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The Importance of Genre

Why does genre matter?

Once it leaves the hands of the writer (after a long, sometimes slow process), a book becomes the reader’s. And genre tells those readers what to expect when they choose to read a novel. It informs cover design, marketing, and where the book sits on the shelves in a bookstore.

While these are all important aspects of a story’s life, many writers think genre is stifling to creativity. They find it formulaic. Constricting. Let the publishers and readers worry about genre. But that’s a shortsighted way of looking at it.

Most importantly, genre helps you, the writer, figure out what you’re trying to say.

What is genre really?

Genre describes the arch the character experiences during the story. Meaning, the change that occurs from start to finish (and, yes, there has to be a change or you don’t have a story). Genre is the simplest way of looking at that change. 

The Importance of Genre

So, a mystery will start with a crime and end with the solution of that crime. It changes from injustice to justice. A love story will start out at indifference or hate and end at love or intimacy or commitment. And an action story will change from life to death (and probably back to life if it ends positively). 

Basically, genre clarifies the value upon which the story turns. It helps you figure out what the change is so that your story isn’t just a jumbled mess of words where nothing happens. So, figure yours out and see what doors it opens to your writing. You may find restrictions to be freeing rather than stifling.

What genre are you writing? How has that informed your writing? Has it helped to clarify what you’re working with? 

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