Saturday, November 05, 2005

Genre Fiction

Some examples of genres are
  • mystery
  • suspense (thrillers)
  • horror
  • science fiction
  • romance
  • fantasy
  • western
You can see from this list that milieu stories, idea stories, and events stories fall into the category of genre fiction. Since they aren't about a character, they aren't character driven.

These novels are conventional. Readers have many specific expectations of them. So many that, to fulfill the implied author-reader contract, some genres (e.g., romance) go beyond convention and are concocted according to a formula. Hence they are called "formula fiction."

A formula is system that forms a framework in which to build the plot and characters. In some genres (such as romance) the formula is a highly evolved, detailed and rigid system. Some publishers even offer tip sheets, spelling out the requirements — right down to the hero's age and eye color. These formulas are formulas for commercial success. They work so well that writing genre fiction is practically piecework for any decent writer with an imagination who knows how and why the formula works. Publishers seem to feel there is magic in the formula and don't entertain submissions that depart from it.

Not all genre fiction is so formulaic, however. In some genres the quality of the writing usually leaves much to be desired, but in other genres it is usually very good.

Because many look down on what they like to regard as "trash" fiction, you might find it hard to break into mainstream fiction if you start your career writing genre fiction. Notable successes, however, are Dean Koontz, Tom Clancy, and Danielle Steel — genre authors who broke into the mainstream and have their books marketed as mainstream fiction.

Sagas and historical novels are sometimes considered genre novels and sometimes considered mainstream novels. Writing them is a good way to break into the mainstream market.

Some examples of historical subgenres are
  • historical romance (formular)
  • hot historical / bodice ripper (80,000 to 100,000 words)
  • blockbuster (250,000 words)
  • big adventure
  • family saga
  • straight historical (75,000 to 80,000 words with 5,000 to 10,000 more okay)
  • nostalgia

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