Deciding on a Genre
If you are planning to write a novel at somepoint you will have to decide what genre you are going to write in; for example, science fiction, fantasy, romance, military, historical, humour, etc. Use this opportunity to look at how many of them can be mixed. For instance, Red Dwarfis a comical sci-fi. The selection of books on the shelves or on the Internet is amazing, from the comic to the serious, from the historic to the contemporary and from the realistic to the fantastical. Some are heart-warming, others disturbing, some enchanting, others gritty with a twist. Genres include:
children/young adult erotica
family sagas fantasy
romance science fiction
spy stories thrillers
war stories westerns
chick lit (modern romantic comedy)
It is likely that your writing will be stronger if you choose to write a novel in the genre you read most widely, or if you have a personal experience or interest in a subject. If you enjoy thrillers with a twist or a historical romance, you will be more familiar with your topic and so will have agood idea what works. If you enjoy spiritual, chilling horrors or ghost stories then you will be able to draw from material you have read and instinctively know what is guaranteed to scare readers out of their wits. Furthermore, selecting from a known genre will attract publishers, as they are more likely to be able to visualise how the book will be marketed.
Whilst it is advisable to obey the conventions within these genres, you should aim to provide something new, unusual and exciting, that makes your reader want to turn the pages. There are many different types of novel, each with a variety of genres, settings and styles, all aimed at different audiences. For example, a romance novel that is written for the Mills and Boon audience is very different to that of a modern chick lit, but essentially they both tend to be romance novels.
Novels can be broken down into two types:
- Action, plot-based stories. An example of this would be The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. A mystery-detective novel, it follows two people as they investigate a murder in Paris’ Louvre Museum and discover a conflict over the prospect of Jesus having been married to Mary Magdalene. The murder victim is found, naked, with a cryptic message written beside his body and a pentacle drawn on his chest in his own blood.
Despite being a worldwide bestseller that sold millions of copies, having been translated into forty-four languages, the book has been extensively denounced as an attack on the Roman Catholic Church. It has also been criticised for its historical and scientific inaccuracies. Nevertheless, it was still a bestseller and a great read.
The emphasis here is on pace and twists and turns, which thrillers can offer. Often, scenes will change quickly as the reader is taken from one drama to another, without the confines of social chit-chat.
- Reflective, character-based stories. An example would be The Pickwick Papers – the first novel by Charles Dickens. Set in the late 1820s, this novel follows Samuel Pickwick and his fellow travellers as they tour southern England by coach. Mr Pickwick is an observer of people and this was originally a serial. Another example would be Jennifer Donnelly’s trilogy, with its endearing characters in The Tea Roseseries. The author Barbara Taylor Bradford wrote: ‘There’s a hint of mystery, lots of interesting characters and locales such as India, Africa and California, with turn-of-the-century London at the centre of an engaging book. Recommended’.
In this second category, personalities are interacting with one another, focusing on relationships and how they are formed, nurtured and developed. Here, the pace is slower, so there is time to absorb one’s surroundings and thoughts through the use of both narrative and lengthy dialogue, with plenty of descriptive passages.
Whatever genre you choose to write a novel in, write with passion and conviction. Enjoy your writing and if you would like to read more on how to craft your novel, read My Guide: How to Write a Novel.☺
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