A Look at Genre Treatments in Writing
Let’s start with the most basic of questions. What are genre treatments?
When it comes to genre treatments, do you treat horror, science fiction, and romance all the same way? Or do you just stick to one genre and call it a day?
What are Literary Genres?
It might help to understand just what literary genres are. Let’s start with the short one.
Narrative nonfiction tells a story. Biographies and autobiographies are often more or less subsets of this. While it’s possible to relate a biography in a non-narrative form, that’s pretty rare. Essays are a form of short nonfiction. And speech is pretty self-explanatory. Is it the truth? Then it’s not fiction. Kinda obvious there.
But there’s a lot more here. Poetry is usually rhythmic (although it doesn’t have to be) and has evocative imagery. Drama is serious stuff, and it can be a part of theatrical performances.
Humor or Comedy?
Humor is of course the funny stuff. Don’t confuse it with comedy (although we use the terms interchangeably in common parlance). Comedy is just when the protagonist lives at the end of the piece. Contrast that with tragedy, which is where the main character dies by the end. But comedy, traditionally, does not mean something is funny.
By this definition, A Clockwork Orange is a comedy.
Fantasy or Myth?
Science fiction and fantasy are often close. While fantasy is generally more otherworldly, science fiction usually dovetails with possible science, no matter how far-fetched. Fairy tales, in contrast, are generally drawn from folklore. The more general term, folklore, goes beyond stories to songs and proverbs from long ago. Legends, on the other hand, often have a basis in fact. This can be the subject (a national hero, like El Cid) or the plot. A fable is often short, but it always contains a moral lesson. A short story is generally too brief for a subplot.
Realistic fiction is also fairly self-explanatory. It’s fiction which could be real. Historical fiction adds a historical dimension although it’s often also meant to be realistic.
Horror evokes fright and visceral reactions. Tall tales are overly exaggerated and are virtually the opposite of realistic fiction. Mythology is a traditional narrative with a religious or faith-based component. Mystery involves the solving of a crime or uncovering secrets. Finally, fiction in verse is much longer poetry which contains subplots and major themes.
What are generally not considered to be full-blown genres? Young adult, adventure, romance, etc. Hence the idea, for the most part, has more to do with length and execution than subject matter.
How Do You Treat These Genres?
First of all, consider pacing. Horror often slows down, and then speeds up. Mystery might take a while to build to a satisfactory conclusion. Furthermore, mysteries contain red herrings. Myths might contain repetition. Some of that comes from oral tradition. Humor is all about timing. Drama can often be slow and building. Traditional poetry may have a sing-song rhythm. Adventure might have a fairly straightforward line from beginning to end, continually amping up the stakes.
Your Personal Genre Treatments, and Mine
What is your particular spin? Do you use short, choppy sentence to speed up the action? Do you also choose shorter words?
One subtle trick I have learned is to use passive voice when a character is a victim. The way I see it is, if things are happening to a character without their consent, then the subject of any sentences describing that should be deemphasized.
So for me, my way to handle genres varies due to emphasis. While I mostly write in the science fiction genre, it encompasses a ton of differing emphases. A story might be funnier, or sadder. The Real Hub of the Universe is essentially historical fiction done up with science fiction clothes, with mystery thrown in. Whereas the initial Obolonk trilogy is a police procedural/mystery, again wearing the costume of science fiction.
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