Many successful (and unsuccessful) authors have to make a choice about what camp they’re going to sit in. Usually, though, that choice is made for them. When an author writes a fantasy book, and it becomes successful, he’ll forever be known as a fantasy author. It would behoove him to keep writing fantasy if he wants more success. These genre authors are usually scoffed at by elitists and pretentious writers. Which, I shouldn’t have to say, is pointless and cruel.
However, when I first began writing, I never intended to be pigeon-holed, come hell or high water. There are writers who love a genre so much they never want to leave. Others, like myself, would rather just be a writer and leave it at that. But most writers start out not wanting to write one genre but are forced into like I mentioned previously.
The old chestnut of every creative writing teacher is “Show, don’t tell”, but they rarely give you much else. If you always show, won’t all your stories be insanely long? Yes, they will. Showing every last detail of information is just bad writing and bad advice. Showing can become overwhelming, overbearing, and will bog down the narrative of your story. Once upon a time, I was in love with this style of writing typically found in Romanticism like Novalis. It doesn’t work to modern sensibilities, unfortunately. If we’re really going to get the most out of this maxim, then we need to get to the heart of it.
In my childhood, horror movies were strictly off-limits. Usually, if I wanted to see one, I’d have to go to a friends house and even then it was unlikely. Once in a while my brother might rent one and let me watch it with him. Also rare. Overall, I never watched many horror movies growing up. However, you don’t need a horror movie to freak you out as a kid. My vast and untamed childhood imagination did all the work for me with a little push from any unsuspecting movie. Let’s look at some of the movies that freaked me out as a child.
One of the greatest mistakes a fiction writer can make is not understanding the genre they are writing in. Most writers have a general idea of genre. Some are hands down obsessed with the nooks and crannies of it. However, only a handful of writers really get the tropes, conventions, and expectations built within any genre.
Genre is expectation. It’s the audience’s expectations of the writer. From front to back, the audience wants to know exactly what they’re getting into. That’s genre.
Since the last thing you want to do is ruin their audiences experience, let’s dig into how you can avoid it. Here are some ways to help you understand your genre.