Why Your Reader Should Decide the Genre of Your Story

Why Let Readers Decide  Which Subgenre You Will Write In?


Writing fiction stories generally means you will need to stick to one main genre. Not just so you do not confuse your readers, but also to make it easier for you to craft at least one complete and coherent story.

G’day. I’m Jack Harmer

However, just sticking to a particular fiction genre is not enough to make an interesting story. Every author that has at least one published book will tell you that. The need to write within a specific subgenre stems from the need to make it more identifiable.

Readers, bless them, are creatures of habit. Some like romance while others prefer mysteries, or westerns. Perhaps thrillers? If you want to meet up with readers that are likely to read what you have written then you had better write the type of story they want to read. When you write the stories that your readers want to read, then your chances of selling a copy of your book to them goes through the roof. Perhaps!

It would be great if that was all there was to it. But it isn’t. Drat it.

Readers are people are like you and me. With likes and dislikes. Like you and me they can and do love and hate different things.

Something you had better never forget!

Because you want your readers to like what you write at least a little bit, its better if you at least start on the same page. If you want your readers to like your story the first thing that you must do is write your story in a manner and style that will appeal to a lot of readers. This is where you start with yourself. Put off your author hat for a moment and doff your reader one.

When you read a story, any story that you like, what do you look for? You’ve probably got a mental list of things you expect to see, read, and find? Of course you do. It has to include this. It must focus on that. The characters must be just so. If anything is missing the book goes back on the shelf. Not purchased by you. Not read. So it makes sense that the books you write in that genre should include all the things that make a book good enough for you to read.

Extending from that is the thought that you should write books in the same genres that you read yourself. When you accept that somewhat obvious conclusion, then some weight is removed from your shoulders. You will have decided to write the kinds of books that you like to read yourself.

Why is this so important? Because when you write a story in a genre that you know, like, and understand, all the tedious work of planning, plotting, and writing becomes so much easier.

To make your story even more enticing and exciting to read, you should write in a subgenre that you are personally interested in. Your passion for your story will shine through in your writing.  Something your readers will notice and identify with.

Always Write Under One Genre At a Time

Writing within a specific literary genre helps guide the author as to what kind of story he/she will be telling.

Although this may seem a bit obvious, writing within a specific literary genre helps guide the author as to what kind of story he/she will be telling. In addition, sticking to a genre will help fulfill the expectations of the reader. As we’ve already discussed. Not everyone likes surprises, especially when it comes to choosing a book to read. Readers usually pick out their reading material according to their own interests. And to an often marked degree, they expect their interests to be satisfied.

Genres as a class always encompass a broad range of subjects that share a common element. But not all romances are the same. Nor are all mysteries. Within each genre there are sub-genres and even sub-sub-genres designed and intended to break them down further into more accessible and easier to understand themes. And then there are lots of different themes that authors need to know about and contend with. But that’s for another blog post.

Subgenres Do Matter. Here’s Why

There are many reasons why an author needs to write within a sub-genre. Here are just a few.

Why are sub-genres important? There are many reasons why an author needs to write within a sub-genre. They include, but are not limited to:

They help you connect with your target audience.

Sticking to a genre will make your story cohesive and easy-to-understand Having a sub-genre will make it easier for your readers to identify your work.

Sticking to a genre will make your story cohesive and easy-to-understand; having a sub-genre will make it easier for your audience to identify your work. Your reader audience needs to know up front whether your book is even close to what they are expecting to read.

For instance, if you will be writing a horror story, it is not enough to leave it at that. Your potential reader would like to know what kind of horror story it would be. Is it about a villain that is a seemingly indestructible murderer? Or is the villain a supernatural being from outer space? Or could it be a harmless clown? It might be that the reader doesn’t discover that until the final chapter?

Put yourself in the shoes of your target readers. When you go online and open your favorite video streaming application, do you look for a list f titles? Or for a catalogue that allows you to go straight to the movies you like watching? would you rather browse the movies in alphabetical order, or via their genres and sub-genres? Of course, you will choose to browse according to genres.

Not only is it easier, it also provides you with information on what kind of story they are getting. Knowing the genre of a book will show the reader quite a bit of what he can expect from it.

It makes world building easier.

Having a sub-genre or sub-sub-genre also makes it easier to decide how the world in the story works.

Different subgenres inhabit different worlds. Anne of Green Gables inhabits a world that is free and clean.The H unger Games inhabits a world full of cruelty and danger. Harry Potter’s world is doused in magick.

Having a sub-genre or sub-sub-genre also makes it easier to decide how the world in the story works. It is not enough to place all your efforts on just making your characters more interesting.

They have to live somewhere. Interact with others who are not absolutely essential to your story yet must exist so you can add realism to your story’s setting, characters, and plot.

You also need sub-genres to give shape to the world where your characters live. The old expression that no man is an island holds true in every story.

World building will be much easier if you know what kind of story you will be telling.

Just saying that your story’s genre is horror is not enough to give your readers an idea of the setting. Your setting will be influenced by the type of horror story you intend to write.  When you first come up with the idea for your story you will probably have no clear idea what your story will eventually be about.

Suppose your idea is that Jennifer has disappeared. That’s your idea. Now what?

Has Jennifer really disappeared or has she been kidnapped even murdered? How old is she? Is she a child? A young woman? An old lady?Has she run away with her lover? Or to join a circus? A convent maybe?

Each of these options may lead you to write your story in one of many different genres and sub-genres. Using one of may themes.

Coming up with ideas for stories is the easy bit.  Which is, by the way, why I ignore people who tell me that they have an idea for a book and ask me to write it for them.

If you are just starting to write the story, you might not even have a remote idea who your characters are, let alone where to place them.

Now, if your sub-genre was slasher-horror, then you can place your character in a quiet, suburban neighborhood, or even a small, rural town Anywhere that is quiet and secluded would be perfect.

On the other hand, if your sub-genre is post-apocalyptic, then setting the scenes how you would imagine a dystopian world could be will be vastly different. Your characters might be living in a ghost town, or wandering aimlessly through a wasteland. They might be riding hoses or driving a team of mules. As an aside here, just why people think that there would be any horses and mules left alive once a massive tidal wave covers half the earth is beyond my comprehension. Yet it’s common enough in disaster movies.

If you did your world building well, you will be able to totally and realistically immerse your reader into your story.

It gives your story a structure.

Without a sub-genre, your story would be going in vastly different directions all at once.

Without a sub-genre, your story would be going in vastly different directions all at once. Knowing what your story’s subgenre is will allow you to tell a more coherent story because there is a formula to guide you in your writing.

Now, you might think that having a formula will result in a generic story, which is true if you follow it to the letter. But having such constraints can be conducive for creativity.

The reason why some stories become cliché is because the writers did not take the time study the format. So did nothing to improve upon it. This results in a boring and easy to predict story. A good writer though, will take the formula of a certain subgenre, and then make subtle twists to make it better.

Take George R.R. Martin for example. The first book in the series A Song of Ice and Fire might seem like a traditional fantasy story. However, instead of the “good guy” finding a way to get out of trouble and conquering his enemies in the end, he got his head chopped off clean. Anthony and Maria in West Side Story also died in the last scene.

It makes it easier to identify conflicts

Conflict of some kind is essential for every story. Leave it out and you have only tedium

Having a subgenre will help a great deal in crafting the kind of conflict you would have in your story, and it will also help the readers figure it out on their own without too much exposition.

For instance, if you will be writing a thriller story with a serial killer subgenre, you can easily accept see that the protagonist could be a police officer, a coroner, or a government agent. The victims wil usually be unremarkable at first but will soon have identifiable similarities that will allow the protagonist to catch the mad serial killer. While the antagonist often remains unknown to the protagonist but not to the reader until the last act.

Now, if you change the subgenre to journalism, the protagonist can be a reporter who is investigating a series of heinous crimes, only to become a victim himself/herself. Since the reader can figure out the conflicts, it will be up to you to sway the narrative, and add your own twists and turns to make it more exciting. The question of plot twists and turns is something for another post.

There is no denying the importance of an author having a genre and then at least a subgenre when writing stories. Not only does it make the entire writing process easier and more enjoyable, it will also help the readers identify the story and set expectations.

Lest you are thinking that selection of your genre and subgenre is the end of it, that simply isn’t so. Authors can also include more than one subgenre in their story.

For instance your story might start out as a mystery. Then you add a small romance element. Making it into a mystery/romance. Then you decide to make the antagonist a witch. Which turns your story into a paranormal/mystery/romance. And so things roll on. A topic for yet another post.  

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