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Command of the Genre

Command of the Genre

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Whether your goal is to write young adult fiction books or end of the world books geared to a more adult audience, one of the most valuable talents you can have is a command of the genre. Even if you want to blend several genres or cross the boundaries with different pieces, fully understanding the conventions will make your work stronger and more compelling.

Genres are classifications of stories or art forms, such as film or books, that are marked by distinctive style or content, and defined by pre-existing conventions. These conventions may include: 1) setting and location, as with dystopian literature set in a post apocalyptic world, 2) narratives, 3) character, as with young adult books, and 4) themes and issues.

While there are not set rules exactly, strong knowledge of the genre you seek to write will allow you to benefit from the patterns set by other successful examples as well as how the fundamentals of dramatics play out in your work. The best thing to do when you’re starting out and as you continue to write is to determine what you want to write and then read a multitude of books in that genre. Don’t limit yourself to just one or two authors, even if they are the most successful or bestselling; read many of that genre. For example, if you want to write end of the world books, you should read the gamut of authors in that arena, from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and George R. Stewart’s Earth Abides to Richard Matheson’s I am Legend, Stephen King’s The Stand, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and everything in between.

Reading many books of one genre allows you to absorb the dynamics that work best for the audience. This also helps you to understand what type of characters the audience relate best to and will invest in—this will, in turn, help you to create the most interesting and identifiable characters for your own novel.

Fans of any particular genre, from dystopian literature and horror to science fiction and fantasy books, have certain expectations. Being a part of the audience for a period of time lets you know and understand what those are so that you can deliver and even exceed your reader’s expectations—in other words, you’ll have command of your genre. So focus in on the genre you want to write and start reading as much as possible.

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