This is the second in a series of blog posts about how to turn your life into fiction. Today’s post is about the genre of your story.
I’ve talked extensively about how to turn your life into fiction in blog posts and seminars. I’ve even written a book about it! Last Tuesday, I was a guest on a Twitter chat with the Alliance of Independent Authors on the subject. (Find it using the hashtag, #IndieAuthorChat)
My fiction series, The Nordic Heart, is largely based on my life story. Well, certainly the first two books in the series are. I began writing the first book, The English Heart, as a series of blog posts. I described how I met and fell head over heels in love with a Navy Officer at the British Embassy in Helsinki. Eventually, that story became my first published book.
The main inspiration for the second novel in the series, The Faithful Heart, was my diary from when I first moved to the UK.
In addition to these books, the novel I wrote during an MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, Coffee and Vodka, is also based on my experiences as a young girl moving with my family from Finland to Sweden.
As you can see, I’ve used my life as an inspiration for many of my books. To me, it’s good to “write out” the most important “scenes” in your life. Writing something that you know intimately about also gives your work authenticity. Of course, you can sometimes be too close to the events and emotions. This is why it’s important to treat writing about your life as you would any creative writing project.
You are writing a story, but it just happens to be your story.
What is the story you want to tell?
In order for your readers to know what type of story they are going to find inside the covers of your book, you need to know what genre your story falls into.
It may seem obvious what the story you want to tell is. But you might be surprised how many people think they know what they want to write about, but when it comes to it, all their thoughts are jumbled up and they can’t decide where to start or how to proceed.
So I suggest you start with determining what kind of story it is you want to tell.
It’s important from the very start you know what genre your book falls into.
Romance, Drama or a Spy Thriller?
When I was writing The English Heart, I did know that central to the story was the love affair between myself and my Englishman. But there were so many other issues (plot lines) involved in the tale.
We met during the Cold War in a country friendly with the Soviet Union. He was a newly qualified Naval Officer, who’d been warned about Russian honey traps. I was engaged to be married.
Was my story going to be a romance, a drama or perhaps even a spy thriller?
I soon realized I really had no choice but to go with romance.
The romance genre, like all genres, has its own rules. The story centres on the love story, the characters and their feelings. For the most part, romance novels end happily ever after, after some major difficulties have been overcome by the protagonists. The pace of the story isn’t as fast as it is in, say, a thriller.
My story fitted perfectly for the romance genre, because, dear reader, I married him.
Why Are You Writing the Story?
I knew from the beginning that I wanted to write my story as a love letter to my husband. This was another reason why I chose romance as my genre.
In order to determine what the genre of your book is going to be, think about why you are writing the story. Or who are you writing the story for? If, for example, you want to write your life story to thank your mother, father or siblings for their role in bringing you up and making you achieve your goals in life, your story will most probably be a family drama.
If, however, your story is a struggle against all odds, with some fast-paced scenes, perhaps a police chase in a foreign country, you should think about writing your story as a thriller.
Your motivation to write helps to determine the genre of the novel.
What Do You Want to Write?
What kind of story do you want to write? Or, even, what kind of books do you enjoy reading? I’d love to write Nordic Noir thrillers, but every time I try to write one, it turns into something else. I love reading romance books too, as long as they are not too sugar-coated. 😉
My very favourite stories are “mashup” novels, similar to the film (and subsequent TV series) Fargo. Authors who have stretched the romance genre into more “Fargoesk” genre are Liane Moriarty and Elin Hilderbrand. These are the authors that inspire my writing.
So, even before writing a word, look at the kind of novels and authors you read, and think what genre they fall into. Then think if your story would fall into that category, taking into account the points about what kind of story it is and why you want to write it.
Your preferred reading will guide your choice of genre.
If you’d like to find out more about how to determine the genre of your manuscript, I wrote a post about it here.