ARTICLE #5 - Genre – Part Two
In Genre – Part One, we discussed the genres of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. We will continue our discussion at this point to cover the areas of mystery, adventure, thriller, and comedy. Also included is a roundup that will touch base on western, romance, historic, and poetry genres.
Mystery is a literary genre that presents a conundrum with hidden pieces that need to be found in order to solve the puzzle, whether the reader realizes it’s a puzzle piece or not, before the pieces start fitting together. It’s usually staged around a crime or surreptitious enemy or some other thing that commits vicious crimes against individuals or causes mayhem against society at large. Whatever the plot, a mystery is likened to a sophisticated mind-game between a crafty criminal—or even an intelligent thing, and you and the detective-hero of the story set out to discover clues and determine motive in order to find whodunit.
There are a great number of well-read mystery works and well known mystery writers, far too many to mention in this short presentation, but I will mention that their mysteries can take on a variety of styles. Among these many forms are simple detective stories that are dubbed cozy mysteries; action thrillers; police procedurals, crime, whodunit, steampunk, hard-boiled, suspense, caper, mystery thrillers and so forth. Mystery can also be combined with other major genres such as science fiction and romance, as mentioned earlier with the J. D. Robb series. All in all, it’s one of the most read and dramatized genres of today.
Thriller is a fictional genre that usually takes an ordinary, round type character who is the leading and most prominent figure in a story and pits him or her against a super villain with incredible odds over high stakes. Thrillers are high impact tales, provoking in the reader a sense of intensified apprehension, excitement, suspense, surprise and anticipation, as the protagonist battles exceptional dangers to overcome their antagonist. A couple of good example in today’s literature would be, one, the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, and the Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth. And, as all major genres, the thriller genre encompasses a broad-spectrum of subgenres: action, crime, espionage, spy, forensic, supernatural, techno, ecological, romantic, psychological, political, mystery, medical, legal, and conspiracy thrillers. And due to the fact that thrillers stretches over an enormous territory of subjects and style it can be easily confused with other major genres that can portray action and suspense.
The case of: James Rollins vs. Dan Brown.
A vivid example of a thriller series can be appreciated in the novel series written by James Rollin. They are action-thrillers filled with the use of cliffhangers. Many readers write reviews on Amazon.com, comparing Rollins’ method of prose, which strongly fit within the action-thriller genre, to that of Dan Brown’s, whose works are within the suspense-mystery category. In Rollins’ narratives, the reader finds him or herself alongside the protagonist, that’s usually accompanied by well-developed companions, entrenched within inescapable, life threatening situations. As the scene events intensifies, there’s no feasible way of escaping the dire state of affairs. The main characters are trapped, facing the destruction of lives, and/or that of the entire world as an inevitability. God help us all! – the end of chapter. Next chapter – it’s a miracle! Somehow, in some phenomenally sensational way, the protagonist and his buddies manage to work it out. They’ve saved the day. But, it is only to find themselves quickly involved in more escalating, complexing and suspenseful circumstances in the attempt to save mankind from the works of a villainous mastermind that’s hellbent on taking over the world or utterly destroying it.
Dan Brown, on the other hand, writes suspense-mystery-adventures. The reader is taken on a suspenseful adventure whereby they must solve the puzzle by following the clues, gathering the evidence that could uncover hidden plots long laid by secret societies such as the Illuminati, Priory of Sion, and possibly the secret society of Freemasons. With the use of high-suspense and adventure, Brown’ mysteries became rapid page turners and bestsellers.
Though Brown’s and Rollins’ tales may seem to take on a similar course and type of storyline, one author clearly writes well within the thriller genre, while conversely, the other writer’s prose are well within the realm of mystery.
Comedy is a complex genre of dialogues and dialogue delivery, which includes farce, satire and burlesque. It can be divided into five major groups: comedy of humor involving four liquids of the human body; sentimental comedy, which involves sentiment and tragedy; romantic comedy enveloping the premise of love and romance; comedy of manners, which deals with the relationship between men and women living in a sophisticated society; and finally, tragic-comedy containing the elements of both tragic and humorous moods, usually a somber tale with a happy/humorous ending.
Comedy depicts a type of work that is amusing and satirical in its rendering often showing conquest over unfriendly and disagreeable situations.
Of course, before we get to nonfiction, there are other major fiction genres, some of which are quite popular. Though each can take in-depth explanations, for the sake of this article, I will provide only a brief description below of other popular genres,
Western: Western fiction is a literary genre that depicts the days of the western frontier during the nineteenth century; the story usually centers on cowboys, whether nomadic or living in a small town isolated out in untamed territory. Western usually depict men who carry guns and rifles and living in the untamed western frontier. The popularity of the western genre has somewhat waned since the 1960’s, but resurfaces in spurts, though mostly just in movies.
Adventure: Adventure narratives, like that of thrillers, science fiction and usually mysteries, are common themes manifesting quick action. It differs in plot elements that have been standard since the time of Medieval romance, showing abduction, separation and pursuit, with a grand finale of triumph and reunion. Adventure situations are usually extraordinary with the characters separated by virtue of good and evil, accompanied by peril, threat and physical action. Adventure has also become a modern-day subgenre entwined with thrillers, mysteries, romances and science-fictions. A few examples of modern adventure stories are The Long Walk by Stephen King, Dark Matter by Blake Crouch, and The Passenger by Lisa Lutz.
Romance: Romance fiction is a literary genre that focuses on a romantic relationship between two individuals. The stories are usually set to the formula of boy meets girl with spontaneous sexual tension created between them, but neither understands the next. Finally, through whatever adventure or plot the story is wrapped around, the couple come to an understanding and ultimately come together. Romance novels can also be highly developed stories of mixed genres, as seen with Jude Deveraux’s historical romance, and mystery romance novels.
Historic: Historic fiction is a tale that realistically depicts the physical setting, social atmosphere, and mannerisms of people, places, and things set within a specific time period of the past. Actual historic events are typically used to help make the tale sound more authentic of the period depicted.
Poetry: Poetry is a literary genre written in verse, portraying intense emotion or thought. Its form uses aesthetic and rhythmic language and meter, which can be subdivided into genres of lyric, epic, and dramatic styles.
Nonfiction is the genre that presents what is believed to be truthful accounts about real people, things, places, and events. Or, it can be instructional information or collected data about such topics as scientific theories, politics, physics, philosophy, medical books, economic, agriculture, etc.—hundreds of subjects. Simply put, nonfiction is true narrative.
I would love to know your favorite books and genre or genres. For example, mine are fantasies, science-fictions, and mysteries. :)
So, comrades of the pen, now that we’re clearer on the topic of genre, it’s once again time to put thoughts and pen to paper within our chosen genre and produce a page-tuner of our own.
C. R. Swainward