Like it or not, every time a reader picks up a romance, she expects certain things. Every time a reader picks up a thriller, she expects other things. Every time a reader picks up a sci-fi, she expects a totally different set of things.
And how do we know what readers expect from every book in the genre or subgenre currently popular?
Because at its heart every genre and subgenre has a core story question.
Every genre or subgenre has its own "signature" question that makes a book fit that genre. It’s a marketing tool for booksellers to know how to shelve books, but more than that it's also a tool that helps an author keep his or her book focused so it not only results in a tight book. . .it also ensures a book hits its market.
Some of you are going to rebel against this because you WANT to be writing mainstream. You WANT to appeal to a broad audience.
I agree. I applaud you, and for those of you who seriously want to write mainstream, you’ll probably find yourself working with the “growth” paragraph which we’ll talk about the week after next. But, don’t skip this part! Don't turn away the tool that might jumpstart your story and give it enough focus that readers will love you.
For instance. . .
In CJ Lyons’ workshop, Thrills, Chills and Spills, How to Write the Modern-Day Thriller, she says, the story question of a mystery is Who. Who done it? The protagonist works to figure out who killed the cop, who murdered the mom, who blew up the bishop. Who done it?
The story question of a thriller is How. How will your protagonist save the world (albeit his or her own personal world) from the evil villain intent on destroying it?
That’s pretty obvious stuff. But how do YOU as author use it? How can it make writing your book easier? How can it make your book better?
To answer those questions, let’s look at the movie AIR FORCE ONE with Harrison Ford.
After the plane of the president of the United States is hijacked and most of the secret service agents on board are killed, it's pretty clear almost immediately that the president is going to have to save himself. So the question becomes how...
How will an aging military hero save himself when he's trapped on a plane, has no weapon, is outgunned and the villains are using his family against him?
Did you notice what I did there? I took the broad and general 'GENRE' question for a thriller (How will the protagonist save the world) and turned it into a concise story question for a specific story.
Because that's what makes your book unique. If you’re writing a thriller, the way you twist or turn or enhance YOUR version of “how will the hero save the world” is the way you make your book great, or different, or unique. (Which is why the more you play with your question and the more you enhance your question, the better, or maybe more unique, your book will be.)
So right off the bat you need to know what genre you are writing so you know how to direct your story, but once you know that, you can manipulate the question with your story facts and make your story the best it can be.
Why is this important? Very simple. If you can write a clear, concise story question you can show yourself (and potentially an editor) that your story fits your genre, making it marketable.
That's the gist of the core story question. F
or those of you not writing thriller, take some time and see if you can figure out what the core story question is for your genre.
And see if you can use it to keep you focused!
Happy Monday Oh! And don't forget April's workshop on conflict.
LET CONFLICT TELL YOUR STORY FOR YOU for the STAR chapter. Go to: http://starrwa.org/on-line-workshops/