Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Types of Genre in Literature

How do you know what you write? Sort it out here.

City University of New York describes genre:
Genre is a French term derived from the Latin genus, generis, meaning "type," "sort," or "kind." It the classification of what books have in common, either in their formal structures or subject matter, or both.

Why do we divide our reading material into categories? One reason is that grouping works offers us an orderly way to talk about a bewildering number of books. More importantly, if we can point to a genre we get an idea of what we might expect to read. Bookstores need to know how to group their products; libraries need to know where to shelve like material so it can be more easily found, right?

About genre in literature
Genre is an abstract concept, used to classify and describe other abstract objects, namely written works. And I like this quote from The Muse website: "If you believe that a book is a written work because it's printed on paper, think again; it's only a collection of words, which are symbols. The written work only exists in your mind after you read the book." Genres is also applied to music, painting, film, television, and many other arts—even in video games! For example, in music there are genres of classical, folk, rock, heavy metal, pop, blues, big band, etc.; in fine arts, there are genres of still life, sculpture, portrait, landscape, etc.; and in film, there are genres of documentary, animation, thriller, horror, etc.

In written works, genre can be a confusing concept mostly because books can have a combination of formulas that apply to the different genres. One publisher will promote a book in a certain category in hopes that it will sell better. I’ve even seen libraries and book stores categorize books differently. A reviewer may call a book a category different from another one. Sometimes genre is just a matter of perspective.

These definitions are associated with The Muse's definition of literary genre:

  • A literary theme is the central meaning or dominant idea in a literary work; its single unifying or underlying dominant idea; its motif or recurring idea.
  • A literary subject is the basic idea or thing that is explored by a literary work.
  • A literary technique is the body of specialized procedures and methods used to write a literary work.
  • A literary style is the manner of expression used by a writer, including such things as sentence structure, diction, and tone.
Following is the brief definition of most types of main genres found in literature.

All Fiction

The thriller, spy novels, with lots of chasing and not so much dialog; the kind of stories that often solve international crimes, involve espionage of some kind and are usually technical in description of weapons and escapes. Think James Bond—or my new favorite author, Steven James.

Stories composed in verse or prose, usually for theatrical performance, where conflicts and emotion are expressed through dialogue and action

Narration demonstrating a useful truth, especially in which animals speak as humans; legendary, supernatural tale

Fairy Tale
Story about fairies or other magical creatures, usually for children.

which is often lumped in with Speculative Fiction and Science Fiction, which is different. Edgar Allen Poe was an early speculative fiction writer, as was Jules Verne; Fiction with strange or other worldly settings or characters; fiction which invites suspension of reality

General Fiction
What doesn’t fit into one of these tighter sub-categories, like the works of Jane Hamilton, Jane Smiley, Rebecca Rassmussen
Narrative literary works whose content is produced by the imagination and is not necessarily based on fact

Fiction in Verse
Full-length novels with plot, subplot(s), theme(s), major and minor characters, in which the narrative is presented in (usually blank) verse form

The songs, stories, myths, and proverbs of a people or "folk" as handed down by word of mouth

Product DetailsHistorical Fiction/Buggy Fiction
Story with fictional characters and events in a historical setting. The Deer Run series, written by my friend Elaine Marie Cooper, are such books. She took a family story and wrote a novel based on it. Historical fiction has to have some kind of tie to true events.

Horror/All kinds of “Punk”
Fiction in which events evoke a feeling of dread in both the characters and the reader. Think Stephen King. The horror doesn’t have to be graphic, either – M Night Shaymalan in the Sixth Sense; a “punk” example is Steam Punk, etc, which is historical or contemporary-ish that deals with tools run by steam power

Fiction full of fun, fancy, and excitement, meant to entertain; but can be contained in all genres. Think particularly of Garrison Keillor – the goal is to make ’em laugh.

Story, sometimes of a national or folk hero, which has a basis in fact but also includes imaginative material

which includes many sub-categories, such as the Detective or crime story, and the cozy
Fiction dealing with the solution of a crime or the unraveling of secrets

Legend or traditional narrative, often based in part on historical events, that reveals human behavior and natural phenomena by its symbolism; often pertaining to the actions of the gods. Think Beowulf
Product Details 
New Adult
Often starts with teens who are involved in big events, and grow up, often get married and/or make adult decisions like marriage or having a child. Twilight, Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Jill Williamson’s books

Realistic Fiction
Story that can actually happen and is true to life; Rudyard Kipling, Harper Lee, John Steinbeck

Stories where a relationship is the main theme, and the book ends with either a proposal or a wedding

Science Fiction
Story based on impact of actual, imagined, or potential science, usually set in the future or on other planets. A sub-category of this is fan fiction, or license-based fiction. People who are fans of shows like Star Trek can apply to write sequels or parallel dramas based on those shows.

Short Story
Fiction of such brevity that it supports no subplots.

Tall Tale
Humorous story with blatant exaggerations, swaggering heroes who do the impossible with nonchalance. Think Paul Bunyon, etc.

Youth Fiction
Children’s literature, story and picture books, chapter books and Young Adult, Coming of Age stories. Does not get to the level of New Adult

Not always historical, Westerns feature cowboy stories of one kind or another, ranching, farming, dealing with large animals in usually an American setting, the mountains, pampas, or west of the Mississippi


Narrative of a person's life, a true story about a real person

A short literary composition that reflects the author's outlook or point

Product DetailsNarrative Nonfiction
Factual information presented in a format which tells a story. Think Michael Perry, Population 485, Truck, Coop. Who would think a balding farmer could tell such great stories?

Informational text dealing with an actual, real-life subject. Newspaper or magazine or newsletter articles

Verse and rhythmic writing with imagery that creates emotional responses. Shakespeare falls into several categories, as he wrote his dramas in verse.


Public address or discourse
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Friday, October 24, 2014

Book Review: How to Get a Truckload of Reviews on Amazon

Who wouldn’t love a truckload of reviews? The title, How to Get a Truckload of Reviews on Amazon, immediately drew me in, and that in and of itself is a lesson on how to promote yourself as an author. The book is written by Penny Sansevieri from Author Marketing Experts, Inc. I’ve always appreciated Penny’s take on getting your name out in front of people as an author, and I like that she has the experience in dealing with authors solely as someone who helps promote them.

Reviews and Engagement Matter

Her first point is a great one. Reviews are still important. I often overlook them because they can be such a pain to get, but it’s true that reviews can help or hurt your book. I’ve especially found this as I’ve experimented with different price points and free promotions. A book that others recommend will get snapped up in a free promotion instantly, but one without reviews won’t do as well.

This encouragement should help you put “get reviews” back on your to-do list. And really, sometimes it really as easy as just asking. I know for me personally I don’t do that enough.

Reviews Versus Blog Tours

Penny offered an important distinction, that of asking bloggers for a review versus asking them to be part of your online blog tour. Sometimes we throw that option into our pitch for blog tours (“I can do a guest post, have you do a review, giveaway…”) and really we shouldn’t be so cavalier about this. If we need reviews we need to approach readers and ask for them. Penny’s book offers up several different options for pitching.

Free Listings for Bloggers

The book is very short and does contain a lot of common sense, but just as I was about to chalk it up to being just “okay” I spotted the free list of book bloggers for various genres. Brilliant. This resource alone is valuable and will help authors target the sites they need to connect with readers.

All in all, I think it’s a good book to have, especially when you’re just about to do promotion for a book and you don’t know where to begin. Penny’s advice breaks it down into manageable chunks. 


Cherie Burbach has written for, NBC/Universal,, and more. Visit her website,

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Two Platform Lessons

I've been reflecting recently on my publishing journey, particularly the marketing aspect. Much of my research suggests that you ask for endorsements, and aim pretty high. What could it hurt? I want my message to reach as many folks as possible. So I got brave and asked some pretty big names for endorsements and reviews. I also asked some  lesser known authors and reviewers. Here's what happened.

The famous, high profile authors responded to me within a few days. The answer was "Sorry, no," but I received warm congratulations and well wishes. (Apparently, when you reach a certain pinnacle of success, your name doesn't belong to you anymore, or at least that was the case for one of the authors.) The emails were from assistants. That didn't bother me at all. They responded, and wished me well. The messages might have even been automated, but it didn't seem that way.

The lesser known folks did not respond at all. Now I will concede that there could be many reasons for that, like not having an assistant. This is not a rant or criticism, but it just illustrates a point. Who do you think I'm still a huge fan of, and who do you think not so much? The response I received solidified the message of the authors who responded. The lack of response caused me to lose a little faith in the message of those that completely ignored me.  Let it be noted that everyone with whom I have a relationship, whether multi-published or not, online or in person, said Yes!.

So the lessons I've learned in this journey so far are:

1. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

2. Relationship - build relationships with people who need your message and/or who can help get your message out there.  

How do you build relationships with your readers?
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Friday, October 17, 2014

Friday Book Review: My Father's Keep, by Ed Abell

Review of My Father’s Keep by Ed Abell

Create Space, Jan 2014
ISBN: 9781494367381
Ebook 4.49
Pbook 10.16
My Father's Keep: A Journey of Forgiveness Through the Himalaya

Buy the book  - Amazon
An Inspiring Journey of Forgiveness and Promise-Keeping

At once a trek to the highest peak on Earth and the deepest place of the heart, My Father’s Keep captures the experience that all adult children share: the pain and suffering of growing up in the chaos of alcoholism and the dogged belief that they can—and must—somehow save their afflicted parents from their torment. As that child, Ed Abell vows that one day he and his father will see the Himalaya together—a vow he kept twelve years after his father’s death.

My Father’s Keep is a story of hope for healing of our most complicated family relationships through understanding, compassion, and forgiveness, peace for ourselves despite our inability to save our loved ones from the ravages of addiction, and strength for the arduous yet enriching journey.

My review:
There is so much more work involved in forgiveness than simply saying the words. 

Acceptance is a part of forgiveness that involves empathy, but to truly understand you must experience and survive the experiences that necessitates the forgiveness. Abell shares this gift of forgiveness through an incredible journey that is both a loving tribute and a triumph of a gift to memory. 

This short book packs a full trip from childhood through marriage and family to the time when the author is finally ready to attempt a journey of laying his father's ashes to rest in a "place the Sirens could not win." A huge part of forgiveness also involves recognizing and savoring the good times with the bad of a lifetime of abuse--in this case, alcoholism--which colored the author's world. Although offering understanding, love, and forgiveness to his father while still alive, Abell never gave up believing he could put his father's ghosts to rest. This book is that journey.  

I applaud the author's beautiful, intelligent story of vulnerability and sacrifice. My Father's Keep is part memoir, part tribute, part caution to those of us who struggle to escape the effects of addiction. Abell says it well: love is action.
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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

C. Hope Clark, "Secondary Characters Have a Primary Role"

My favorite characters are the secondary ones, often considered the sidekicks. When I wrote the first chapter in my first mystery, my focus honed in on the good guy and the bad guy. Everyone else was dispensable, flexible, even optional, but wow, over the years I’ve come to my senses. Secondary characters make a book. Without them, all you have is the good guy and the bad guy, and gracious, how bland is that?

Imagine the family on Christmas Day, all gathered around the tree, or maybe the dinner table. The patriarch is evident, as is the matriarch. The clown and the wallflower. The good seed, and the bad. Young, old, single, married, recently divorced. Tall, short, obese and painfully thin. The well-dressed, the tacky, and the blah. Don’t forget the dog under the table and the baby feeding him.

Who is the main character?

Frankly, any one could be the protagonist. Anyone could be the antagonist. So what does that make the other characters? Secondary.

Let’s make the matriarch the main character in this emotionally intense setting. She’s responsible for the feast, and keeping order in the kitchen, decorating the table, and attempting to preserve peace amongst the family members. She has a secret. One of the others knows the secret. All she wants is to get through this day without the secret getting out.

Imagine how boring this story would be if there were no secondary characters. No matter how big and profound, intelligent and logical, or even tender and empathetic you make the matriarch, she’s nothing without the actions of the secondary players around her. And the more extreme you make these players, the more you develop her. Why? Because she’s nothing in a room by herself, or worse, in a room full of faceless, emotionless people.

Ideas on making the most of your secondary characters:

  1. Give them characteristics your protagonist/antagonist doesn’t have.
  2. Make them throw a monkey wrench into a scene.
  3. Give them behavioral quirks.
  4. Make them interfere into your protagonist’s/antagonist’s business.
  5. Paint them colorful, even over the top.
  6. Make them the conduit between important parts of the story.
  7. Insert them to screw up when the protagonist/antagonist thinks she’s gaining ground.
  8. Endow them with talents the protagonist/antagonist needs.
  9. Let them provide comic relief.
  10. Allow them to be politically incorrect (something your protagonist can’t often do).
  11. Make their actions or inactions serve to underline your protagonist’s/antagonist’s choices.
  12. Have their personality clash with your main character, pushing your main character to raise his performance.
  13. Use them to tap a main character’s conscience.
  14. Let them emphasize the main character’s problems instead of the main player having to shout about it.

Your protagonist and antagonist feed off the secondaries. You have less conflict and less emotion when the story is totally in the hands of your two main characters, instead of strewn across the backs of an assortment of others, giving the reader a more complicated tale. In essence, secondaries make the story louder, deeper, funnier, more intense, more layered and exciting. They’re a great tool to help you mold your plot, and embellish your main players.

Some argue that the secondary players cannot have characteristics that outshine the protagonist. That’s true, assuming you’re giving the secondary equal stage time. There’s nothing wrong with your secondary being eccentric, brilliant, or flashy as long as he’s not appearing so much he detracts. You want such flavor in your writing, but like in a good Italian dish, the garlic cannot overpower the taste. But stop and imagine such a dish without it.

BIO: C. Hope Clark's newest mystery release is Murderon Edisto, the first in The Edisto Island Mysteries. She is also known for the award-winning Carolina Slade Mysteries, and for her work as editor of, chosen by Writer’s Digest for its 101 Best Websites for Writers for the past 14 years. /

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