Tag Archives: genre

“The Case of the Primary Genre”

When you sit down to write your story, one of the most important things to know at the start is it’s genre. What kind of story do you want to tell? Does it involve a heist, or ghosts, or a tall ship commanded by pirates? Once you answer that question, it’s fairly easy to do the proper research needed to ground your story properly.

Genres are how we can easily identify what kind of story is being presented. Mystery, romance, horror, historical, fantasy, science fiction – those are just a few types of genres that are available. The fun thing is that genres can be a mix of each other – a mystery can be historical (The Name of the Rose); a fantasy can involve romance, as well as magic and adventure (The Princess Bride); science fiction and fantasy can be blended together (Star Wars); and horror can be a metaphor for teen angst (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) or an exploration of sibling/familial relationships (Supernatural; Charmed).

Establish and ground the story in one genre, using it as the primary background. Then add elements from other genres (such as romance, drama, and mystery) to help add tension and new plot threads for readers to follow. The clearer you are on the kind of story you want to tell, and in the primary genre it falls under, the easier it will be to revise and polish in the editing process.

“Celebrate Writing Milestones.”

So, 2021 will be the tenth anniversary of my novel, Secrets & Howls, being published. In anticipation of this, I’m revising it for re-issue and remembering how I really loved working on it. The story opened pretty much as it does now, with a character moving into the sleepy village of Wolf’s Head Bay. As it happened, two very different plot lines featured characters moving into town (Elizabeth Phillips and her son and Marita Brye, the main character), but originally, it wasn’t the Marita we followed in the opening pages, but Elizabeth. I realized early on that the opening could stay, but only if it was Marita.

This meant merging the similar plots to reflect Marita as the primary focus; Elizabeth became a local resident and secretary in the local police department. I also had to integrate a series of letters from 1852 to end each calendar day in the book (which takes place over the course of a week). Then,

to keep things interesting, I pretty much threw everything into the story. Except the kitchen sink – that would have been too much.

In the last few years, however, I’ve grown as a writer, thanks in large part to my editors. There are still four more books to write in this series and I’ve got the second one mapped out, with room for making detours along the way. Now, with my most recent novel complete and ready for submission, I’ve decided to go back to Wolf’s Head Bay and see what needs to be done.

It’s still a solid story, but I’m enjoying the revision.

“What’s In A Name?”

Even by a different name, a rose would smell just as sweet, according to William Shakespeare.

Part of the magic of character development lives in the name you choose.  This crosses all genres and can make a character go from ordinary to eclipsing his or her creator. [1]   Scarlett O’Hara would probably not have been so memorable if her name had been Sally.

There are a great many resources for finding names – from Google to baby naming books, you can always find something that will suit your characters.  What makes name research even more fun is discovering the meaning behind them, particularly when the name lends itself to both the character’s journey and the story itself.  This is most important for your hero or heroine, but the secondary characters can also benefit from this type of care.

I will offer a word of caution, however – there will be times when one character refuses to like any of the names chosen for him (or her).  He (or she) will be accepting of it for one draft, but when you go in to revise, the name no longer suits.  This has only happened once, in my own experience, and that particular character was so dissatisfied with his name, that I changed it twelve times. [2]  In the process, he changed his nationality, as well, which was interesting and unexpected, to say the least.

Regardless of what genre you choose to write in, the name you give your characters will not only enhance the story, but add a certain depth, as well.  


[1]  The most famous of these characters is Sherlock Holmes, whom creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle came to despise – so much so, he killed the character off in The Final Problem.  Public opinion, of course, encouraged the return of the memorable sleuth.

[2]  His current name is satisfactory – it’s not only delicious to roll off one’s tongue, it’s quite playful and suggests a fun, sexy and sensitive nature.