A Genre Checklist


If you are not clear whether you want to provide or withhold - that is, write an Epic or Comedy or a Tragedy or Irony - you might find this checklist useful. It has been taken from the course How to Write Stories That Work -and Get Them Published! and lists features of a story and then in brackets the genre that the story is most likely to fit.

For more about these companion archetypes, genres and how they work, get the book How Stories Really Work, or do the above course.

Here's the checklist:

1. Does your story end with the protagonist winning (though possibly injured or dying) and most things resolved? (Epic)

2. Is the old man in your story truly wise and knowledgeable? (Epic)

3. Is the quest or conflict between clearly defined Good and Evil sides? (Epic)

4. Is there a sense of some ‘higher power’ at work for Good, behind the scenes? (Epic)

5. Is there a comic companion who is loyal and around whom key events take place? (Epic)

6. Does your protagonist have an outward scar or wound of some kind? (Epic)

7. At the end of your story, is the protagonist cast out of society and dead? (Tragedy)

8. Is the old man in your story wise and knowledgeable but powerless or outcast? (Tragedy)

9. Is the quest or conflict between sides which can no longer be clearly defined as Good and Evil? (Tragedy)

10. Is there a sense of some ‘higher power’ at work behind the scenes, but you’re not sure whether it is working for Good or not? (Tragedy)

11. Is there a comic companion who is loyal but who is foolish or irresponsible or who perishes? (Tragedy)

12. Does your protagonist have an inner psychological scar or flaw of some kind? (Tragedy)

13. Does your story end with massive uncertainty or horror? (Irony)

14. Is the old man in your story twisted in some way? (Irony)

15. Is the quest or conflict hard to discern? (Irony)

16. Is there no sense of some ‘higher power’ at work other than random chaos? (Irony)

17. Is there a comic companion who is foolish or who dies? (Irony)

18. Does your protagonist behave in a crippled manner in some way? (Irony)

19. Does your story end with a marriage and happiness all round? (Comedy)

20. Is the old man in your story supposed to be wise and knowledgeable but actually a figure of fun or ridicule? (Comedy)

21. Is the quest or conflict light and funny? (Comedy)

22. Is there a sense of some kind of ‘luck’ at work, behind the scenes? (Comedy)

23. Is the protagonist a somewhat comic figure? (Comedy)

24. Does your protagonist have a foolish idiosyncrasy of some kind? (Comedy)

Use the checklist to fine-tune your fiction and make sure that readers' expectations are tracking with you.

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