It may seem strange to talk about feelings in an article about fiction writing, but creating feelings in your reader is a vital part of storytelling. This is even more important in genre fiction. When you think about it, each genre of fiction has its own emotional resonance with readers, and readers choose to read a particular genre because of the feelings they get from it. Let's take a look at some of the most popular genres in contemporary fiction and see if we can discover what feelings they create. Once you know what genre your story is in, and what type of emotional content that type of story must have, you'll be well on your way to building that story's foundation.
With romance, the answer is obvious. These stories engage the hearts of their readers, who follow the obstacles the main couple must overcome in order to realize just how much they love and need each other. No matter what other elements romance stories contain, from suspense, to science fiction, the main focus of the story must be on the blossoming love between the couple.
It's also easy to connect erotica to the emotions it must engage. Arousal, and release are the primary focus of these stories, no matter how graphic you make the sexual themes and situations in them. After the action crests at its highest point, the story will need to have a satisfying resolution that eases the reader down to a relaxed emotional state. Don't leave the reader hanging.
Science fiction should capture the imagination of readers, allowing them to experience the world you've created by picturing themselves interacting with the technology, races, cultures, and societies you create. Plausibility is also very important. Ground your world's technological advancements in technologies already familiar to us, and you'll avoid the risk of alienating readers who may have a greater understanding of science and technology than you have. While readers are willing to suspend disbelief, you need to be careful that your creations exist within a set of rules that make sense.
Fantasy, like science fiction, emphasizes the imaginative. Here, too, you have to be careful to keep a sense of balance in your world. If your world involves magic, then there must be a set of laws that govern its use. If you create non-human races, then those races must have their own strengths and weaknesses, so no one group is overpowered. In classic pen-and-paper role-playing games, for example, magic users are physically much weaker than warriors and can only wear specific types of armor. The power they may be able to wield as they develop is tempered by weaknesses that make them weak (at least at the start of the campaign).
Horror touches the fear in all of us. It seeks out the visceral reactions we have to the unknown and to things we can't control. When it's well written, it makes us fear for the characters' well-being and survival. We stumble along with them, trying to understand the terrible things that are happening to them, and wondering what they can do to survive it all.
With historical fiction, such as westerns, the reader experiences a sense of nostalgia, a yearning for days gone by. In some ways, it's the opposite of science fiction. It speculates on what life was like in the decades, centuries, or millenia before our own time, and as with science fiction, it's important to include details and elements that ring true. Just as science fiction writers need to be careful about keeping their scientific marvels ground in recognizable science, people who write historical fiction must always assume that some of their readers know more about the time period and the events they are discussing than they do. It doesn't mean you have to be perfect, but you'll need to make sure you get the everyday details of life in that time correct. The research can be daunting, but it's better to correct things in your rough draft instead of having a reader put your book down because she recognizes your mistake.
Mysteries pull at our curiosity and our desire to see justice done. While we may feel some sympathy for the villains, it can never be enough to excuse the crimes they have committed. The guilty must be punished and the innocent victims avenged.
Finally, thrillers are rollercoasters in story form. Readers want to be taken on an exciting ride through various locations as the hero or heroine races to uncover some hidden truth before it's too late. It could be an object or an answer to a long-held theory. Regardless, some truth will be revealed, and that truth will change the way the hero or heroine sees the world by the end of the book.
Sometimes, your story will combine genres. One of the sub plots of your thriller might involve your main character falling in love with the assassin sent to kill him, or the heroine of your fantasy novel may be sent on a quest to recover a lost relic that's vital for the survival of her kingdom. Just take a few minutes and think about what the major storyline of your work is. Is it the threat to the hero's life or the romance with the assassin? Is it the political intrigues of the kingdom or the quest to regain the object?
By taking some time to figure out what the main storyline of your story will be, you'll learn what type of emotional content your story must focus on. That will make crafting your plot a little bit easier.