Monday, 2 January 2012

Cook Book Look At Genre

Recipe for a good tale?
I was recently asked, by a well-meaning friend, what kind of stories I wrote.
“Thrillers,” I answered.
“Oh, not romance then,” the friend said, plainly dissapointed.
“Oh no, there is romance in my stories as well,” I responded.
It got me thinking about the question of genres and the categories we all use.
So, exactly what kind of writer am I, I ask myself? I call myself a thriller writer – mainly of the supernatural genre. But when I think hard about categories, I realise my novels may well feel like everything but the kitchen sink added in!
You see, I think of a plot as a cooking recipe. For a good story I mix together certain ideas and form them into the basic story-line for what I need. I then add in extra ingredients to, hopefully, make my story stand out.  Not to overdo it, of course, otherwise the main story line can become obscured.
To that end, when I examine my plots, I find they are usually Manichean (good against evil) and often the main character is unwilling at first but then is in a desperate race to get something. My recipe usually includes the raising of stakes for the main character and rising tension throughout the story. Rather like baking a cake, methinks? Well there you go, more cooking analogies!
I find I nearly always add a love interest, (the genre of romance?) a ‘what if’ element (maybe it could be horror?), a ‘whodunit’ bit (mystery story) and usually some kind of race against time (a thriller caper). And then again, I also try to add subplots that intertwine with the main story. My recent book also had a time-slip element to it so I could call it historical too.
Maybe other writers don’t have to fight with themselves when they realise they want to add further spice to their stories but I always do. I would happily mix genres even more if I let my muse loose for long enough…  Like a good cake recipe, you need to know when the mixture is just right. Sometimes less is more…
So I reign myself in and try to stick to the main category I enjoy – supernatural thriller writing. But it doesn’t stop me adding a bit of spice here and there…
Do you tend to mix things up or are you totally faithful to your own genre?


  1. I think that you need to have lots of ingredients to make a good cake. Love interests are fine in a thriller or mystery. Great post.

  2. I totally end up mixing things up: humor, thriller, mystery, contemporary. :) Great question to ask ourself and know when to focus a bit more.

  3. My novels are like sticky buns...they stick to the genre in hand.

  4. I don't have a genre yet. This may be a problem in the future, but right now it's fun :-)

  5. Good article. It made me think about my own genre. I tend to say that I write "thrillers" and technically I do. I write legal thrillers, but my writing could also be classified as courtroom drama or mystery/suspense. In my writing and my reading I ALWAYS like the added romance ingredient. The more taboo or "forbidden fruit" the better.

  6. I can tell you exactly what type of stories I write - short ones!

  7. I think the more you mix it up, the better! Then you just call the strongest element your genre. :)

  8. Great cooking analogy! But a kitchen wouldn't be much of a cooking without those delicious scents so I think spice makes a kitchen work. And Happy New Year to you and yours.

  9. Thanks everyone for your kind comments. And a happy new Year to one and all!