- Just like historical fiction it will have a strong sense of time and place, The Old West, The Revolutionary War…
- While the focus of the story isn’t exclusively on technology, it is present, such as antique steam driven computers
High Noon At The OK Corral
The Western is always a fan favorite. It is focused exclusively in the setting of the American West. Traditionally it was set in the west of the 19th century but there are any number of modern day westerns. Typically the characters exhibit:
- Independent and strong willed characters
- Common themes included man vs. nature
- Traditional values and moral choices of right and wrong
- Themes of courage and cowardice
Yeah, So How Can I Actually Use Genre?
We’ve seen the basic ingredients of some standard genres.Now let’s see how you can blend literary genres to make your story more meaningful.
Perhaps you want to blend a Romance with a Western…but perhaps it is a gay romance like Brokeback Mountain.
So now you are portraying a type of romance that is out of the mainstream within a very mainstream and typically socially conservative literary genre.
This love story now has the opportunity to be much more explosive…much more powerful…than if it was told within a different genre.
When you mix the ingredients of different genres you are laying with the readers expectations.
Your book becomes more powerful and stands out from all the other tired old books on the market.
The literary genre you choose to write in will say a lot about your novel even before the reader reads the first sentence. So it’s something you want to give a lot of thought to.