The Six Elemental by Ali House

Tips for Writing Different Genres

Last week Engen announced their next anthology – Dystopia From the Rock. This genre isn’t as widely known as their previous anthologies (I know I did a double-take), but don’t fear!  If you’ve never written dystopian before, you’ve got until October 31 to learn how!

Today I’ll be offering some tips on how I write strange-to-me genres. Although I mostly stick to Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and Fiction, I’m not against branching out.  If I have an idea for a story, I’ll chase it wherever it’ll take me.

What follows are some of the steps I take to get myself into the mind-set of a new genre (and that I will surely be using when I try to write something dystopian):


Step #1: Learn what the genre is.

Before you can write in a genre you first need to know what it is. Look it up and find out what makes it special. Once you know the key elements, you’ll know what your story needs in order to be considered that genre.

For example: Wikipedia says “A dystopia is a community or society that is undesirable or frightening”, and “Dystopias are often characterized by dehumanization, totalitarian governments, environmental disaster, or other characteristics associated with a cataclysmic decline in society.”  Thanks to those sentences you’ve got 2 moods and 4 settings to use as a leaping off point.

Also, if you’re thinking of putting a twist on it, you first need to know what to twist.


Step #2: Look at examples of central themes and common elements and characters.

Once you’re done looking up the genre, it’s time to seek out some of the common themes and figure out which one(s) you want to use – or if you want to throw out those themes all together and create your own. If you’re stuck for story ideas, this may help you come up with characters or a setting or a plot point.

This helped me immensely when I tried to write Gothic Fiction. There are quite a few elements in those stories, and a lot of character types.  Some genres are looser than others, but it’s always good to have an idea of what you might need.


Step #3: Read some books.

What could be a better way to familiarize yourself with something than by actually reading works in that genre?  Some genres have a style that you might want to mimic or use as a stepping off point.  I also find that reading good stories inspires me to write good stories.

So go online and search for some famous novels or stories in the genre.  And while you’re reading, figure out what keeps you interested and what you’d like to see in a story.

And if the books are too long, find a good movie adaptation and pop some popcorn.


Step #4: Create an atmosphere with music!

It’s funny that it’s me mentioning this, since my musical tastes are varied and questionable (I’ve literally chased people away with my musical tastes).  But the music I like to listen to usually evokes emotions, and can help strengthen emotions for particular scenes/stories.  I’ve been known to put a song on repeat while working on a particular chapter/scene.

So if you’re still having trouble getting in the “mood”, try listening songs that reflect the genre. Make a playlist and play it while you’re writing or before you start, and hopefully that’ll help set the tone you’re looking for.


And those are my tips!  If you have any tips for writing new genres that I’ve not mentioned, add them below!


2 thoughts on “Tips for Writing Different Genres”

  1. One thing I’d add – while reading in the genre is definitely a good idea, famous “classics” may not be the best stories to use as models. Genres change over the years, and if you try to write a romance based on Jane Austen, or a SF story based on H.G. Wells, it may be a hard sell. Look at popular recent stories.
    Also (not so relevant at Engen, I suspect – they seem pretty democratic): Rank Hath Its Privileges. A well-known writer can spend 10,000 words telling what is structurally a short story; and the editor will probably let them use a slow start if that’s what the story needs. Less well known writers are wisely advised to keep it short and push the hook up front!
    For both these reasons, “well, X did it and that story’s famous” is a dangerous rationale.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Another method to get into the “mood” with the Dystopia, or come up with story ideas, look to humanities history. After wars, natural disasters, famine, etc… society often goes through a short period of turmoil had can provide mental fodder for story ideas.

    For example, when the Roman Empire pulled out of Britain a lot of social institutions that the local population had come to rely upon were no longer there. In 1859 the planet was hit by a massive Solar Flare and was called the “Carrington Flare” . It was so bright the aurora could be seen over most of the world, people woke up because they thought it was daylight, and telegraph operators got shocks.

    Not all Dystopian ideas need come from our uncertain future, our past is also a source of inspiration.


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