This way of classifying a story is perhaps one of the most important yet overlooked items. It’s easily confused with genre…probably because there are a few common genres which actually double as a genotype. Yet there is a distinct difference. Genre is best understood as the designation of the story’s setting, style, and audience. Essentially, it is how the story relates to the reader. (See the previous article in the series.) So root that firmly in your brain as we go forward.
Genotype is how the story relates to the characters in the book. The characters aren’t experiencing a genre of setting, style, and audience. They are experiencing life…their lives. Genotype helps us to understand what aspect of life that they are experiencing. This has a TREMENDOUS effect on how plot and characters are developed, because plot and character development are directly related to the experiences of the characters. Let’s look at a few examples.
So you think you know what Story Genre is, huh? It can be best understood as a story’s designation of setting, style, and audience. Other definitions include form, content, and technique. What needs to be keyed in on here is that Story Genre moves the READER through the story, or the author’s means of connecting the reader to the story. Don’t confuse this with Story Genotype, which I’ll talk about next time, which moves the MAIN CHARACTERS through the story, or is the author’s way of connecting the main characters to the story. What do I mean? In genre, setting and style are most important. The characters are unaffected by this, it is the reader that bears the impact.
For instance, consider setting. A Western is characterized by a “cowboy” type setting, usually mid to late 1800′s. The characters are unaffected because it’s simply a reflection of their normal world. This setting designation is used to connect the reader to that world.