Tag Archives: genres

Writing: Genres Part 3

Coming back from being lost in illnesses/fair induced stress and then injuries/wrapping up the print version of Ten with an update to my genre writing series. Now, this one is considered the easiest genre to write and break into as a new writer…I could argue about it being easy to write, but it is easier to get into but for different reasons than people think: Romance.

Romance books have their cliche images: the bodice ripper, sex scene heavy books with half-naked characters on the cover that is sold for about six bucks at the grocery store. However, if you go into the actual romance section at a book store, you’ll find a little more variance on the price, but the bodice rippers will be accompanied by some less provocative look books that still center around a romance, just with another genre as a side dish. Usually fantasy or action/thriller, some are also mysteries or something in that vein.

Here’s the reason why these books are the easiest to get published…if you do your homework. These publishing houses have contracts and lists where they send out so many new titles a month–more than any other genre. They make their money through quantity, not quality, and by appealing to a very specific formula. By keeping things within a certain parameter, they are able to produce the books cheaply, keeping actual costs down so they can sneak into as many sellers as possible. They don’t pay as well as other genres, but you also have a higher chance of paying back your advance and getting royalties. And if you can pick up the rhythm, there are writers who make their living just by turning out a new book every month or so.

These books have to be within a certain range of word count/print pages (varying a bit by publisher, so be prepared to add fluff or cut it away if you have to bounce between them), they have to have a certain number of beats to them, and obviously need to focus on the romance and have a happy ending for the couple involved. Most create a common enemy to bring these two people together, others just put two people into a situation where they have to work together to achieve a goal–whether or not its a common goal is up to the writer, but either way they have to work together to achieve it. There is a heavy focus on the characters being in their twenties to thirties–rarely do they cross over any older than that, despite the main readership for these books being in their forties and fifties, but I digress.

The really tricky part when it comes to writing romances is what you have to keep in mind–no matter what, your primary antagonists…are your protagonists. I know this is weird, so hear me out. The formulas mean that publishers are looking for the main conflict to be between the hero and the heroine. Whether its because they are constantly fighting with each other, one side of the equation is trying to fight the urge to be together, or there are circumstances keeping them apart a la Romeo and Juliet, the central conflict needs to be what is keeping your couple apart.

That said, your characters still have to be likeable. Ever wonder why the characters are so simple, cardboard cut out like? It’s because this way, the writer can easily flip them from being a jerk to being the nicest guy ever without seeming to contradict themselves. The girl can go from a whiny crybaby to the bravest woman in the world, and its waved away as character growth. There are some writers who are good at making this work for them, for creating a strong character and showing real growth. But those who are milking the system for money only, well, they use the formula and go with it.

There are a few beats that are particularly important for a story. You’re going to have to write a sex scene, unless you are in a subset aimed for younger readers or ultra-conservatives. Sometimes you’ll end up writing more than one, if your plot goes that way. There’s going to be a big-bad-break-up fight at least once. Sometimes there are multiples, but if so each one is bigger and worse than the one before it. (I never said this genre showed healthy relationships, did I? Cause it really doesn’t.) And then the last one is going to depend on what sort of story you are dealing with. If you are writing something with outside forces, this is where they seem to get the upper hand and the two have to come together to finally overcome it/solve the problem/whatever. If you are focused purely on internal conflicts between the couple, whoever was the biggest butt is going to “see the light” and save the other character from their misery without their other half.

If you want to write just for making money, don’t turn your nose up at romance novels. They are the easiest to make money and live off of, and they do pay well in the long run if that’s what you are after. However, if this happens to be the genre that you just want to write it, stay away from the ones who are famous for publishing in romance because you aren’t likely to fit their patterns. Really work on fleshing out your characters, and if you play with what the audience wants from the tropes and give them a good story besides, you’ll appeal to both the long-standing members and those like me who just browse the section of the book store occasionally.

Recommended romance novels (because I actually read these things): The Goddess Rising series by PC Cast, The Accidental Werewolf by Dakota Cassidy


Writing: Genres Part 1

(I’m sort of preemptively calling this the first of a series, though Lord knows when I’ll actually write any more discussions of this. Also, family visits are CRAZY.)

So, a dear friend of mine discovered this discussion on one of her favorite websites about the differences between fantasy, hard sci fi, and soft sci fi, all of it apparently a gigantic mess. (I can’t remember if it was fandom secrets or BRPS.) And let’s be honest, there is a LOT of chatter about the differences between the two. Seeing as how I have taken two different courses talking about the differences between these two genres and the professor was the closest thing to an expert I think exists (plus, you know, dabbling in at least two of them), I thought I would set the record straight for those who care to read/listen to me ramble. I’ll also talk a little bit about where YA fiction and my writing fall into all this.

Strangely, I’m going to talk about the one I’m least passionate about first. I’m going to be honest, most hard sci fi stories go completely over my head. I am not math, science, or technologically minded. Oh, I can understand it to a limited extent, but I sort of refuse to unless a class or book I like requires me to. That said, hard sci fi glorifies in the hard science. It will spend pages explaining how the science of the world works, whether or not it is based on real science (and it usually is) or if it is fake science (which is rare, but does exist). Everything else, from plot, characters, and setting are second to the science involved.

There aren’t really any limits on the science of choice. Astronomy, physics, engineering… Anything is up to grabs if that is what the writer is obsessed with. Some try to work the science into being the center of their plot, others just care about nothing else than the science and so the rest is rather shoddy. I’m not going to lie, I have my quirks. I love genetic squares to figure out what the kids are going to look like (in combination with two d10s). Of course, squares is an understatement. Mine get kinda crazy real fast. But I know better than to clue my readers into the level of crazy I go into when designing more worlds. Yes, logic is involved, but I don’t need to show my readers the inside of my brain. (Mostly because I’m sure many of my readers are smarter than me, and I would like to live in the realm of make-believe where I am a goddess who is always right.)

It will come to no surprise then that I prefer what is referred to as soft sci fi. While it still relies on the sciences rather than fantastical elements, it is not above fudging the details, or just omitting them entirely. The focus remains on the characters, the plot, and the setting, with the science being featured but not taking over the entire thing. My favorite cartoons, the DC animated universe, could be considered soft sci fi. My own story, Saving Emily, is considered soft sci fi. For all the unsubtle clue-batting it does, Cinder by Marissa Meyer is actually a rather intriguing world because of its soft sci fi status. It is a lot easier for those of us who want to appeal to a broad spectrum of readers to write than the technical-bound hard sci fi, and it is also friendlier to science-challenged readers (myself included). I can bond to the character, to the world, or the plot, maybe because of the science, maybe not.

The easy way to spot the soft sci fi from the hard is to look at the science involved. Are you drowning in every single detail about it? Does the book tell you who the inventor is, despite it being irrelevant to the plot? Could you take most of the science information out of the book and lose nothing? Ladies and gents, if the answer to any of these questions is yes, you are dealing with a hard science book. When it comes to writing, I don’t have the knowledge base or the patience to learn enough to write a hard science fiction book. I would go batty, and I would also struggle with finding a writing style. Admittedly, I can be bad about doing info dumps, but I’m trying to get better about those. It really seems like to me that hard science is nothing else but excessive info dumps. Of course, this is merely my opinion. Some people out there love them, and as a result can’t stand the soft science fiction. It is definite case of, “To each their own.”

Fantasy is just as bad, if not worse, than the science fictions. Any time you stretch reality farther than it can bend, you have fantasy. You have urban fantasy, where these unrealistic elements occur in our everyday world, you have high fantasy, which take place in historical settings of various levels of real or not. And then there is everything in between. Fantasy is one of the most difficult genres to put your thumb on as far as defining it, mostly because it does take so many different shapes. My rule is, if it can’t happen in reality/isn’t based in real world science, it’s fantasy. This is just my ruling, and can be completely different from someone else’s. (This is why the two share a section, just to cover all the bases. It’s annoying.) It is also one of the most popular genres at this point, though editors keep swearing it’s going to end any year now.

Obviously, I hope they are wrong. Almost everything I write is fantasy, and it’s really where my brain lives. Admittedly, I approach it in a logical fashion, wanting to always make sure there is a series of checks and balances, especially with magic systems. But every time I get told I’m not allowed to use fantasy, I want to cry. To me, there is so much potential in fantasy that I feel like I could write a thousand books, tell the stories of hundreds of characters, and I would still not be at the end of that potential. And despite what one of my professor says, I really do spend most of my time reading it. I guess I want to keep my nose in the market to make sure I’m not completely off the mark with what I’m writing.

Where does my other love, YA, fall in all of this? Well, you don’t find much hard sci fi in YA. Most YA readers don’t want it, since it reminds them too much of school work. But soft sci fi is well received, especially by those who enjoy math and science classes. It can serve as the beginning for future hard sci fi readers, or it could remain a genre for life, just depending on the kid. Believe it or not, The Hunger Games would be considered soft sci fi, really showing that the genre is getting a strong foot hold in the YA market. As for fantasy… In my opinion, it kinda rules the section as the king to the drama genre’s queen. If you look at the shelves, I honestly think for every realistic (or unrealistic realistic, more on this later) book, you will find one fantasy. While urban fantasy has become the trend these past few years, I’m hoping what with all the Hobbit movies we’ll swing back to high fantasy in time for my Erestith books to get their premiere.

So, all my rambling done, what are some of your favorite books for either of these genres? (Suggest a good one, and maybe I’ll do a review of it!)