Posted in creative writing, writing, writing advice, writing tips

Meeting reader expectations

read-515531_1920I’ve been working for a ghostwriting company on the side, doing writer engagement and training, and recently we discussed genre conventions and what readers expect from particular genres. It was a good experience to research the genres we work with, and I wanted to share what I found.

Below are some basic expectations, but I’d love readers to add to this list and/or discuss why these are important to meet when writing.

Religious/Spiritual

  • Focus on an inspirational theme
  • Underlying religious lessons or ethics
  • Encourage spiritual growth
  • Convey lessons about home/family, relationship, faith
  • References to God/God’s plan – few references to Jesus Christ
  • Lack of explicit sexuality – focus on emotion/relationship
  • Moral values, traditional roles
  • More defined framing of gender/gender and femininity/masculinity
  • Character(s) have strong religious convictions, or do by the end
  • Very light or no sexual content

Paranormal/Fantasy

  • Fully developed, realistic-ish world
  • Well-develop creatures that either follow mythology/folklore or are completely new
  • Well-develop system or magic/abilities that either follow mythology/folklore or are completely new
  • An epic journey – actual or self-discovery
  • Unexpected hero/villain dynamic
  • Use of archetypes
  • Romantic relationship with non-human/supernatural beings common

New/Young Adult

  • Unique voice/narration – often goes along with first person perspective
  • Character is in the correct age group (12-18 YA; 18-25 NA)
  • More simplistic prose
  • “Firsts” subject matter/Coming of Age
  • Tough subjects
  • Happy For Now (HFN) endings more common
  • Emotional development themes
  • Focus on the personal rather than the outside world
  • Parents are often absent, MC relies on friends for support

Hands Holding Hearts

Contemporary romance

  • Love is central to the plot, but lust can be the spark
  • Characters overcome problems, HEA ending
  • Full relationship arc – emotional develop is central
  • Modern setting and language
  • Realistic scenarios and outcomes
  • Developed romantic backgrounds
  • Realistic conflict
  • Secondary storylines used
  • Use of “sounding board” characters

Clean romance

  • Sexuality/romance is PG-rated or less
  • Focus is on emotional develop in relationship
  • Little to no sexual overtly thoughts
  • Little to no swearing/cursing
  • Usually no non-realistic elements
  • Usually limited to heterosexual relationships
  • Off-camera sexual encounters debatable
  • Focus on love not lust

Historical romance

  • Details are accurate to the time period
  • Time period is integral to the story
  • Gender roles very important
  • Focus on societal ideals/mores of the time on how it impacts the story
  • Theme is interpreted through the lens of the time period
  • Plot/conflict makes sense for the time period
  • Romantic interactions follow the time period social rules, for the most part

Erotica

  • Sex is central to the plot
  • Romance/relationship development is still important
  • Dynamic characters are a must
  • Typically told from the female’s POV, but not always
  • Graphic descriptions
  • Multiple (more than 2) sex scenes
  • Use of foreplay – descriptive
  • Tension runs throughout the full story
  • Unique tropes not typically covered in other subgenres (menage, BDSM, alphas, etc.)
  • There’s still a line not to cross – rape, incest, abuse, etc.
  • HFN or HEA ending

Romantic suspense

  • Suspense is secondary or equal to romance
  • Source of suspense is resolved by the end
  • Fast-paced plot, high action
  • Source of suspense jeopardizes the romance
  • Realistic details in a modern setting
  • Suspense/danger draws characters together
  • Characters are equally matched, or close to
  • Characters have a believable motivation to be involved in the suspense

Feel free to share any additional genre expectations!

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