My Guide to Writing Genre Novels Quickly: Part 2
The reason I keep emphasizing the fact that I’m talking about “genre” novels here is that every genre comes with a specific set of rules and expectations – and knowing these before you start plotting is vital. For instance, you can’t have a romance without an HEA ( happily ever after). Well, you can, but readers will form angry mobs and hunt you with pitchforks, and also they are unlikely to by more of your books. Also if there’s no HEA then I’d argue that you didn’t really write a romance.
Knowing the conventions of the genre is also what helps me write a book in 4 to 6 weeks, because I already know the required main elements that must be included in each book if I’m going to satisfy my audience’s expectations.
I only write genre novels – for the most part, paranormal romance. A cozy mystery would have a different set of expectations – no graphic descriptions of sex, no graphic violence – and a thriller would also have different set of expectations – graphic violence is not just allowed, but at some point probably expected, and any depictions of sex could be explicit.
However, there’s a basic story structure for all “commercial genre” books.
A few excellent writing books about how to structure your story are:
I know that both of those books reference screenwriting, but they are also awesome resources for authors, and helped me get where I am today. If you’re thinking of launching a writing career, it’s worth the time to study how successful books and movies are plotted out.
Here is my own very basic version of story structure for a romance, broken down. (In Alexandra Sokoloff’s books and in the Save The Cat series, they break down popular movies and books and show where pivotal scenes take place)
The “parts” here aren’t chapters, they’re just a rough outline of what has to happen in a story:
Introduce the hero and heroine. They should meet each other early in the chapter, doesn’t have to be on the first page, but should be soon. Their should be an immediate attraction between them, but there also needs to be a clear reason why they can’t act on that attraction.
Introduce them in a way that immediately identifies what kind of person they are, and their current state of mind. Generally, the hero and heroine, or at least one of them, are already facing some kind of stressful situation in their life.
Orient your readers from the very beginning. Where is this story taking place? Is it in a paranormal world? If so, give some indication of this. What season is it? What city? This needs to be done with subtlety, because you don’t want to bury your reader under a pile of description.
Part Two: Call To Action. This is the part where the hero or heroine is presented with some kind of problem or challenge that they need to address. It must be an urgent problem, and one that specifically requires the hero and/or heroine to solve it.
Part Three: Hero and/or heroine starts taking action. Runs into obstacles. Hero and heroine also are interacting. May have mild romantic encounter – flirting, a kiss – or even have a sexual encounter. But then, immediately something comes up that reminds them they can’t possibly have a relationship.
Part Four: Hero or heroine tries something new to solve their problem. Runs into more obstacles, may make some progress, new problems then crop up. Their attraction deepens. They also are coming to like each other more as people. They’re still sparring on some level.
Part Five: Hero and heroine appear to have made some progress, both in their relationship and in dealing with their problem, but in the background, the villain of the story is coming up with new ways to thwart them, or his plans that he’s had in place all along will thwart the hero and heroine, at least for now. “Secondary villain” (see previous post on writing), or “enemy within”, may also be working to break them up.
Part Six: The “all is lost” section. The hero and heroine are broken up or fighting or have discovered something terrible about each other, and the villain appears to have triumphed.
Part Seven: Hero and /or heroine pull themselves together, possibly with the help of outside allies, and there is the “fight” sequence. The hero and heroine triumph, and the villain is defeated.
Part Eight: The wrapup. New world, How has everything changed? Show it. The villain is defeated. The new circumstances of the hero and heroine – they are married, will be married, or are in a committed relationship – are shown. If there are supporting characters – I will discuss these in a future post – then their problems may be resolved, or we may see them resolved in a future book.