The excellent podcast Writing Excuses (which I would recommend all writers listen to during commutes) spent last season discussing 11 “elemental genres.” Basically “elemental genre” gets to the heart of “what feelings do you want your reader to experience reading your story?” The elemental genre drives the narrative.
These are NOT “bookshelf genres” like YA or Urban Fantasy. A bookshelf genre generally gives the reader the “trappings” of the story (like setting, types of characters, level of tech, etc), but the elemental genre describes the story itself. So a bookshelf genre Science Fiction novel that could focus on any of the elemental genres. You could have a Sci Fi story about Wonder, or Issue, or Thriller, etc. (see list below)
So, writers, if you’d like, read the below list, vote on the poll, and comment with the TWO main elemental genres of a story you’ve written. (I say two because most stories have bits of MANY elemental genres, but list the two that really drive your story). Talk about if that was a conscious decision you made at the start, or if they developed into the main story drivers as your wrote your story.
For CCH1, I would say it is “Ensemble” and “Humor.” Yes, I am limiting myself to two, as I ask everyone to do, to make the discussion manageable and to force yourself to really consider the heart of your story. With CCH1, in a school setting, it was natural to explore how all the characters would interact and (slowly) grow. I also wanted a lot of humor, because all the mix of characters gave me a lot of opportunity to mix different combos, situations, stakes, etc. I wanted the story to feel “realistic” in a way, meaning that the characters were NOT “superheroes.” They were just regular kids who happened to have powers, and going to school together, there is naturally going to be a lot of banter in that environment.
I think it is very helpful to consider the elemental genres before setting off to write a story. I think it gives you focus without tying you to an actual plot, or bookshelf genre. For example, the story I am working on as a side project is: 1) Issue, and 2) Drama, so I want readers to experience very different emotions from what i was gunning for with CCH.
Wonder: Making your reader say, “Wow! This is just awesome to visualize/explore”
Idea: Making your reader say, “Wow! This is just an awesome concept to think about/ponder!”
Adventure: Making your reader say, “Yes! We’re going to find the treasure/rescue the prince!”
Horror: Making your reader feel deep emotions of dread; that something horrible is going to happen, perhaps something worse than death.
Mystery: Making your reader wonder who killed the dead body on the floor! Red herrings! Plenty of suspects!
Thriller: Making your reader feel deep emotions of anxiety! MC can either be chasee or chaser!
Humor: Make the reader smile, laugh, smirk…this is a very basic human emotion. Can you puns, wordplay, classic comic drops, etc.
Relationships: It’s all about the shipping. (Wait did I use that term correctly? I am old) Doesn’t HAVE to be romance though. Can involve deep friendships with no romance at all.
Drama: It’s all about how the main character changes/grows over time. Think coming of age stories, rags to riches, etc. The MC is a VERY different person than they were before the story.
Issue: It’s all about an issue, and making the reader deeply consider the different sides of the issue. It is NOT preaching the author’s position. The author will use multiple characters to represent different views.
Ensemble: Making the reader adore/admire/be entertained by a group of characters, how they work together, overcome obstacles, interact with one another.
These are VERY basic descriptions. Again, I’d HIGHLY recommend the podcast for complete discussion of these.
Okay so what TWO elemental genres most drive your story? (just pick one story obviously, and please discuss it below)