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Starlings and Genre

Starlings and Genre – Really, they are connected

This week George and I have been deep into the subject of Genre. It all looked pretty simple, to begin with. ‘Of course it’s a thriller, because it’s thrilling.’ ‘What do you mean, it’s not a romance, Juliet fell for Romeo didn’t she?’

It just isn’t that simple. Following the links suggested by Andrew Wille ( to Ronald Tobias and his twenty story types, then moving on to Book Riot and then investigating Story Grid and Shawn Coyne’s approach to genre the picture begins to get complicated.

As George observed during our weekly meeting ‘It’s a bit like a hawk trying to pick out one starling from the thousands.’ Hence this week’s picture of a murmeration of starlings taken locally. I apologise for the poor quality, solely down to the photographer (me).

The last weeks exercises involved choosing one story type and genre and use a novel of our choice to identify the story type conventions. This wasn’t too difficult an exercise but did involve looking deeply into the conventions and ‘must have scene’s’ of genre.

Then came the final exercise of the week. I’m quoting it here in full:

“Assemble your narrative content (characters, setting, story ideas, plot points, theme), and draw up a list of conventions of both story type and genre that might make them cohere” Andrew Wille, Syllabus for a DIY MA in Creative Writing 2019, @

I gathered all the work I have done on my current WIP and tried to jemmy it into a genre, which is not too difficult. But when the conventions of the genre and the must have scenes are taken into consideration, that is when the gaping holes in the work become apparent. My initial response was, ‘I must have chosen the wrong genre’ and I try and bend the work into another. But nope, it didn’t work there either.

I felt the rebel in me coming to the fore. ‘My work isn’t bound by the conventions of genre’ I say to myself. Or ‘I’m writing such ground-breaking stuff it will be a completely new form of fiction in its own genre’. Of course this was ego rather than sense speaking. I was finally convinced by watching the five freely available videos from Story Grid. They are each only five minutes or so long, but they were enough to convince me I need to revisit the entire premise of my current WIP.

I don’t feel bad about this. I’m actually quite pleased. It is the very reason I’m undertaking this developmental work, and although there will be no certificates or academic acknowledgement at the end of it, I’m pretty sure I’ll be a better writer. So as a bonus, here are some more starlings.

Current Reading

‘Into the Woods’ John Yorke Several Chapters

‘Steering the Craft’ Ursula K Le Guin Ch 10 Crowding and Leaping

‘Brokeback Mountain’ Annie Prioux

‘The Bloody Chamber’ Angela Carter

‘Once Upon a River’ Diane Setterfield (Half way)

And a whole load of web pages and videos about Plotting, Genre, Sub-Genre, Genre conventions etc.

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