Genre: Horror

DSC05687Horror is one of the easiest genre conventions to identify across a variety of mediums. Even the word horror conjures up specific images in your mind. They’re typically scary thanks to the surprise plot twists you don’t see coming, along with a few other features.

Dumb Protagonist

Let’s be honest, the protagonist isn’t the smartest person in the group, if there is a group. They’ll be the one to run upstairs instead of outside, or they’ll suggest everyone should split up, or they won’t listen to the smart person who tells them not to do the thing. But without this character, the horror story wouldn’t happen, so it’s a pivotal part of the story.

Scary Occurence

There’s usually some kind of scary occurrence that kickstarts the plot. Whether it’s a literal scary monster or people disappearing thanks to some psychopathic killer, the horror has to include a scare element in it. Otherwise, it’s not a horror story. The level of scare usually determines how much the audience will recommend it to loved ones via word of mouth. If they found it really scary, they’re more likely to pass it on than if they found it to be ‘eh’.

Eerie Setting

Even if it’s set in a normal, suburban home, the house becomes eerie due to an unknown feature, such as a secret door they never knew they had. This includes any houses they temporarily stay in or visit. But other locations could include on a haunted train or a school. Regardless, the place becomes eerie and scary because of the scary occurrence that takes place.

Horror is an easy genre to identify, but it can be quite hard to write since you have to keep the surprise twists coming without making it too obvious or anti-climatic. Still, when done right, horror can be one of the best genres for keeping an audience interested and flipping the pages.

Have I missed any genre conventions from horror?

Genre: Romance

DSC05687Romance is one of my favourite genres to both read and write. I love love, so go figure I’d be a hopeless romantic. I don’t care what medium they use either. If there’s a cute couple that isn’t incest or toxic in any way, I’ll ship them (regardless of sexuality, gender, etc.) Romance is a nice escape from reality and my (lack of) love life, so I can live vicariously through these cute couples.

Protagonist Meets Their Love Interest

It’s a pivotal element to any romance story. The story won’t be told otherwise.

How, when and where they meet is as pivotal as the story unfolding. They might meet at a coffee shop. They might meet at school/work. They might meet through a friend. Finding love is one of the most random aspects of reality and we’re all curious to know how, when and where a couple met. It’s one of the first questions you ask. Some writers pick an interesting environment that probably wouldn’t be realistic, but most pick a setting familiar to us. A situation you can easily imagine happening to yourself.

Their relationship towards one another is equally as important as where and when. Do they like each other? Do they hate each other? Do you even know each other? What’s their first impressions? Crafting a story around two people requires you to figure out what their relationship is first. Choosing between whether they’re already acquainted with one another or total strangers meeting for the first time.


I know this one is quite vague, but no matter what romance novel you read, there will always be plenty of obstacles that lead to a temporary breakup. Always. Note the word temporary because nearly all the time, the couple end happily ever after.

The obstacle can be a huge secret one person never told the other. It can be one of them has a moment of weakness and cheats on them. It can be anything that will cause the couple to have an argument, at the very least, and potentially break up.

Then, usually, someone close (or several) to the protagonist will encourage them to reconcile with their love interest. They’ll tell them they were an idiot and that their love interest still loves them, giving them a chance to go back to their lover. Typically, this is when the protagonist realises what an idiot they are.

Big Romantic Gesture

There’s always a big romantic gesture in every love story. Always. From asking someone to date them for real, to asking them to marry them, to asking them to move in, to taking them on a romantic holiday. It doesn’t matter what the gesture is per say, just that it’s a big enough gesture to show how much the other person cares about them. Usually this ends up with the protagonist and their love interest getting back together again.

I know there are only three points here, but romance usually fits in with the three act structure quite neatly. Additionally, this is the one genre that has undergone a huge change since the genre first began with gender stereotypes being changed constantly, therefore I didn’t see the point in including outdated stereotypes.

Have I missed any genre conventions from romance?

Genre: Young Adult (YA)


Young Adult has a bad reputation for being predictable, and yet I still keep indulging in them. Sometimes, they deliver. Other times… best not talk about those ones. YA is such a varied genre, but there are some conventions that are consistent throughout.

Female protagonist

The ‘I’m not like other girls’ trope is almost a must in this genre. Typically shy, awkward and not popular, these girls are ‘unique’ for these reasons. Perhaps this is a reflection on the author, or perhaps being ‘unique’ is something every girl should strive for. Either way, I wish it would burn. Pitting girls against each other is outdated and, frankly, very annoying.

Love triangles & love interests

Love triangles can be one of the most infuriating love triangles if it’s not handled right. It’s an age old trope used time and time again because in reality, love triangles do happen, especially in teenage relationships. However, that doesn’t mean it has to be included all the time, especially if it’s a sloppily written to create conflict. Well written? Fine. But most aren’t.

The love interests are nearly always unobtainable. The male love interest is nearly always popular, good looking and charismatic. Again, I don’t know if this is a reflection of the author or if this is just a regular school trope. Everyone always wants the popular boy, or not depending what type of girl your protagonist is, which is just a general rule of school.

But even when these YA stories aren’t set in school, the male interest is usually mysterious or intriguing in some way that makes the female protagonist like him. Or at least want to know him.

Criticism on society

If there’s one thing I love about YA novels, it’s how they write about society. From gender expectations to sexuality to political events happening, YA is the best for including a critical commentary on societal norms. Even when they’re set in a dystopia, they break societal norms in that world, such as the Hunger Games, by subverting what’s expected of them.

Defeating the evil

Usually, there’s some kind of evil that needs to be overcome. From a literal dictator to a concept such as homophobia, the protagonist finds a way to overcome them. They tend to have a group of people to help them, by either supporting them or fighting with them to defeat this evil.

YA is good for tackling issues most mainstream stories don’t touch, such as different sexualities or showing different political viewpoints, and insecure teens (or people in general) can find comfort in them because they might finally be represented in a way mainstream doesn’t represent it.

Have I missed any genre conventions from young adult (YA)?

Genre: Crime / Mystery


Before I begin, both crime and mystery are separate genres but they have the same convention: a crime has been committed, they have to find the culprit and ensure justice is served. However, the severity of the crime tends to vary between crime and mystery.

For starters, you need to determine if the protagonist is a detective or inspector or involved with the police force in some way, or if the protagonist is an ordinary person who wants to solve this crime/mystery. However, even if the protagonist is an ordinary person, they still need the police force at some point so the antagonist can be arrested.


Crime usually focuses on murder over other crimes, and the murders tend to be very violent since murders are, realistically, violent.

The protagonist has no loved ones so the stakes can’t be raised. Usually, they’ll have flings, but never a serious committed relationship.

Protagonist might have an addiction problem, typically alcohol, sex or drugs. It doesn’t necessarily get in the way of solving the crime, but it does feature in the story.

The entire story tends to be more violent with the protagonist finding themselves in life threatening danger or with multiple murders in the one story.


Compared to the crime novels, mysteries are usually less violent because the focus is on solving the mystery not on the crime itself.

Because the reader wants to try to solve the mystery along with the protagonist, you need to introduce all the culprits to begin with and plant red herrings throughout so the reader isn’t left dissatisfied by the ending.

Leave out information that the protagonist can reveal later, but make sure it’s not a vital clue that would feel like a cop out. A subtle clue or two that only the protagonist would’ve seen but the audience didn’t works well.

When mysteries happen in secluded locations, such as mansions or trains, it makes the mystery easier to solve since all the culprits are in one place. However, that also makes it more interesting since they have to commit the crime and try to escape without being caught.

When the mysteries happen anywhere, it makes the story more interesting since the protagonist has to go and find the culprits and investigate the scenario.

Both require a compelling antagonist and an interesting ending so the audience doesn’t feel cheated. But most importantly, the audience wants to leave the story satisfied by the conclusion.

Have I missed any genre conventions from crime and/or mystery?

Genre: Sci-Fi & Fantasy


There aren’t that many conventions to fantasy and sci-fi since it’s a genre that literally thrives on your imagination going crazy. However, there are a few basics to consider while writing them.

Build your world

World building is one of the most important parts of creating a fantasy or sci-fi story. Whether the world is alike to ours or very different, your story will likely change elements about it so you need to explain how it’s different. However, you also need to avoid information dumping (info dump for short), so finding that balance can be hard. Thinking about everything in your world can be difficult and time consuming, but it makes the world so much more realistic if you put in the time and effort. Plus, readers will notice this and appreciate it.

Root your world in the real world

This piece of advice depends entirely on whether you want to write a story far removed from reality or not. But even if you want to create a world far removed from our reality, you should still have something the readers can relate to. Whether it’s human characters or a moral to the story or human issues, so long as it’s relatable, it’ll work.

Pay attention to real world science

If you’re writing sci-fi, you need to have a basic understanding of science. Sure, sci-fi can be implausible, but it’s at least rooted in science. There is still a basic understanding of physics used. For example, time travel is implausible, but it still requires some basic scientific explanation, even if that explanation is total bullshit. If the logic is too far removed, the reader won’t believe it and might stop reading.

Set some basic rules for your language

Creating your own language requires you to be good at knowing the basics of language. A linguist. Good examples are Elvish and Klingon, which both required an extensive research into the basics of language and adapting it to their own languages they created. Knowing the basics of your own language is pivotal to the reader understanding it and, if the book (series) takes off, they can use it regularly.

Keep these in mind the next time you write a fantasy and/or sci-fi story as guidelines. Hitting these three points (or four if you’re going for a fantasy/sci-fi hybrid) will help your reader to enjoy the book (series) even more.

Have I missed any genre conventions from sci-fi and/or fantasy?

Genre: Thriller


Thrillers remain one of the highest selling genres in the world, but they’re also the most likely to be given away. Either to a friend, to a charity shop and just left behind in a hotel room. Thankfully, because they’re so popular, it makes identifying their conventions easy.

1. Take any situation and keep asking ‘what if?’

Honestly, this was the number one piece of advice I was given when I learnt about them at university. But even if I hadn’t, when you read any thrillers, the protagonist is put into a situation and it keeps getting worse until eventually, it reaches a climax. Good or bad, that depends on the writer.

2. Make plenty of obstacles for the protagonist (including time)

Creating obstacles keeps the protagonist from reaching the end goal quickly and makes the end all the more worthwhile. We’re more likely to root for the protagonist when they’ve had everything thrown at them and they still end up on top.

Time is an incredible motivator for anyone. If you give people time pressured deadlines, they freak out and try to do the best job they can, but they don’t think things through properly and make mistakes. In an extreme situation, which thrillers are set in, time acts as an antagonist just as much as the actual antagonist. The antagonist might set a time limit on how long they have to do a task, and the protagonist will react. Probably quite badly.

3. Personal stakes

In every thriller ever, there is always a person at stake. A loved one. A person they hold dear. Their life is now threatened thanks to the protagonist, whether the antagonist actively hurts the loved one or not. Regardless, it gives the protagonist their main motivation for doing all these insane tasks just to get to their loved one and make sure they’re safe.

Or, in some cases, it might be loved ones.

4. Know your ending

There is nothing more frustrating than reading a great story, filled with compelling obstacles and shocking plot twists, and reaching the end only for it to be anti-climatic. You can’t make the ending too predictable nor easy. If the rest of the story has been tough, you need a fight at the end. Like in a video game where the protagonist battles the Final Boss. The fight is difficult, but when you beat them, you feel a sense of accomplishment at beating such a hard enemy. Make the ending the same for the story. Don’t make it a quick and easy end, unless you can execute it properly.

5. Plant early, pay off later

The phrase means plant information early on that’s pivotal to the story and watch it pay off later.

For example, say you were given a key early on in the story and you carried it round for the entire story. When you reach a locked door at the end of the story, this key will pay off. But if you randomly found a key at the end and unlocked the door, it would feel like you were cheating your way out of an impossible scenario because they happened to find the key.

Every thriller will have most of these genre conventions, if not all of them. The genre conventions make the story so compelling, you don’t want to put it down. It remains one of the best selling genres because it’s well executed and, pun intended, thrilling.

Have I missed any genre conventions from thrillers?