What does GENRE mean when people talk about it in writing?

Genre whets the story appetite of your audience; know and use it effectively. I always say that GENRE is like the smell of good food cooking.  It sets you up for the story adventure that lies ahead.  It gets your audience in the mood.  It’s the appetizer that tempts their palate.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term, genre is the way we categorize stories – like mystery, action-adventure, drama, comedy, or Sci-Fi – like Freefall.  I could go on and on, but I think you probably get the picture.

Genre is important for marketing purposes.  What’s the first thing you ask when a friend calls you up and says, “Do you want to go see XYZ movie?”  Or “I’ve just read a great new book!”   You say, “What is it?”   You might not use the word genre… but that’s what you mean.  From your own personal experience, you already know what genres of fiction you prefer.  Maybe you prefer action-adventure or even comedies but never westerns.  See what I mean?

The thing about genre is that it is more than mere categorization.  It is the process by which we begin the storytelling journey.  And it’s important to understand for a number of different reasons.  First of all, if a film or novel is billed as a particular genre – let’s say a comedy – the audience is going to expect to laugh.  A western? They expect cowboys!  So as a writer, you need to be aware of what expectations an audience will hold for the particular genre of film or novel that you are writing.

So what genre do you think you’re writing with your manuscript? From the first minute I thought of Freefall, it was always Science Fiction.  Is yours a family drama, biographical drama, or something else?  The first thing you need to do then is identify the genre of your intended piece. Then view a number of different films from the same genre to begin to figure out what the signifiers are for it.  Carefully watch several good films from your chosen genre and note what elements give that particular genre its shape.  And then make certain those elements are included in your own story. 

Genre signifiers are like a road map for your audience or highway signs that they can subconsciously check off and say, “Oh, okay, I know where we’re going.”  Once they’re certain you know the way, they’ll relax and let you drive the story.

 I hope this helps.  And good luck with your writing.