About the time characters begin rifling through your brain, there is usually some sort of story that is following them. While it maybe something as simple as Character X is a low born who is going to go on an adventure, defeat a monster, fall in love, and become King/Queen, you should have some idea what is going to befall that character. If you don’t, it’s definitely something you might want to start thinking about. Either way, this advice and information will be good for you.
There are several different types of genre’s that saturate today’s market. There are pros and cons to this saturation. Genre novels have a higher rate of getting published versus contemporary fiction. Also, genre publication expects series where contemporary fiction expects single stories that can stand on their own. So why does it matter so much to understand these genres before starting to write? While there are several reasons that we will explore, the most important advice I can give is to choose a genre and stick with it!
First lets go over a quick over view of a few popular genres:
First you have high fantasy.
This fantasy is what I call high quality fantasy. It is also known as epic fantasy. These would be your stories where fantastical worlds have been created and include original or “re-imagined” races, creatures, etc. In my opinion the father of this genre is J. R. R. Tolkien, so keep his great works in mind as a model when you think about this genre. Some popular authors would be: Robert Jordan, Peter Rothfuss, Terry Goodkind, Robert Jordan etc. They are your kings and queens, sorcerers and sorcery though they mainly focus on that deep fantasy vs just your run of the mill D&D campaign turned into a story.
Then there is Science Fantasy.
Ok everyone. If you’ve ever saw a spaceship on or in a description of a book and say ugh I hate science fiction, put your hands up. I’ve done this so many times. But science fiction and science fantasy are really two different genres. Unfortunately, everyone mashes them up. Science Fantasy are your fantastical stories that are filled with science but are not accurate, nor are they things that could actually happen. They are fantasy stories that want to seem scientific. For example: Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is science fantasy.
So what is Science Fiction then?
Science Fiction are stories that are told many times in the future. These stories are plausible and based on actual scientific facts. If you look at a lot of these stories, specifically older stories, you will find that a lot of what they wrote about, in aspects and regards to technology, have come true. Some true Science Fiction would be Philip K Dick and Arthur C Clark.
You also have Urban Fantasy.
Urban fantasy is basically taking fantastical things such as witches, being able to cast fire balls, demons, etc and putting them in an urban setting. A modern time, with a similar world, and seems parallel to ours. While the supernatural series can either follow under supernatural horror, romance, or fantasy, I think it is best defined as Urban Fantasy. Kim Harrison and Kelly Armstrong fit into this series.
So why do I have to choose a genre? Many of the genres listed here are actually offshoots where people didn’t really choose a genre. It does look like all these genres took a little from each and from there a new genre was born, doesn’t it?
Well here are some of the faults trying to do this one. There is a lot of work and research that needs to be done to properly pull it off. Science fantasy is looked down upon by a lot of science fiction fans because it looks (and are) piggy backing on fantasy and science fiction and falling short. Also a lot of supernatural stories are confusing to figure out. Should it be in the fantasy, horror, or the romance section?
Also many our favorite writers who are in these subgenres, decided from day one what genre they wanted to be in and made tweaks when they started the outline. Changing midway through a book from fantasy to suddenly adding science can be confusing. As stated in a previous review, I picked up a book that I definitely knew was fantasy, but the first fifty or so pages were contemporary fiction so when the element of fantasy began to seep in, it felt weird and uncomfortable.
For my novice and first time writers, I suggest choosing a genre that really calls to you from the four I listed and STICK with it. This will help you avoid falling into a rut where your story suddenly feels awkward because you delved into another genre mid way through the book. Take a few minutes and think about your story and the little wisps of ideas and plot that have begun to build from the hell of your imagination. They will plague your for the rest of your lives. Now think hard about which genre you think your story will thrive in. Once you find it, it’s time to research, research, research! Now you must find a way to make YOUR STORY, YOUR PROTAGONIST, and YOUR WORLD stand out against all the other books in that genre. The next several articles will explore fantasy-building exercises to make your story stand out from the rest.