Know Your Genre and Characters

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 Know Your Genre and Characters (Transform Your Novel with These 7 Editing Tips for Bestselling Success, part 3 of 4) – How To Write the Future podcast, episode 93

“Take the expectations of the genre and spin it. That’s our job, is to take what’s expected and play around and work through multiple iterations.”

Know Your Genre and Characters. In episode 93 of the How To Write the Future podcast, host Beth Barany explains the importance of knowing your genre, shares about reader expectations and tropes, and about bringing in your uniqueness. There’s also a special invitation to work one-on-one with Beth or sign up for her mastermind group. (Part 3 of 4: Transform Your Novel with These 7 Editing Tips for Bestselling Success)

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About the How To Write the Future podcast 

The *How To Write The Future* podcast is for science fiction and fantasy writers who want to write positive futures and successfully bring those stories out into the marketplace. Hosted by Beth Barany, science fiction novelist and creativity coach for writers. We cover tips for fiction writers. This podcast is for readers too if you’re at all curious about the future of humanity.

This podcast is for you if you have questions like:

– How do I create a believable world for my science fiction story?

– How do figure what’s not working if my story feels flat?

– How do I make my story more interesting and alive?

This podcast is for readers too if you’re at all curious about the future of humanity.

Transcript for Know Your Genre and Characters, part 3 of 4 

Hey everyone. Welcome back or welcome to my podcast. I’m Beth Barany your host for How To Write The Future, a podcast for science fiction and fantasy writers to help you write positive, optimistic futures. Because when we vision through our stories and for ourselves, we actually help make it so.

Welcome back to episode three of this limited series. I am helping you focus on how to transform your novel with these seven editing tips for best-selling success.

Be sure to listen back to the two episodes so you can catch up.

Alright, today, we’re going to talk about knowing your genre and knowing your character.

Start with Genre 

So genre.

Now I am a science fiction and fantasy writer and a writing teacher and a creativity coach. So I spent a lot of time thinking about the genre I write in, and actually, I write cross-genre. I write science fiction and mysteries right now. And previously I wrote paranormal romance, which is bringing paranormal with romance. And I’ve also written and I’m currently working on a project based on my young adult action-adventure series, Henrietta The Dragon Slayer, I’m working on a film, and details about that will be in the show notes.

So today I want to share with you about the importance of knowing your genre.

Now, if you’re not a science fiction or fantasy writer, and you’ll listen to this, all this applies to you as well.

So let’s talk about reader expectations, tropes, the importance of surprising us, and the importance of bringing in your unique your uniqueness.

What are reader expectations? And what is genre? 

So what are reader expectations?

Let me back up a step and talk about what is genre.

So Shawn Coyne says that genre is all about reader expectations and reader expectations are often based on these elements of story.

Elements of Story 

What elements?

They’re based on what we expect to happen in the beginning and the middle and in the end.

They are based on the kinds of characters we expect to be in the story.

When I say tropes, tropes can encompass all of these elements: what’s happening, who it’s happening to, where it’s happening.

So for example, if I said to you this story takes place in a haunted house. Right away we already have lots and lots and lots of associations with haunted houses.

The way they’ve shown up in TV and film, the way they’ve shown up in other people’s novels.

All of that, all those expectations, we work with those in fiction and storytelling.

And then we want to surprise the reader. We want to do something new with them.

Maybe you are focused on drama or family saga.

Maybe you’re writing romance. And you want to bring that into your science fiction. I know a lot of people write science fiction romance.

Maybe you are bringing in comedy to your science fiction.

I have really been enjoying reading some comedic science fiction.

Or like me, you’re bringing mystery into your science fiction. And I’m using mystery as my main plot structure, like the spine upon which everything is going.

My main character is an investigator.

And then I’m also bringing in drama. I’m bringing in women’s fiction.

And when I say these words, I have some ideas about what is going to happen at the beginning, middle, and end; the kind of characters that populate those types of stories.

For example, let’s do another example.

My favorite example is mystery since I spent a lot of time with that. Think about the kinds of characters we expect and mysteries. We expect the detective or the amateur investigator. We expect usually some kind of sidekick or friends. We expect an antagonist, villain of some kind. Now I write murder mysteries.

So we have the murderer and we have the victims.

Also, the kinds of story elements are going to be in there are red herrings, clues that lead nowhere, clues the detective doesn’t know- the investigator. She doesn’t know whether or not these are legitimate clues or not until she follows them. So I’m bringing in some thriller elements.

One of the things that thrillers have is some kind of race or you’re running from the antagonist or you’re running after the antagonist. So it’s this aspect of chase. There’s also a countdown clock. That’s what I was thinking of. Some kind of ticking, ticking time bomb of some kind. Something has to happen by a certain time or else. And the stakes are high.

So those are some of the reader expectations and tropes to think about, that I think about.

Now, I would encourage you to really think about the reader expectations and tropes in your expected genre or subgenre, or maybe you’re doing a genre mashup, and you’re bringing together, I don’t know, cowboys, comedy, and space. Firefly for example, but you’re putting your own spin on it. And you’re making it be… maybe the captain is a woman. And instead of running from the law, maybe she’s racing to bring a message. Maybe she’s some kind of messenger. I just made that up on the spot.

And her job is to ferry precious messages across the stars, and then along the way it gets into scrapes and ends up helping people and becoming a problem solver.

So not really a detective story at all. Now surprise us. Bring in the things that you love, the things that you geek about, the things that you spend a lot of your free time delving into, researching.

And take the, the expectations of the genre and spin it.

That’s our job, is to take what’s expected and play around and work through multiple iterations.

Ways to Brainstorm and Play with Genre Expectations 

Make a list of 20. Make a list of 60. Come up with lots and lots of ideas there until you surprise yourself and surprise the reader.

And then bring your own voice, your own mission, your own agenda: why you’re doing this, what you’re trying to say. And bring that into your stories.

So that’s Know Your Genre.

Now I want to say a few words about knowing your characters.

Know Your Character’s Goal, Motivation (Their Why), and Conflicts, and more… 

All right. Let’s do it.

Goal: Know your character’s goal and what needs to change to reach it.

Know why your character wants what they want.

Know what is in the way of your characters getting what they want. That’s the conflict.

And they’re going to have external conflicts and internal conflicts.

Know their strengths.

Know their secrets so important.

Know they’re turning point backstory. How are they the way they are on page one?

Know their worldview. This is how they view the world. and this is also their belief structure.

Know what they believe at the beginning. And know belief in them needs to change so they can face the big conflict in your story.

And then know the externalities. Know their habits: their mannerisms; what they like to wear; their environment; where they live and how they feel about where they are.

Knowing your character is critical. When people are editing their novels, this is often where I find when I look at their work, they don’t know their characters as well as they think they do. And they need to go back to the drawing board and put in more details and write more backstory and really revisit their character. And I do the same.

A Special Invitation 

So my special invitation for you is if you would like to do this in the company of others, and you’re a science fiction and fantasy writer, and you’ve finished your first draft, which is, oh my God, congratulations.

Then come and join us for our 12-month group mastermind program. We have three places left at the time of this recording.

Come unleashed your story’s potential. Transform your draft into a publish-ready masterpiece. In our 12-month group mastermind program, we teach and coach you to develop a discerning eye so that you can do story edits and line edits on your own story.

And we also help you prepare for marketing and publishing.

What would life be like if we had no courage to attempt anything?” Vincent van Gogh said that.

We need courage to be our creative selves. We also need curiosity, courage, or I already said that, courage again, compassion, and connection because I believe that creativity is our superpower. With the power of the imagination, we can create whole worlds.

We can also recreate, reinvision, what we would like as a human species. That is my biggest mission.

So here’s my special offer invitation to you.

If you are curious about joining us in this 12-month group mastermind program and we’d like to work with me and my husband, who is my cohort on this, who’s a thriller writer, then please come join us. We would love to have you.

How to sign up is in the description.

And, also if you’re not sure, reach out with an email or just sign up to have a conversation with me and information on how to do that is in the show notes.

Stay Tuned for Next Week for Part 4 

All right, everyone. That’s it for this week.

Stay tuned till next week. We’ll have one more episode on editing tips in the limited series.

Please like, and subscribe wherever you listen to this podcast, or watch it cause it’s also on YouTube. And please, if you are so moved, please share it with your friend or friends who you know this would be really useful for them. All right. That’s it for this week.

Thank you everyone for listening.

Write long and prosper.

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Image of Beth Barany

Beth Barany teaches science fiction and fantasy novelists how to write, edit, and publish their books as a coach, teacher, consultant, and developmental editor. She’s an award-winning fantasy and science fiction novelist and runs the podcast, “How To Write The Future.”


Learn more about Beth Barany at these sites: 


Author siteCoaching site / School of Fiction / Writer’s Fun Zone blog



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