Craft of Writing: What feelings do you want your readers to experience? (poll/discussion from Writing Excuses podcast)

Trust me, I know it is. As I said above with CCH2, at least four of the Elemental Genres could apply.

But I think it’s reeeeeeeally helpful to narrow it down as much as humanly possible so that we, as authors, fully understand what we are trying to accomplish with our stories.

Because if we don’t truly understand, no one else will.

And even though not a word of CCH3 has been written, I already know it is Ensemble/Drama because the MC finally “grows up” and becomes a threat and can help the MC’s classmates tip the balance of powers between all the factions just a little bit. That is the focus of the story. The MC’s growth and the MC’s classmates. Just because I don’t mention Humor, or Relationship, or Thriller doesn’t mean there won’t be any of that…it just means I’ve decided on the main focus.

EDITED TO ADD: And so when I’m writing CCH3, if I lose my focus along the way, and get off on too many tangents, I can always regather myself and think, “Back to Ensemble and Drama.”


Very interesting topic! Although so far I only have about 55k for my WIP, The Magician’s Task, I’d say the two main elements I use are humor and relationships. The close follow ups are ensemble and adventure.


I value Humor because I like laughing, that one’s pretty obvious.

I value Ensemble because it’s nice to see the main cast put their differences aside, get their shit together and collectively beat the crap out of the antagonist.


Mystery or thriller might seem an obvious choice for The Seventeenth Spy, given the genre, and I’ve realized as an author mystery is what keeps me interested in writing (I keep myself entertained with subtext, dropping hints that will make sense after the reveal).

However, I think what I want readers to get from the experience is idea/drama. 17S comes out of thinking about what kind of person would make a good (skilled and/or heroic) secret agent, and what kinds of choices would lead there. I’d like my readers to put some thought into what kind of character they’re playing, why they make the decisions they do, and watch the character they’ve created shape the tone of the story. Can you accomplish good through deception? Who is worth trusting, and how do you know? Is it possible to make moral choices with minimal information? How do our memories and perspective shape who we see as ‘the good guys?’

Generally, I think I tend towards idea/issue told through ensemble/humor/relationship. I like creating a bunch of different characters with different perspectives and making them argue with each other, try to work together, or realize as enemies they had more in common than they thought.

Another great topic, @Eric_Moser!

EDIT: This was really helpful the more I think about it – gives some better focus to this crazy ambitious project I’m working on. Thanks!


Tough. In the end, when it came to Fallen Hero, I picked Relationships (duh) and Mystery, since so much of the game is trying to find out what really happened and why it has changed the MC so.


Okay you’ve twisted my writing hand. Wonder and relationships.


Awoken is Mystery (definitely - it’s all about uncovering exactly what the heck is going on and how it came to be) and then probably Relationships is the most important out of the others, but with Wonder or Ideas as runners up.

Secret project is Thriller/Drama.


My own (Mortal Odyssey) is definitely more Ensemble/Humor than anything else. Humor, because that’s just the type of guy I am and what I enjoy reading, writing, watching, or doing in real life. Humor is just plain fun. And then Ensemble, because with a plot point revolving around you and nine others with whom you interact with on a regular basis, it fits the most. Even a solo PC would still at least see or hear of what the others are up to.

I did, however, also consider Adventure and Drama. Ultimately I decided against the two because (that was the rule, but also because) the things I find myself writing most often when sitting down is a lot of dialogue and a lot of instances with other characters - mainly the other nine. Not every choice is adventurous or dramatic (sure, some are going to be), and more often than not, I find myself falling back to cracking a joke or using some character or two to entertain the reader.

That’s my plan, anyway.


I guess I am in with the majority with Humor and Ensemble. But really all I want is to entertain. I have no higher purpose than to help people pass an hour or two in a pleasant fashion. Plenty enough of our hours cannot be passed in such a manner, after all.


This was very helpful, thank you! (It’s making me reconsider ‘Writing Excuses’ despite their unfortunate lack of transcripts…)

My current work is Ensemble and Wonder. The narration is humorous, but that’s not the main drive of the story and characters. Realising that has helped me a lot to figure out what story beats are important and which can go, since I always have a lot more than I ought to.

I did waver between Ensemble and Relationships…if a story is about the relationships between an ensemble cast, which is that? XD But it is a big cast, so I went with the former.

I’ve done about twelve drafts of my current story because I wasn’t quite sure which elemental genres I wanted to focus on, but I also didn’t have the vocabulary to succinctly express the issue either, hence the twelve drafts. So this has been extremely useful.

It also shed some light on why some authors’ books all feel so different and why some feel very much the same, regardless of trappings. I wonder if it’s to do with which elemental genre they tend to trend towards, or if they tend to cover a really diverse spread of elemental genres (even if they write all detective fiction, or all high fantasy, or whatever). It’s interesting to consider!


I’ll have to take a look at the podcast, having trouble narrowing it down into two specific categories :slight_smile:

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Me too! I think it’s the RPG gamer in me. :slight_smile:

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Oh, but they do have transcripts! :slight_smile:

And I’m glad it was useful! He sure as heck was useful to me. I struggle with focus sometimes and hopefully this idea of focusing on a couple of elemental genres will help keep my eyes on the finish line.


Thank you! And yes as I was listening to these podcasts (which stretch for a year) I kept thinking, “This is really really basic stuff that I NEVER even thought about! Maybe other people haven’t thought about it either!” The clouds parted for me.

I’m realizing how much important this is as opposed to trappings. Really, things like “urban fantasy” and “sci fi” and “steampunk” mean little by themselves. It tells us something about the environment but hardly anything about the narrative.

Look at something as simple as the “Star Wars versus Star Trek” debate.

To me, Star Wars = Adventure/Wonder
Whereas to me, Star Trek = Issue(or Idea)/Ensemble

Two VERY different “Sci Fi” experiences


Interesting to ponder. I think Trials of the Thief-Taker might be Adventure/Issue: it’s a historical adventure story (with chases, intrigue), but it also centers around dilemmas in enforcing and profiting from the law.


Choice of Rebels is hard for me to place, but I think Thriller/Issue are most prominent. With obvious elements of lots of the others.


@Havenstone wants his readers to experience mules.
Mules need their own entirely separate category.




I’m going to have to check out this podcast. I have never even heard if elemental genres, which is a shame because this concept is going to help me solidify just what exactly I’m going for in my projects. What other hidden gems does this podcast hide???

My current thing’s primarily an adventure, but I had a hard time choosing between ensemble and relationships after that. In the end, having to make that conscious decision has given me more clarity of purpose just sitting here thinking about it. The podcast helping already! (I went with relationships for the record)

Now this list is giving me so many ideas for other projects, I need to reign it in and focus on one thing at a time :confused:


Looking at the tight spread of the poll results, with 8 of the 11 elemental genres between 36% and 20%, it just goes to show that there are stories for any reader’s taste here.

And @SirEdmund, I think the podcasters coined the phrase “elemental genres.” Check them out; they have great chemistry and approach topics from different angles (one of the four is a comic strip writer, for example).


Woohoo, that sure is a backlog of episodes. I just listened to the first episode of season 11 and then skipped straight to adventure, haha.

They started talking about adventure science fiction and I immediately recognized elements I’ve been using without even realizing it, but it’s also making me question whether or not adventure is even the right element for the feeling I have in mind. I may have to change my vote!

One of the things they brought up that I thought was really interesting for adventure was the way the environment informs the adventure, the questions of “what cool things can I do in this setting?” I set my thing in space because it sounded cool, without giving a whole lot of thought to it outside of space being big and dangerous. Setting seems to be a big part of adventure, I need to rethink how I plan to use it.

This podcast has already been helpful, thanks for the recommendation!