EXPLORING GENRES

Nancy Mehl lives in Wichita, Kansas, with her husband Norman and her very active puggle, Watson. She’s authored fourteen books and is currently at work on a new series for Bethany House Publishing. The first book in her Road to Kingdom series, “Inescapable,” came out in July of 2012. The second book, “Unbreakable” released in February of 2013. The final book in the series, “Unforeseeable,” will be available in September of 2013.


All of Nancy’s novels have an added touch – something for your spirit as well as your soul. “I welcome the opportunity to share my faith through my writing,” Nancy says. “God is number one in my life. I wouldn’t be writing at all if I didn’t believe that this is what He’s called me to do. I hope everyone who reads my books will walk away with the most important message I can give them: God is good, and He loves you more than you can imagine. He has a good plan for your life, and there is nothing you can’t overcome with His help.”


Readers can learn more about Nancy through her Web site: www.nancymehl.com. She has a newsletter located at: www.nancymehl.blogspot.com. She is also very active on Facebook.

 

 

EXPLORING GENRES

Writers and readers alike seem confused by all the different genres available in fiction. Readers may like one kind of book and not another – but they’re not sure why. Writers may create stories that blur the genre lines. Most publishers want stories that follow specific genre guidelines. So, let’s talk about genres – what they are and how you can identify them.

Romance: A
romance usually emphasizes the heroine’s perspective, and the reader should be
drawn into the love story. Romances end with a happily ever after of some kind
although the key to an effective romance novel must be conflict. For example,
the heroine is separated from her love by an event or misunderstanding. Perhaps
they are separated by war. Let’s look at some examples of romantic books and
movies:

In Jane Austen’s novel, “Pride and Prejudice,” Elizabeth
Bennet and Mr. Darcy are separated by a series of misunderstandings. Conflict
comes from these misunderstandings until the end of the novel when the smoke
clears and they are finally able to confess their love for each other.

In one of the most romantic movies of all time, “An Affair
to Remember” with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, the lovers are separated by an
accident.

Let’s look at a more contemporary example. In the movie,
“Sleepless in Seattle,” the main characters are separated by miles – and by
their fear of taking a chance on love.

Romantic novels must follow all regular plotting
procedures – but the thing that binds the characters together isn’t an event,
although you can use an event to launch your story. In the end, the reason your
key characters don’t walk away is because of love.

A stand-alone romance novel is normally between 80,000
and 100,000 words. A category romance novel (like those published by Harlequin)
is generally shorter, and each “imprint” will have its own criteria.
Be sure you know what imprint you’re targeting before you start writing.

Subgenres of romance include: women’s fiction, Regency,
historical, fantasy/science fiction, contemporary, inspirational, time travel,
paranormal, and more.

Historical Fiction: Research
and attention to detail are of top importance in historical fiction. Characters
must behave in accordance with the times. Plots can be “big”
(featuring many strong characters and tackling big or complex issues). Some
historicals are part of a saga (a series of books that covers generations
within a family or many characters).

A stand-alone historical book may be 85,000 to 100,000
words. Publishing a book longer than 100,000 words is difficult (especially for
first-timers), but historical novels are sometimes longer.

Speculative Fiction: Speculative fiction is generally about world
building. (Creating alternative worlds.)
Avoid clichés in your
characterization, and let your major themes be strong yet subtle. Always
research publisher guidelines: One publishing house states caveats such as “no
time machines, please.” Sub-genres of speculation include fantasy, science
fiction, t
ime travel, alternate history,
paranormal, post-apocalyptic, vampire, horror, supernatural thriller, spiritual
warfare, End Time, and steampunk.

Speculative fiction novels can contain between 80,000 and
150,000 words (approximately). These stories can be a little longer than other
novels, and they are sometimes serialized.

Mystery: Mysteries pay special attention to
plot and pacing. The crime should be revealed quickly and the rest of the story
is spent solving it. Good mystery is also rich in characters that could have
“dunnit” and “red herrings” abound. A “red herring” is a clue that leads
readers in the wrong direction – but it must make sense! A good mystery author
never lets a clue dangle for no reason.

Researching forensics, criminal justice, and detective
procedures lend credibility to a good mystery. Note that clues must be used to
bring the plotline to a satisfying conclusion. The reader should have a chance
to “solve” the mystery as they read. Mystery readers are very particular
readers and don’t like novels that “hide” the truth from them. No fair using
visions, dreams, angels or “Ah ha!” moments that don’t make sense. These rules
apply to inspirational mystery as well. God can’t reveal the truth. The sleuth must solve the puzzle using the clues
presented.

Mysteries vary in length. Stand-alone mysteries (which
may have some overlap with thrillers) may be between 75,000 and 100,000 words.
Cozy mysteries, like those in a series, are often on the shorter side.

Subgenres of mystery include: crime, hardboiled, true
crime, cozy, amateur sleuth, supernatural, police procedural, and more.

Suspense/Thriller: Emphasis in
suspense/thrillers is on strong characters, action, and fast pacing. Thrillers
often show clear antagonists and protagonists. Thrillers can be graphic and
gritty or somewhat tamer. Focus is always on suspense. While a mystery
uses clues to bring the story to a conclusion, suspense/thriller novels use
action. Sometimes, the reader will even know “who the bad guy is” at the
beginning of the novel. (Think “Die Hard”.) 

Suspense/Thriller novels generally run between 85,000 to
100,000 words (loosely), but they can be a little longer as well.

Subgenres of suspense include: conspiracy, crime, action,
political, disaster, legal, romance, and more.

Romantic
Suspense
is a very popular genre. Romantic suspense combines
suspense with a romantic theme. Suspense should take first chair, however, with
romance playing second chair.

As with all other genres, something must happen to plunge
your main character through a doorway of no return. In a romance novel, this
event might be purely emotional. But in romantic suspense, the “inciting
incident” needs to be something beyond emotion, and it should throw the main
character and his or her love interest through the doorway together. The resolution to the situation must be resolved for both
of them. They are in it as a couple whether one of them is the suspect and the
other is the person who must solve the crime, whatever that might be. They
might be on good terms throughout your story, or there may be an incident that
breaks them apart. However, by the end, they must be together so the call for
romance is fulfilled.

Suspense, like thrillers, should be a roller-coaster ride
of events and emotions that lead to an exciting climax. The reader may know who
the bad guy is, or you can hide him until the end. Either way, it is up to the
couple to fight their way through the difficult situation you give them until
they reach a conclusion.

Horror: Fears
and phobias play into the reader’s emotions in this genre. There is often a
supernatural and paranormal element, but as always, steer clear of clichés. Horror
allows a writer to dip into ingredients of suspense, mystery, thrillers, and
speculative fiction. The most important thing to remember is that your job is
to scare the pants off your readers!

Horror will start off with a frightening event. The rest
of the story is spent trying to catch the evil antagonist (human or whatever)
or uncover the truth. This is one genre where “the end” may not always be “the
end.” You can leave a loose end, but as a writer, you must still play fair and
bring your story to a conclusion. A vague threat might remain, but YOUR plot
must be resolved.

Horror novels vary in length and are generally between
80,000 and 100,000 words.

Subgenres of horror include: ghost, psychological, weird
menace, occult detective, and more.

Young Adult (YA) Genre Novels Young adult (YA) fiction targets boys and girls between
the ages of 12-18. The tone, style, and content of YA novels changes depending
on the specific age of the target audience. The genre can tackle G-rated issues
or it can be very edgy.

 Generally, YA books run between 40,000 and 75,000
words, depending on the target age group.

“Edgy” YA tackles controversial or difficult
topics. Otherwise, subgenres of YA are the same as subgenres of adult fiction.

Western: Westerns
should be set west of the Mississippi River and before the year 1900.
Historical details must be accurate. Westerns are very specific and
specialized, but be sure that you’re not relying on clichés!

Westerns tend to be on the shorter side, anywhere from
45,000 to 75,000 words.



Women’s Fiction: Key elements should evoke
emotion, include strong characterizations for writing a close/deep point of
view, explore relationships, and use social issues to deepen your plot.

Definition
by Deborah Raney: Women’s Fiction as a genre is contemporary fiction, often
with a mild literary bent, that explores issues and themes ranging far beyond
romance. Relationships are at the core of the plot, and not necessarily a love
interest. It could involve relationships with siblings, parents, friends,
society, etc. It may have a strong romantic thread, but the ending is not
always happily-ever-after. It may be bittersweet or even tragic (though in the
CBA it should be redemptive and satisfying).

What is your favorite genre and why? Tell me in a comment for a chance to win a copy of the first book in my new Sanctuary series, Gathering Shadows, debuting early next year! Don’t forget to leave your contact information!

 

 


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