Identifying Genre – Why It Matters

Crafting a compelling story within a specific genre is akin to deciphering a secret code. Every genre has its unique DNA—a set of markers that define its essence. To truly master your chosen genre, you need to become a genre detective, adept at uncovering and employing these markers to create stories that resonate deeply with your target audience. Identifying genre matters!

Whether you are in the early stages of planning your novel, armed with a promising concept and a basic plot outline, or you’ve already completed a rough draft, reasonably confident that your story fits within a specific genre, you’ll want to examine your genre DNA to ensure you’re on target.

Does it really matter, though? In a word: yes. Because readers have expectations, and while you might not want to view your book as a product designed for a specific type of customer, that’s exactly what it is.

The closer your narrative aligns with these reader expectations, the more satisfied your readers will be. Integrity in your portrayal of your book’s genre is of paramount importance. Failing to deliver on these implicit promises can leave readers feeling deceived and disheartened. And when readers feel disillusioned, the likelihood of them eagerly investing in your next literary endeavor diminishes significantly.

Your book’s description serves as a promise to your readers, a pledge that your narrative will fulfill their expectations when they read your book. It’s not just about plot. It’s about tone, style, setting, character type, and voice … and the list goes on.

Chances are you already read extensively in the genre you’re writing in, and that can greatly help—whether consciously or not, you’re already aware of most of the genre markers.

But if you are attempting to write in a genre you’re not familiar with, you’ll need to do your homework.

So, what are these crucial genre markers, and how can you employ them to craft stories that will please your target audience?

Step 1: Extensive Genre Research

Start by reading widely within your chosen genre. Don’t merely read passively; instead, read with a detective’s eye. Pay close attention to how successful authors employ genre markers in their narratives. Take diligent notes, dissect their techniques, and see similarities in how they construct their stories.

Step 2: Deconstruction and Analysis

Dive deeper by deconstructing the works of best-selling authors in your genre. Look beyond surface-level enjoyment and seek to understand the underlying mechanics. Analyze their writing style and voice, character development, plot structure, and the way they employ genre-specific elements.

Step 3: Marker Identification

Identify the core markers that define your chosen genre. These markers are the unique building blocks that give the genre its identity. Consider elements such as characteUsing Archetypes to Create Powerful Characters in Your Fictionr archetypes, plot fundamentals, thematic concerns, and stylistic elements. By recognizing these markers, you gain insights into what makes a story distinctly belong to that genre. [Note: you can certainly do genre mashups, but you will still need to know and utilize the markers from each genre you use.]

Step 4: Comparative Analysis

Now that you’ve identified the markers, compare them across various works within the genre. Note similarities and differences in how different authors use these markers. This comparative analysis will help you develop a nuanced understanding of these markers can be employed in diverse ways.

Step 5: Crafting Your Genre Scene

Before diving into your own work in progress, craft a scene that embodies the genre markers you’ve identified. This exercise helps you practice incorporating these markers into your writing. It’s your chance to experiment with tone, character dynamics, and plot elements that are quintessential to your chosen genre.

If you’ve already written your first scene, take your list of genre markers and check to see if you’ve incorporated them. Does the tone and mood fit your genre? Are you starting the story in the kind of setting and situation as the books you’ve analyzed? If you’re missing something, rewrite to include it so you can align to your genre more pointedly.

By diligently following these steps, you’ll immerse yourself in the world of your chosen genre. You’ll develop an intuitive grasp of its markers, allowing you to wield them effectively in your storytelling.

Example: Elements of Southern Gothic

Let’s take the Southern Gothic genre as an illustrative example. Southern Gothic is marked by the following markers:

  • Voodoo and Spirituality
  • An Air of Mystery and the Supernatural
  • Grotesque History and Racial Tension
  • Deeply Flawed Characters
  • Isolation and Marginalization
  • Violence and Crime
  • Sense of Place
  • Freakishness and the Grotesque
  • Destitution and Decay
  • Oppression and Discrimination

That’s a lot! Southern Gothic authors like Flannery O’Connor and Harper Lee expertly employed these markers to immerse readers in an eerie, complex world. If you are writing this genre, you’d want to read their works and compare them to your own. It’s not rocket science, but it does take work.

Markers and Writing Mechanics

Understanding genre markers is only part of the equation. To effectively employ these markers, you must also master the mechanics of writing within your chosen genre. Style, word choice, and sentence structure are all essential components of genre mastery.

While nailing your markers is crucial, they are merely the framework of your story. There is always room for innovation and reinterpretation. Your unique voice and perspective will shape how you employ these markers, breathing fresh life into your genre of choice and setting apart your unique style and voice.

Consider how your sentences are arranged on the page, the use of white space, and the rhythm of your prose—compare to those best sellers. These elements contribute to the overall tone and style of your narrative, which are crucial markers for your genre.

To sum up: genre markers are the key to writing a book that will meet reader expectations and will be more easily discoverable by search engines. Regardless of the genre, identifying and implementing these markers will allow you to craft narratives that resonate deeply with your readers.

So, keep exploring, keep experimenting, and let the markers guide you on your path to becoming a master storyteller in your genre. Ultimately, it’s your creative fusion of markers and your individuality that will set your work apart and leave a lasting impression on readers who crave the magic of your chosen genre. Identifying genre is your key to success!

Featured Photo by Sam 🐷 on Unsplash

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