I’m reading The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne and blogging about parts of it as I go along. This is my third post.
“Genre” is a term used in art or literature to define a category of work. If used well “Genre” becomes a powerful tool for the writer and publisher to communicate to the world what your story is about. There are many different theories and classifications of genre, which can be confusing, but there is no question that it plays an important role in the selling of your story.
“A Genre is a label that tells the reader/audience what to expect. Genres simply manage audience expectations.” (Shawn Coyne, The Story Grid, p. 51)
It is, he argues, the most important decision the writer has to make because the chosen Genre will influence how the story unfolds, what the cover will look like and how it should be publicized.
Why is Genre Important?
Simply put:”Genre” labels your story.
“In order to write a professional novel, you must know the conventions and obligatory scenes of your chosen Genre.” (Ibid., p. 51)
This subject is the main reason I bought the book, The Story Grid. I write Romantic Suspense, which is a cross-genre, and have struggled with using appropriate conventions, trying to please three audiences: those who like romance, those who like suspense, and those who like Romantic Suspense. This is what Coyne says:
“If you don’t study the conventions and obligatory scenes of your chosen content Genre and don’t know how writers before you satisfied them, how can you be sure that you’ve written anything remotely original? Just as to be a bodybuilder, you must be a weightlifter first, to be a writer, you need to be a reader first. “(Ibid., p. 86)
But, he goes on to explain that Genres are fluid. “They morph and combine and adapt to the tenor of the times.” (Ibid., p. 87)
Two Main Categories of Genres
Coyne breaks the Genre concept into two categories: External Content Genres and Internal Content Genres. The external content Genres are: Action, Horror, Crime, Western, Thriller, War, Society Game, Love and Performance. The Internal Content Genres are: Worldview, Morality and Status. It’s important to understand the distinctions between the external internal content genres.
“…today’s Storytellers, especially long form television writers and series novelists, must have both components of Genre content to make their work compelling and sustainable over six or seven years, of series television or ten to fifteen series novels.” (Ibid., p. 99)
He goes into depth about each of these Genres and sub-genres. For example for the Action Genre he states, “The core value… is life/death. The core emotion is excitement and the most important event in the book is “the hero at the mercy of the villain” scene. .. The key element to remember… is that the villain is the driving force. He/she/it is the source of all conflict and antagonism in the Story…” (Ibid., p. 88) He goes on to break the Action Content Genre down into 4 sub-genres: Action adventure, action epic, action duel and action clock.
I’ve read to page 169 so far (out of 334 pages). The further along I read the more complex his system becomes. I make no pretense of understanding all of his ideas at this point. I’m working on getting an overview of his system. Later I will study parts of it more closely. “Genre” will be one of those parts.
My next post will be about conflict.
Other Posts on The Story Grid
The Owl came from Pixabay