The Journal, Friday, November 30

Hey Folks,

Last day of the month already! In November! In 2018! What in the world happened? How is it not still the 1980s?

Okay, long post today. But I think you’ll find it interesting.

My new favorite quote: “Stages of development’ are for people who write one book a year.” — Robert J. Randisi (who is one year older than I and has written over 600 novels).

Topic: Genre Structure

Recently my first reader made a few recommendations that, had I applied them, would have switched the first two genre tags of my novel Consequences. The genre tags are Action-Adventure (War) and Romantic Suspense.

The relationship between the two protagonists (male and female) figure large in the story, but that relationship and those characters are not the primary focus. And that’s the difference.

Her questions prompted me to write this post. So thanks to her for that. (grin)

I won’t touch on all the genres in this topic. Dean Wesley Smith does that in a six-week online seminar titled “Genre Structure.” I recommend it.

All fiction books have in common the same four elements: Story (plot, including conflict and resolution), Character, Setting and Pacing. (For my definition of Pacing, see

These elements are more or less important depending on the genre. That relative importance speaks directly to what readers expect when they select a book in a particular genre.

I’ll talk about Romance first because it’s easily the largest genre out there. I don’t write it personally, though many of my books have a romantic element. And then I’ll talk about the genres I do write.

In Romance, the all-important focus is on the Character, specifically the protagonists.

Setting and Story are secondary. The description of the setting goes deep only when the lovers are together. Every conflict serves only to frustrate them and keep them apart, something for them to strive against as they try to get together.

Typically there is a meet-cute early in the story, where two people meet and are attracted to each other. After that, everything that happens is a stumbling block that keeps them from getting together.

The action in a Romance is slower, reflected in the Pacing, which is indicated with a sprinkling of longer and shorter paragraphs. The scenes are not necessarily intense (shorter paragraphs) unless one or the other is in danger.

The resolution is always the two getting together and living happily ever-after.

In Action-Adventure, though there may be a romantic element, Story (conflict, then setting) is the focus.

Even if there is a relationship between the two main characters (as in Consequences), they’re already together and sharing in the adventure. The conflict is something they must overcome together, not something they must overcome so they can be together.

The pacing is slower when they aren’t involved in a conflict. It’s faster when they’re in conflict, whether emotional conflict between the characters or physical conflict in the midst of action.

The resolution is the successful completion of the overall mission. Then, at least in a series, the characters move on to the next big conflict, still together but working as a team. (This is the same even if there’s only one “lone-wolf” protagonist and no romantic element.)

In Mystery (the second largest overall genre), the main focus is shared between Story (the mystery to be solved) and the Character(s) who will solve it. (In the Cozy Mystery, the characters take on a stronger role and are more slowly and fully developed.)

It’s important that the readers root for the protagonist(s), but slightly more important that he, she or they solve the mystery.

The pacing overall is faster because the spectre of the unsolved mystery overshadows everything. (In the Cozy, the pacing is usually very slow through the first chapter or two, the first 2000 to 3000 words, as the reader gets to know and like the protagonist[s]. Then everything kicks into gear.)

The resolution is almost always upbeat and involves the unforeseen solution to the mystery.

In Science Fiction or Science Fantasy (and Westerns), Setting takes center stage and is the focus.

I should also mention that SF is the dominant genre. By that I mean if your story has an element of SF, the main genre is automatically SF. (Per Robert Heinlien, in Science Fiction, you have to follow the laws of physics. In Science Fantasy, those laws may be set aside.)

Character and conflict are important in SF but they still take a second seat to setting. After all, every story in every genre (even in technology-laden “hard” science fiction) is not about the science but how the characters react to the science (setting and the conflict).

Pacing depends on what’s happening. Faster in action/danger scenes. Most often, the resolution in SF is upbeat.

In Crime fiction (often but not always presented from the antagonist’s POV), Setting and Story (the crime itself) take center stage. Character is secondary. Pacing is generally fast. The resolution is almost always upbeat and involves the unforeseen solution to the crime.

Police Procedural bears a close resemblance to Mystery and Crime, but the focus is shared between the mystery or crime to be solved and the actual procedures (in detail) the character uses to solve the mystery or crime. Don’t write these unless you or your first reader knows real-life police procedures. Pacing slows when you’re describing police procedures, but readers of these lean-in. Again, the resolution is almost always upbeat.

In Noir PI or Detective stories, the tone is mostly dark (duh, it’s noir) and the pacing is generally fast. Character and Setting share center stage. The PI has to be a guy or gal who’s barely hanging on financially and hoping for his or her next big case. “Big” often means a lucrative payday, the proceeds of which never last as long as they should. The pacing is mostly fast. The resolution is typically upbeat, but still with the sense (in a series) that the PI might lose his/her office and be put out on the street if the next big case doesn’t come along.

The Detective, because he works for some level of the government, has it a little easier where finances are concerned. This can contain elements of the police procedural, but not so deeply described. The Detective in Noir is often not only trying to solve a case, but fighting corruption in the government he serves (for example, the police commissioner is “dirty”). Often, the corruption is tied directly to the case the detective is working on. The pacing is generally fast and the resolution is almost always upbeat.

In the Thriller, Story and Character are the focus. Setting is secondary.

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, the Thriller is a roller-coaster ride, with rising action to a climactic event. During the rising action and the event, the pacing will be faster with shorter paragraphs to drag the reader through that part of the story at almost breakneck speed.

Then comes a terse drop-off (usually a cliffhanger at the end of a scene) to a period of calm (inhabited by longer paragraphs), then more rising action to another climactic event, followed by another drop-off, etc.

The pacing is generally fast, with long periods when the reader will have trouble catching his breath. The resolution, again, is almost always upbeat, often with the character (in a series) heading off to the next adventure.

Overall, as I mentioned the other day, all fiction has periods of tension where you want the reader to fly through the paragraphs, and periods of “rest” where the reader is forced by the sentence and paragraph lengths to slow down and catch his or her breath. What differentiates the pacing among different genres is how much is fast and how much is slow.

As to pacing, in the faster-paced genres (thriller, mystery, crime, etc.) chapters are also short, often between 800 and 1200 words. In other words, one major scene per chapter. By contrast, in “literary” fiction, including magic realism, chapters (and paragraphs) are often longer unless something exciting is going on. In literary fiction, the language (voice) matters more than even Story, which unfolds more slowly than in the commercial genres.

I hope this helps.

I’ve mentioned before that my WIP is a truly twisted mystery/police procedural. It’s chock full of things to investigate and minuscule clues and bits of evidence. And more keep cropping up. Detail, detail, detail. And a lot of psychology.

I had a long writing day today, but also a very slow writing day. Just as I finished typing a sentence, I realized something wasn’t quite right. I reread it a few times and finally realized what it was.

So I checked my reverse outline, then spent the next few hours moving around in the novel (cycling) adding a bit here and taking out a bit there to make everything right again.

Of course, while I was doing that, I found a few other small glitches, but glitches that might loom large for a reader.

So it took some time, but without the reverse outline it would have taken a LOT longer. And I might not have caught all of the glitches at all.

So only around a thousand new words today, though the story is considerably more cohesive. Man, I hope it’s a long time (or never) before I write another story with as many twists and turns as this one. (grin)

Talk with you again tomorrow.

Of Interest

See “CS Gas and Crying Cops” at I can vouch, loudly, for this one.

If you’re into pulp, see “What I’m Reading — Robert Randisi” at

See “Fantastic Offer!” at

Fiction Words: 1054
Nonfiction Words: 1580 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 2634

Writing of Dread (novel, tentative title)

Day 10… 2798 words. Total words to date…… 30745
Day 11… 1738 words. Total words to date…… 32483
Day 12… 1054 words. Total words to date…… 33537

Total fiction words for the month……… 80153
Total fiction words for the year………… 458683
Total nonfiction words for the month… 20580
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 171686
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 630119

Calendar Year 2018 Novels to Date………………………… 9
Calenday Year 2018 Novellas to Date…………………… 3
Calendar Year 2018 Short Stories to Date……… 11
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)………………………………………… 35
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)……………………………………… 7
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)……………………… 193
Short story collections…………………………………………………… 31

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