One question pops up in discussions about marketing, book proposals, and social media: know your audience.
- Who are we writing for?
- Who do we want to read our work?
- Hiding behind these questions is this: are we providing what our potential readers want?
Genres are a fundamental part of the answer, whether the manuscript is flash or book-length, or somewhere in between. And, knowing your manuscripts’ genre is essential to selling your work. Readers, publishers, and agents want to know the genre of the work before they start reading it. Some people roll their eyes at the idea of genre writing—but all writing falls into one genre or another, a mash-up of two, maybe more, genres.
Each genre has its own set of reader expectations, from point-of-view, style, and tone to themes, plots, and characterizations. A lover of cozy mysteries will probably be surprised picking a John Stanford police procedure if thinking it will be cozy. Likewise, a reader of literary fiction will be disappointed when picking up an Andy Wier novel should she not know he writes Sci-Fi.
Readers of a specific genre feel connected to each other and often may form communities based on the genre, reinforcing their expectations of the genre. Cosplay and Comic-Con International are examples of community building though there are plenty of online communities also
When you identify the genre of a piece depends on the kind of writer you are.
- A plotter—someone who writes character sketches and outlines plots before starting to write—benefits from knowing the key elements of a genre in setting plot points.
- A Pantser—someone who lets the story write itself—figures out the genre after the story is written.
In either case, the story itself will often dictate the genre, regardless of what the writer thinks.
There are four major genres in literature:
- fiction, and
- drama (scripts).
Some people add a fifth: fairy tales and fables, others consider them sub-genres of fiction.
To learn more about genres, check out these resources:
Writers Write: What is a Literary Trope: https://www.writerswrite.co.za/what-is-a-literary-trope-why-should-i-use-one/
Discusses the advantages of using tropes in genre fiction, and defines the major ones.
Book: The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction: Third Edition (American Library Assoc. Readers’ Advisory Series) by Neak Wyatt, Joyce G. Saricks, ALA Editions; 3rd edition (December 12, 2018) ISBN-10 : 083891781X
Available at your local library