The Promise of Genre Redeemed

Whyte, Heinlein, Sanderson, MacDonald, and George Nail It …

"Electric Boots" by Mel AnastasiouRight at the start of your story you get the promise of genre clear and bright for your readers.  Once they know “what the story is about,” they trust you to tell it.

For example, if you’re writing a mystery, establishing the promise of genre right off lets your reader know exactly what this story is about.  It’s about a hero who investigates something important.  Or, if it’s a paranormal romance, then it’s about a hero who will not be separated from love, even by death.

All avid readers have a conscious or unconscious expertise in story structure.  When we get it right, they know it.

Here are some outstanding examples of promise of genre in the opening line.  Can you match them with their authors?

  1. “Mandarb’s hooves beat a familiar rhythm on broken ground as Lan Mandragoran rode toward his death.”
  2. “I know a place where there is no smog and no parking problem and no population explosion… no Cold War and no H-bombs and no television commercials… no Summit Conferences, no Foreign Aid, no hidden taxes – no income tax.”
  3. “He found the body on the forty-third day of his walk.”
  4. “A smear of fresh blood has a metallic smell.”
  5. “Even now, when more than fifty years have passed, I find it difficult to imagine a more unlikely Paladin.”

John D. MacDonald, A Deadly Shade of Gold. Fawcett Gold Medal, New York, 1965. Thriller

Jack Whyte, The Forest Laird. Penguin Canada, Toronto, 2010. Historical fiction.

Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, Towers of Midnight, Book 13 of The Wheel of Time. Orbit, London, 2010. High Fantasy.

Elizabeth George, Careless in Red. Hodder & Stoughton, London, 2009. Mystery.

Robert Heinlein, Glory Road. New English Library, London, 1963. Science Fiction.



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