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I was recently asked how to define the fiction genre of thriller and then again about the romance genre. We often get confused about what genre our stories serve best. Some are too close to call like a mystery that borders thriller or a fantasy sci-fi romance. However, unlike Juan Pablo on last night’s Bachelor, where he
proved that he, too, needs a little reminder, most of us know but just need a little reminder about where the fuzzy lines are drawn.
Romance: Excerpt from Agent Query
Romance is a specific fiction genre in which the central conflict revolves around the love story between a man and a woman. The settings are often exotic. The characters are regal and glamorous. And the ensuing story is inevitably dramatic—even melodramatic. Furthermore, writing style aids the passion of the climactic conflicts and events, and catapults the reader through a gratifying romantic fantasy. And a happily ever-after ending is requisite.
If you didn’t intentionally set out to write a romance novel, it’s probably not a romance. There are specific publishing houses dedicated to the publication of this genre, as well as agents who specialize in the sale of these novels. Subgenres include contemporary, suspense, time-travel, futuristic, paranormal, Western, historical, regency, and gothic romance. Romance is also a member of the general grouping of “genre fiction,” “mainstream fiction,” “mass market fiction,” “category fiction,” and “mass market” fiction.
Thriller/Suspense: Excerpt from Agent Query
The dramatic conflicts of thrillers/suspense are fraught with peril: a life-threatening danger that jeopardizes the protagonist, his or her loved ones, or even the whole world. The stakes are often large—death and destruction to lives, the downfall of an entire nation, an ecological disaster. However, thrillers can also simply portray riveting psychological tension between two opposing characters. Thrillers and suspense fiction are paired together because thrillers often utilize suspense elements in the development of the story—evil lurking just around the corner that motivates the protagonist to hunt down and capture the villain-at-large.
Although both thrillers and mysteries often involve the protagonist solving a crime and bringing bad guys to justice, the central conflict of thrillers/suspense focuses on developing an urgent sense of imminent jeopardy rather than solving a mystery or the detection of a crime. Thriller/suspense protagonists must win at all costs against a menacing, pernicious threat—or else things are going from bad to worse, and fast. Subgenres include psychological, supernatural, military, espionage, political, medical, legal, erotic and literary thrillers. Thriller/suspense is also included in the general grouping of “genre fiction,” “category fiction,” “mainstream” fiction,” or “mass market fiction.”
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