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“You enter the extraordinary by way of the ordinary.” ~Frederick Buechner

Friday, April 10, 2015


Workshop: An Introduction to Writing for Children and Young Adults

“No literature so transforms the reader as does the literature of childhood: shaping, molding, uplifting, explaining, and informing.” Jane Yolen


Another voice that impacts our stories is the genre in which it is delivered. Again for this introduction we’re doing a broad overview and will dig deeper as we discuss the different genres along the way. For general discussion though a genre is considered to be a kind or type of literature that shares a common set of characteristics. For example, a mystery has certain ingredients that a reader expects to find, as does a romance. Extensive world building is considered a foundation to fantasy, sci-fi and historical genres, but could be considered sluggish and intrusive in a contemporary or adventure genre even when the setting is a critical factor.

However the set-up isn’t always apparent. For instance, if we look at formulaic fiction: some categories are generally mysteries, romance, sports stories, or westerns and yet all of these can also be classified under realism as well. Also the lines can blur when two or more genres are combined like a western sci-fi, such as Firefly, or steam punk, or a detective series with romance. Classics often cross genre lines, are well worn, and continue to ‘sound’ across generation-to-generation hearts.

Usually though, when two or more genres combine there is still one main thread that carries the main genre voice.

Here are a few commonly considered genres as suggested by Rebecca J Lukens.

Realism: a story that is possible. Effect follows cause without intervention of the magical or supernatural. Outcome will seem reasonable and plausible. Usually the representation of action that seems truthful. Under its umbrella are: problem realism and social Issues, animal realism, historical realism, and sports stories.

Formula Fiction: follows distinct patterns, it doesn’t eliminate a writer’s creativity but it does restrict it within certain boundaries: mysteries, thrillers, romance often fall into this category.

Fantasy: “the willing suspension of disbelief”, which creates another world and asks the reader to believe in it. Fantastic Stories include a wide diversity such as Charlotte’s Web, The Borrowers, and then moves  into High Fantasy as well where the focus is on conflict between good and evil.  Science fiction stresses scientific laws and technologies

Traditional Literature: The focus here is on folktales with stock characters and the emphasis is on plot or action or theme, as well as good versus evil. Includes: Fables with brief story morals, and lessons, usually with animals, Myths, Legends, Folk Epics.


Non-fiction: information such as biographies, science, history and how-to.

Which One?

How to choose? What do you read? What are your interests, background experiences, and particular passion? For example, are you a docent anywhere or do you have a lifelong of a particular sport or hobby?

Do you write short or do you write long? Do you love research? Are you visual?

And ask yourself the bottom line question: Why do I want to write and be honest with yourself.

Action Steps:

1.     Take that same memory you used in last week’s action step and now choose two different genres for one of the age groups you wrote your blurb for.

2.     Write up a paragraph or page in each of those genres. It doesn’t need to be an opening. Pick a situation where a new reader would be able to identify the genre because of your setting and dialogue and details.

3.     Let the pieces sit for a few days and then re-read. Does one voice sound more natural than the other? Does one version make you want to write more?

Share: Which genres did you choose to experiment with? Why?

Read deep, marcy

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