Saturday, May 19, 2018

How To Write A Novel Readers Love – The Genre

Dear storyteller,

You’re doing a terrific job!

You now have all of the essential ingredients to begin writing a novel that readers love. You have your story’s point, the first spark of the idea, the reason you care about the story and the “Big What If”.

So…what kind of story are you writing? Do you know? To ask this question another way, what genre will your story fall into? At this point, you may be thinking, “Well…my story is a mystery. Or a thriller. Or a romance.”

But I’m not talking about those kinds of genres. I’m talking about story genres that more sharply define the kind of story you’re telling. I’m talking about story genres as defined by the late great Blake Snyder in his screenwriting book, “Save The Cat!”. This is highly recommended reading if you’re serious about becoming a writer, or storyteller.

If you're not familiar with Blake Snyder, or his work, you may click here for more information.

What does screenwriting have to do with novels?

We’ll get to that in just a moment. For now, let’s discuss Mr. Snyder’s work on story genres a little further.

In his book, Save The Cat!, Blake Snyder identifies ten story genres that just about every story ever told falls into, whether in print or on screen. For example, Jaws and Alien fall into the same story genre, Monster In The House. Love Comes Softly and When Harry Met Sally also fall into the same story genre, Buddy Love.

If you want to master the craft of storytelling, you need to become intimately familiar with all ten story genres, and how they work. For the sake of time, I will not list them all here. Instead, visit Save The Cat!, and absorb them into your brain. To say it another way…

Go ahead, familiarize yourself with them…I’ll wait.

Are you finished? Great! Now that you’re back, let’s continue.

My young adult novel, From Bad Girl To Worse falls into what is known as the “Institutionalized” genre. The three key elements of this story type are…group, choice and sacrifice.

Here’s the definition: “An outsider’s way to save her individuality is by going against the many who wish to integrate her into their fold.”

Let’s see how the elements and definition of this particular story genre apply to the basic storyline of From Bad Girl To Worse.

  • My young protagonist is an outsider who gets accepted into a questionable group of misfits.
  • This group commits criminal acts of mischief and mayhem.
  • The members persuade the lonely young heroine to commit such impish acts with them.
  • Piece by piece, the heroine loses her own identity as she assumes the malevolent identity that the dangerous group wants her to embrace. 
  • She even begins to adopt the "herd mentality" and follows the crowd.
  • By the end of the story, the young protagonist realizes what’s going on and courageously leaves the group by turning them, and herself in to police.

From this example, you can see how knowing the Save The Cat! story genres can help you plot your novel. I used the key elements and the definition of the “Institutionalized” genre to do exactly that with From Bad Girl To Worse.

Framing the plot and the story within the confines of the “Institutionalized” type gave me a solid story structure to build on as I crafted my lonely and conflicted heroine’s journey through it. And the structure guided her through her process of internal change.

Story fact: All stories are about transformation.

This may seem like a lot of information to process. Well...if you’re not familiar with any of the concepts I am revealing to you, it is. But don’t give up. Stay with me. It’s simple, once you put these concepts to work in your own writing. Take some time to study Blake Snyder’s story genres. Memorize them.

If you do, all the work you put in will be well worth it when you emerge with a novel that readers love.

Keep at it. In the end, you’ll be glad you did.

Best wishes,

L. R. Farren
Author of From Bad Girl To Worse
and The Dangerous Way Home

P. S. – I've personally read all of Blake Snyder’s books at least six times...and taken notes from them. I highly recommend that you buy all of the Save The Cat! books and read them until you can memorize each page word for word.  The wisdom you gain will help you exponentially in crafting your story.

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