Do You Really Know Your Book’s Genre?

After working with authors from all over the world on many kinds of different story projects, I’ve seen a common theme. Many times, they present me with their masterpiece and I can instantly tell that the writing is good – but something is missing from the story. Something very important. Maybe there’s no character development, a lack of cohesiveness in the story, or maybe even the absence of the theme.

Whatever the issue, it almost always boils down to the fact that the author doesn’t really know their book’s genre.

You might wonder how that’s possible. Doesn’t genre kinda determine, well…everything? How can a writer write a story without knowing its genre? If you are asking yourself these questions, dear reader, then you have already hit on the point of this post.

What Is Genre?

Genre is a broader term than you might think. Essentially, it sets up expectations for what the story will be about. When you walk into a bookstore, you look for books in genres you like. Personally, I make a beeline straight for the sci-fi/fantasy section. But this kind of genre – what some are now calling the consumer-facing genre – is only one facet of genre.

And guess what? This kind of genre really only helps the reader – not the writer.

Sure, you may say you’re writing a mystery, but just consider how many kinds of mysteries are out there. “Mystery” doesn’t tell you a single thing about your story or your characters, let alone how they develop. And those are the most important parts of a story, the things that make a story matter.

So, you might see now why we’re in trouble. If knowing the consumer-facing genre doesn’t help us much, what do we do?

Content Genres

Enter: content genres.

There is hope! These kinds of genres actually tell us about our story and our characters. They won’t be plastered anywhere on the book itself when it’s published, but they’ll go a long way in showing you how to shape your story as you’re writing it.

The classification of content genres might be rather new, but authors have been using the idea ever since books were first written. To create a meaningful, memorable story, your content genre(s) must work together and be consistent throughout your story.

There are two types of content genres:

External genres

These nine external genres all involve some kind of external force preventing the protagonist from achieving their goal:

  • Action
  • Crime
  • Horror
  • Thriller
  • War
  • Western/Eastern
  • Society
  • Performance
  • Love

To keep this post short, I’m not going to delve into what each of these means right now (although for many of them, you can probably figure it out!), but keep reading until the end for some resources that will tell you more!

Internal genres

If you haven’t guessed already, the three internal genres are concerned with a protagonist’s inner conflicts that prevent them from achieving their goal:

  • Worldview
  • Status
  • Morality

What’s the Difference?

Most often, you can think of external genres as plot-driven stories and internal genres as character-driven stories, but they can overlap a bit. Because actually, many of the best stories have both an external and internal genre. There are outside forces acting on the protag, but the protag has an internal struggle that’s getting in the way, too – something that directly relates to how they deal with the external conflict.

Know Your Genre

To make sure you’re crafting a meaningful, memorable story, you must know your content genre(s). They will help you make sure you’re writing a well-rounded story that’s right for your audience. This is also a great simple way for pantsers to do at least a little planning before writing; the genre of your story will give you a framework to work with but allow for lots of creative freedom between the lines.

We’ll talk about these genres more in the coming days, but for now, here are some resources if you want to know more about them:

I’m so grateful to Story Grid for outlining this wonderful way to think about our stories! It’s helped me so much when working with clients. I’m not affiliated with Story Grid in any way; I just think their work is fantastic!

As always, if you’re not sure how to start your book or think your story needs another pair of eyes to look it over, check out my services! I offer book coaching as well as professional feedback starting at just $10.

Happy writing!

If you enjoyed this post, I hope you’ll consider donating to the blog, reading my stories on Vocal, and/or taking a look at my RedBubble shop so I can continue to produce free content!

Want to delve even further into the writing world? Subscribe to my monthly newsletter to get a FREE storytelling guidebook right off the bat, plus insider looks into my upcoming works, writing memes, book recs, and much more!

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

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When you write as much as I do, you have to take frequent breaks from sitting. A standing desk (not a whole desk, but a mini desk that will sit on top of my current desk with my laptop, keyboard, and mouse and extend upward) will allow me to continue working while maintaining that good blood flow to my brain. Thank you so much for your support that allows me to keep producing free content. God bless you! ♥️ E.J.


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