The Anatomy of Genres


Writing rule number one: never read a book on writing… while actually writing a book!

Even though I’ve written fourteen novels and several short stories so far, I’m constantly learning more about the craft of creating entertaining science fiction stories. So I’m always reading anything I can get my hands on that will, I hope, make me a better writer.

One of my favorites is John Truby, who wrote a seminal work some years back entitled ‘The Anatomy of Story’. A fairly dry academic work that makes for a difficult read. Nevertheless, the ideas and theories he talks about were critical in formulating my own narrative style. This is a work that goes far beyond the classic ‘three act structure’ and ‘the hero’s journey’, story telling techniques used extensively in Hollywood, ever since George Lucas employed them so effectively in Star Wars. 

But his latest book ‘The Anatomy of Genres’ takes this to an even higher level by analyzing, in great depth, the underlying structure of all the most popular genres in story telling, including science fiction. It’s a fascinating read (more so for a writer, I imagine) and I now find myself brimming with ideas and wondering how I can implement some of these into the current manuscript.

Fortunately, I’ve almost completed the first draft of Resource Control, so I now get to go back over everything and beat it into shape — my favorite part of the writing process. I’ll be doing this with one eye on what I’ve learned from Truby yet conscious that I need to keep a steady hand on the story so far.