The Power of Genre – The Story Grid #Review, Post 3

I’m reading The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne and blogging about parts of it as I go along. This is my third post.

story gridWhat is Genre?

“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.

My Thoughts

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

Narrative Velocity – Starting The Story Grid

Form Over Formula in Story Writing – The Story Grid Review, Post 2

Photo Credit

The Owl came from Pixabay

Author: Jo-Ann Carson

About Jo-Ann Carson Where magic happens … Reports of Jo-Ann Carson’s death on a Gulf Island are greatly exaggerated or, at the very least, premature. The eclectic crew of ghosts that haunt her head spill onto the page in two series: The Gambling Ghosts and The Ghost & Abby Mysteries. A Viking with existential issues, a broken hearted Highlander, a Casanova man-witch and a Pirate with a secret are just a few of the males her strong heroines encounter in tales of fantasy, adventure and romance. A firm believer in the magic of our everyday lives, Jo-Ann loves watching sunrises, walking beaches near her home in the Pacific Northwest and reading by the fire. You can visit her on social media: Website * Blog * Twitter * Facebook

5 thoughts on “The Power of Genre – The Story Grid #Review, Post 3”

  1. Thx for posting. I am considering buying his book specifically for more info on the conventions and obligatory scenes in various fiction genres. I understand he goes into detail on about three genres. I would love to find a resource that lists them for many more than just three genres. Any ideas?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Lissa,
      He says he intends to detail more genre conventons and obligatory scenes over time. In this book he talks a lot about thrillers as he believes they are the stories that best fit our times. I am reading it slowly and haven’t finished it yet, so I can’t comment in there only being three genres he focuses on. There is a lot in it for writers of any genre. I will be writing more about it.
      I would love to know if you find a book that goes into more genre conventions and obligatory scenes. That would truly be gold. Thanks for stopping by.


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