Following The Rules For The Genre
By Billie Williams
Whether you are writing articles, non-fiction, short stories, movie or play scripts, poetry or novels, all have rules or principles unique to their type that should be followed, especially, by the beginner. Each type of writing has scores of books outlining and enlarging, enlightening you on these issues. Here we will look at them briefly as Henry Ford might look at the aspects of his vehicles.
Remember earlier we classified the written word as a vehicle type:
- Articles – Sports Car
- Short Story – Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV)
- Essays/Letters – Sedan
- Autobiography – biography – Station Wagon
- Poetry – 4-door, hard-top, convertible
- Novel – 4-wheel drive, Heavy-duty, stretch cab, pickup truck
Let’s examine them closer. Articles as sports cars are compact, concise, charged with and designed for speed. Readers scan magazines. If an article title grabs their attention, they’ll pause to read the first sentence. In the car, color, style, ease of handling apply to the car and the article. Color, the first sentence hook. If it doesn’t provide the keys, your reader likely won’t take it for a test drive. Think zero to sixty in under a minute. It needs to jump off the starting block, give the reader a reason to step on the gas and keep going. Quick and to the point. Once the reader has proven to him or herself that the versatility, and validity of the car, the read; she can relax, ease up on the throttle and watch the scenery unfold as she reads. Remember parts of an article after a dynamite title are introduction—the hook, Body—the scenery, and conclusion—a good ride.
A short story can be action packed, driven through with sports car verve or SUV ability that only a Sport Utility Vehicle can deliver. It can take you pretty much anywhere you want to go in style and comfort. Sometimes over rough terrain along roads less traveled or sometimes, down the highway with family and camping trailer in tow. Compact, yet rugged, a short story like the article hooks with the first sentence or paragraph. Economically and reliably it holds all the necessary elements of Goal, Motivation and Conflict, all the short story family necessities. It’s a quick start. It introduces the road map, the driver, the passengers and any necessary baggage right away so the reader is up to speed. At the end of the short trip, arriving at the destination, the reader should feel satisfied that the trip was successful and worth his while. The SUV carried its load and delivered its passengers, changed or the journey in some significant way.
Essays and Letters, the family sedan, usually with four doors so that passengers and whatever they carry can enter and exit with ease. Great gas mileage and comfortable seating, a healthy sized trunk to hold all the baggage out of sight until needed a reliable vehicle for travel. The less formal structure of the essay or letter can be seen in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s writing or Jane Austin’s. However, an essay has the prerequisites of beginning, middle and end. It takes a more leisurely drive through incident, experience, or quandary of thought, always with a goal—a destination.
By the same token, a letter has a more general approach, yet still has a goal. It may be staying in touch with a loved one, replying to an inquiry, seeking answers to your own query or a myriad of other reasons. Some books are written in this style or as a journal such as The Diary of Ann Frank. There is room to take passengers, allowing them easy entrance and exit in a sedan manner, and in essays or letters taking them on a journey long as is necessary to reach your destination.
Autobiographies and Biographies are the Station Wagons, the family cars, if you will. This genre is all about a person and the passenger he or she piles into that car on a trip, plus all their baggage.
It’s a historical and most often a chronological telling of a life past and present. It usually is hinged on some culminating event. Henry Ford’s autobiography takes us from him as a young man with an idea, through his struggles and creative striving to build and maintain his idea as it grew to a multi-million dollar business. Autobiographies are sometimes written by ghost writers’ with control for content always in the subjects hands.
Biographies are written by others with or without authorization of the person they’re written about. It is your obligation as an author/writer, to make it interesting as possible for your reader. With these genres you must clearly focus on your ideal readers. There’s plenty of room for extra passengers if you choose to include them to help reach the story goal, the roadmap to your destination is yours.
Poetry is the elite, one of a kind, eccentric use of medium to convey an idea with beauty, rhythm and style. The 4-door, hard-top convertible Ford built, or you build around a single idea. There are nearly as many styles of poetry as there are makes and models of cars available to the buying public. There are books, courses and classes that can enlighten you as to their requirements or rules.
The novel is the 4-wheel, heavy-duty, crew cab, pickup truck of the writing world. It has all the characteristics of all the other vehicles mentioned and yet, it is different. For instance there are rules for and reader expectations for all the genre’s within the broad canopy of novel, just as there are trucks of every color, size, shape, and engine design. Sized from novella as in a mini-truck – to a historical saga like our heavy duty pickup truck with all the bells and whistles. The genre, the story, determines the rules. What you can haul in your truck and where the journey should take you and the roads you will take. Hook, beginning, middle and end are all still present. No matter what style it’s written in, mystery, romance, thriller, horror—it’s your choice—as long as the vehicle is reliable, but that’s another chapter.
Bon Voyage and Happy Trails to you
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