What is the definition of Genre?
Genre is a label that tells audience members what to expect from our stories.
It is a clear framework to catalog all stories and helps writers give audience members what they are hoping for—and more. The genres of writing choices are the most important ones we need to make.
When people use the term genre, they often refer to different story elements at different times. They might mean the content of the story, the medium through which the story is presented, or even its sales category.
Without clear definitions, these labels don’t help us deliver what readers want when they choose to read, watch, or listen to a particular story.
In the Story Grid Universe, we break genre into five clear categories to help us identify, meet, and innovate story requirements. Understanding genre helps us delight audiences by meeting their expectations in unexpected ways.
Genre Categories: Introducing the Story Grid Genre 5-Leaf Clover
The Story Grid Genre 5-Leaf Clover is the tool we use to define the genres of writing in our stories. Each of the five leaves helps us determine a different element of a story’s experience. It helps to think of the five categories visually, so we present them as a five-leaf clover.
The goal of the Genre Five-Leaf Clover is to help us think about how each element or leaf comes together to form the global story. We can check our stories to make sure we are using the best combination possible to deliver a satisfying story experience.
By defining the specific genres and their conventions, we can start to look for each element within masterworks and study to understand ways of meeting these expectations within our own stories.
1. What is the Time Genre?
The TIME GENRE indicates how the reader experiences the time it takes to go from the beginning to the end of our stories. It answers how long the story will take to consume.
There are three categories of the Time Genre our stories can fall into: Short, Medium, and Long form.
2. What is the Structure Genre?
There are three categories of the Structure Genre our stories can fall into: Archplot, Miniplot, and Antiplot.
3. What is the Style Genre?
The STYLE GENRE sets the tone for what the audience will experience during the story. It puts constraints on what we include in the story to keep a consistent feel so the audience does not get confused.
This genre leaf is divided into two broad categories and several mediums. The broad categories are Drama and Comedy. The mediums include Documentary, Musical, Dance, Literary, Theatrical, Cinematic, Epistolary, and Animation.
4. What is the Reality Genre?
The REALITY GENRE constrains the way the ALTERNATE WORLD of our story operates by establishing codes, laws, and norms. It dictates how much readers must suspend disbelief when building the worlds of our stories in their minds.
There are four categories of the Reality Genre our stories can fall into: Absurdism, Factualism, Realism, and Fantasy.
5. What is the Content Genre?
The CONTENT GENRE defines what is contained in a story and specifically determines the need and VALUE at stake. It sets expectations for the reader using the FOUR CORE FRAMEWORK, CONVENTIONS, and OBLIGATORY MOMENTS. The Content Genre is divided into two sections: external and internal.
The external content genres of writing are:
An external story in the Action genre focuses on the protagonist’s sacrifice for positive movement along the death / life VALUE spectrum while generating feelings of excitement in the reader.
In Action stories, readers see the lengths the protagonist will go to protect themselves and/or other potential victims.
An external story in the War genre focuses on the self-actualization of the protagonist through the expression of the gifts of love and self-sacrifice. Each AVATAR can act heroically by defending fellow warriors honorably in the face of horrific pain and loss.
An external story in the Horror genre focuses on the ability of a protagonist to self-actualize through the expression of the gift of courage and selflessness in the face of fear. The Horror genre pits a single victim (even though there may be multiple AVATARS) against impossible odds and a supernatural, scientifically explainable or ambiguous monster possessed by evil and intent on annihilation.
An external story in the Crime genre focuses on the Justice / Injustice spectrum while generating feelings in the reader of intrigue (solving the puzzle) and security or personal safety when the perpetrator is exposed.
An external story in the Thriller genre focuses on the protagonist’s need for safety. This leads the reader to identify with the protagonist, who seeks to defeat an antagonist that personifies evil.
Thriller stories blend elements of three other genres as the powerful individual protagonist from the ACTION genre faces the embodiment of evil (the monster) from the HORROR genre in a story about unmasking an antagonist who has committed a crime against society, as in the CRIME genre. The protagonist ends up as a victim and faces damnation if they fail to identify and defeat the villain.
An external story in the Western or Eastern genres focuses on the conflict between the individual and society. It turns on the subjugation / freedom spectrum while generating feelings of intrigue in the reader.
An external story in the Love genre focuses on the need for connection in a variety of forms, including desire, commitment, and intimacy, allowing readers to identify with the lovers as protagonists and respond to the fulfillment of the couple’s fate on the hate-love spectrum with a feeling of romance.
An external story in the Performance genre focuses on the outward expression of the protagonist’s internal gifts and need for approval. It turns on the shame / respectspectrum while generating feelings of triumph in the reader.
An external story in the Society genre focuses the protagonist’s need for recognition in a disenfranchised group. It turns on the impotence / power spectrum while generating feelings of triumph or righteous indignation depending on whether the Revolution succeeds or fails.
The internal content genres of writing are:
An internal story in the Status genre focuses on the protagonist’s need for respect. These stories turn on the failure / success spectrum while generating feelings of admiration or pity in the reader, depending on the outcome.
An internal story in the Morality genre focuses on the choice to act on behalf of ourselves or others and the consequences of that choice. It turns on the selfishness / altruism spectrum while providing feelings in the reader of satisfaction or contempt.
An internal story, Worldview genres focus on the lens through which we view the world and the consequences of those lens choices. It turns on the naivete/sophistication spectrum, while providing readers with feelings of relief at the protagonist’s emerging whole from a threat to their internal status quo, or pity for a less fortunate avatar.
Additional Resources for Genres of Writing:
- Story Grid 101: The First Five Principles of the Story Grid Methodology by Shawn Coyne
- The Four Core Framework: Needs, Life Values, Emotions and Events in Storytelling by Shawn Coyne
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