Identifying Genres

Depending on where you are in the Writing Process, your thoughts may be drifting toward where your story (or idea) will exist. I’m not talking about Time or Place, but what kind of story it is or will be.

Identifying a particular genre isn’t all that hard. In fact, there are tons of defining characteristics. For the purposes of this discussion, I will focus on Science Fiction and how to discern not only what constitutes it a genre but also what differentiates it from other types. I’m also very familiar with this genre so I’ll be saying the most about it.

I’m not going to go all Master Race here and put down one particular genre down in favor of another. That’s not the purpose here. My point is to give you ways to determine what is what and go from there. My examples are not all-inclusive so feel free to add to the list as you need.

Science Fiction:

Science Fiction is a very expansive genre that combines multiple concepts and subdivisions. However, a science fiction story can be sussed out by looking at the following items:

1) Construction Materials: What are the buildings made of? If they utilize items such as sheet metal, cinder blocks, plastic or composite materials, the story is most likely Science Fiction. Furthermore,  if the methods of construction utilize rivets or welding, that can also be a giveaway. Advanced construction materials and techniques indicate an advanced level of technology.

2)Technology Level: Science Fiction has always dealt with The Future, either near or distant. Cell phones, electronics, digital and/or analog computers, space travel, etc are hallmarks of an advanced technology level. The technology level can be speculated to your heart’s content, but any trace of advanced technology beyond present day capabilities (with some exceptions like certain dystopian or post-apocalyptic stories) places the story firmly in the Science Fiction camp. In other words, if your civilization is agrarian in nature, placing a computer in the thatched huts makes it Science Fiction.

3)Social Attitudes: You can go in a lot of different directions with this one so I will merely state that, in general, advanced civilizations often breed advanced and enlightened attitudes. Yes, there are exceptions and yes, they are determined by the Writer’s attitudes and preferences.

4) Spaceships: This goes back to the Technology Level, but spacecraft have always been a staple of Science Fiction. If you see a spaceship, bingo!

5) Aliens: This is kind of a gimme, but what the hell, I’ll include it anyway. Aliens (the Outer Space kind), are another staple of Science Fiction. Little green people, tall gray people, even shapeless amorphous blobs of protoplasm from Planet X. Doesn’t matter. If they show up, you know what you’ve got.

I will probably revisit this particular discussion at a later date, so if you have suggestions on a particular genre that you would like me to talk about, leave a comment. I’ll do the necessary research and present a discussion on it.

I’m here to help. 🙂

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