Book Formulas

Posted on February 9, 2010. Filed under: Books, Fantasy, reading, Romance, Style | Tags: , , , |

Today I thought I’d talk a little bit about book formulas. It seems that different genres have these formulaic ways in which authors write their stories. And in most instances, if you’re an avid reader (or even if you aren’t), you’ll pick up right away on the formula.

For example: let’s take a typical romance.

Fairly normal female protagonist + handsome and charming male + male’s seduction and intrigue + sudden betrayal of trust + hot make-up sex = A romance that sells.

Okay, so that might not be the complete formula, but it’s pretty basic. Authors generally add and adapt these formulas to suit their whims and make sure all the bases are covered. In my opinion, it feels a little bit too structured.

However, I can’t deny that these books sell by the thousands. Even the shoddy ones that come from new romance authors who are literally following the template set up by thousands of their predecessors. I also can’t deny that I’ve purchased some in my day.

The same can be said for almost any genre you can think up. Fantasy has what feels like a different formula for each sub-genre of the main. But all the formulas seem to stem directly from the classic “high” or “epic” fantasy.

Pick a genre, any genre, and you’ll see similar themes. These things sell and sell well for publishers. And readers are eager to lap it up in most cases. (I’d say almost especially so for the romances.)

My book, too, uses the basic formula for fantasy. It’s something that’s difficult to get away from. And if you try something different, you’re most likely going to find it difficult to get published because agents and publishers are looking for things that will market well.

So I find it odd that I enjoy and sincerely appreciate some of these formulas (i.e. fantasy) and not others (i.e. romances). What’s strange is that I like both fantasy and romance, but I quickly find the norms in romances becoming tedious. The more I read them, the more predictable they become, and the more difficult it gets not to just flip to the end and decide that, yes, I knew this would happen from the beginning.

Do you find yourself doing something like that with a genre you really love? I’m not sure if it’s just me, but I honestly don’t get as excited with some of my romance fiction as I used to because the genre never changes. I may just be choosing my books without care, I’m not sure. Either way, I’m not as appreciative of it as I used to be.

Thoughts? Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear them. 🙂



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5 Responses to “Book Formulas”

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I love romance, BUT I don’t’ read regular romances. I’ve got an extensive list of homosexual novels. And I love it. Because when you get two emotionally repressed men lusting after each other it leads to a lot of weird crap that happens BEFORE they finally get together.

LOL. I’m sure it does. I can see how that might be more appealing than some of the het romances I’ve read.

I guess I just get tired of the ordinary, but that’s okay. I’ve also got my favorite authors who can write utter crap and I’d probably still be reading them. Heh. Kinda sad, but I get the feeling a lot of people have that kind of situation.

Hmmm. Actually I think I tend to be something of a picky reader if I’m not in the right mood for a specific formula, and unless the story gives me something different and intriguing inside the traditional structure, I quickly tire of it. That or I read it and heckle all the way through, which I’ve been known to do with both fantasy and romance novels. 😉 Although usually only when I’m reading something so I can talk about it with someone else.

If it’s romance for me nowadays, it’s either romantic comedy or historical fiction in the right setting. (For me, usually Asia, or Celtic, with occasional others mixed in.) As for fantasy, the world and/or the characters have to really grab me, or I can’t stay intrigued anymore. That or the writing style has to be particularly enjoyable. If it doesn’t immerse me to the point where I don’t think about the formula while reading, it’s generally a flop in my book. XD

Hehe, Des, I actually probably could have predicted that. And now I’m nervous you won’t like my world. 😛 (Or my characters… or my plots… or my writing style… you get the picture. LOL.)

I agree about the immersion process, but I think it’s up to individual preferences. What I read is different from what you read in terms of language, prose, style, description, etc. So I would say it’s hard to judge a group of readers’ tastes. It’s what makes it so personal. Anyway, that’s just my random aside.

(Now off to see if you’re written any exciting news about today! 😀 )

I think it depends on the type of novel and what the reader expects to get from it. There was an episode of (podcast) ‘Writing Excuses’ where they talked about this, about questions that are set up in the beginning of a book that the reader expects to be answered by the end (sorry, can’t remember the episode). If you’re reading a mystery, yes you expect twists otherwise you wouldn’t be reading a mystery. If you read James Bond, he has to win in the end. Romance- hot sex, etc. But also, there’s a certain amount of satisfaction involved in having your expectations fulfilled, even when those expectations might be to have the unexpected happen (like in a mystery).

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