View Full Version : Pros and Cons of genre elements

05-03-2011, 04:31 PM
I'm mucking about with the premise of my current suspense novel, and I'm trying to come to a decision regarding some paranormal/supernatural elements. Part of me says, "this isn't required to tell the story I'm telling here. I should leave it out," and part of me says, "No, go ahead, this supports and reinforces your overall theme."

Supports story theme
Wider possibility for scenes
Potential marketability?

Can be left out without damaging the story
Already have an "impossible element" (grand conspiracy)

I really want to nail this down as early as I can, but I'm not sure if the drive towards efficiency and elegance that's causing me to question the inclusion is just an artifact from the short prose I've been writing lately.

Without getting into the specifics of the premise itself (it's still solidifying, and isn't really what I'm asking about), I'd like to hear some external opinions on the general topic of the inclusion of genre elements. I've noticed quite frequently that my stories include fantasy/horror elements that - while not being quite superficial - may be superfluous.

Thanks in advance!

Kitty Pryde
05-03-2011, 08:58 PM
IMO the most pertinent fact you listed in your post is that your fantastical elements can be left out without affecting your story. Any time you can get rid of the fantasy in a story without harm, it's not a fantasy story. It's the difference between living in a jungle with a view of a volcano outside the window, and living in the suburbs with a poster of a jungle and volcano stuck up in your window. The guy with the poster in the window doesn't live in a jungle. If I'm making any sense at all.

05-04-2011, 12:57 AM
It makes sense, and that was what I was wondering - the fantasy elements can be left out, but I get the sense that including them would strengthen my theme to some degree.

05-06-2011, 10:51 PM
I agree with you that a grand conspiracy would count as a boderline fantasy element in itself. also, I agree with Kitty Pryde that if you don't have to have fantasy elements, you might as well not have them in the story. though, if you say, the fantasy elements strengthen the theme, well, then I suppose that they would not then count as extraneous even if the plot doesn't "need" it.

though I do have an idea. if you have a protagonist who feels convinced that either a global conspiracy exists or something completely fantastical and can't believe that both could exist at the same time, that would strengthen the story.

The Prestige by Christopher Priest (yeah, the novel that they turned into a movie) has a vaguely analogous situation. I can't say any more without spoiling some major surprises. come to think of it, I think you could really benefit from reading this book if you haven't done so already.

05-12-2011, 01:21 AM
I think this goes for any large element included in a story: If it can be cut without making a lick of difference, it doesn't need to be there. It could end up detracting from your story, even if you aim for it to augment, because there’s a chance readers won't connect fully with it if it's only surface detail.

But, if you think it should enhance your theme, why not give it a bigger role? Make it matter, and it will.

Hope that was helpful; I know I was a little vague. :)

05-15-2011, 09:44 AM
I'm a believer in gut instinct. I say if your gut instinct is to put it in, then do it. You can always revise it out later. (But in the interest of full disclosure, I'm a fan of SF/F/H. The more supernatural, the better!)

05-26-2011, 11:23 AM
I know you're still working out kinks in the plot, but to give any advice worth anything, we'd have to know what it's about.

And superfluous doesn't necessarily mean superficial. Has anyone seen "Biutiful"? Uxbal's ability to communicate with the dead, if removed, wouldn't really change the real guts of the story, but it is woven nicely into the plot. Plus, it really brought in some breathtaking moments.

If it makes sense in the world, if it works, and if it brings something to the table without removing something else, why not?

Personally, I think a bigger issue for something like this is complexity for complexity's sake.

06-26-2011, 09:49 AM
What appears to be fantastical might serve as a red herring or two until adequately understood and explained - or it might never be satisfactorily explained... and fade into the background of the plot as a mystery yet unsolved. Or treat it as a sub-plot to be resolved at the opportune moment. How do you want to leave the reader - speculating and curious? Well crafted intrigue is seductive to the analytical mind.

J.W. Alden
06-27-2011, 02:22 PM
If I were in your shoes, I would go ahead and write it in, then see how it works when the first draft is done. If it hurts the story in any way, didn't flow, etc, I'd nix it in revision. I know you said you want to catch it early, and obviously it's tougher to write something out when you've put a lot of time into it already, but making those tough choices is a part of the revision process.

I can feel where you're coming from though because I do a lot of revising while I write, so I know what it feels like to want to get the jump on something. But if I'm ever questioning leaving something in or not and I can't decide, I just leave it in. It can always be cut later.