Understanding Your Favorite Genre Gives You the Advantage Bestselling Authors Know Well

Story Arc Cozy Mystery

This month, Alex Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) asked, “What do you consider the best characteristics of your favorite genre?” I’ll share mine and explain how knowing key details helps you engage readers.

Know Your Favorite Genre

Genres are like art: you know what you like.

And like a professional artist, a writer who knows the specific characteristics of their favorite genre enjoys the knowledge of what and how to write for their target audience. That knowledge can free you from worrying about whether you’re creating what your readers want.

Best of all, knowing the characteristics of your favorite genre might be your ticket to write a bestseller!

My Favorite Genre: Mystery

I love reading mysteries. Over the years, I’ve collected notes that break down the story elements of my favorite genre. For example:

  • A mystery gives readers an intellectual exercise: a puzzle to solve.

    Readers love brainstorming answers to solve the mystery’s puzzle. Early on, the story places two questions in readers’ minds: who done it and why?

  • A mystery stirs up specific emotions in readers.

    The target audience craves the feelings of intrigue, and especially the anticipation of solving the puzzle. Often a mystery includes elements of a thriller, stirring up levels of excitement. Also, there can be an element of suspense, leaving readers with a bit of anxiety wondering what will happen next. Readers love they can safely experience these emotions while solving the puzzle.

  • Writers can arrange a mystery’s elements in an endless array of entertaining stories.

    A mystery contains story elements that give writers the freedom to try fresh approaches:
    – Clues, Red Herrings, and Suspect Testimonies
    – Foreshadowing of Future Events
    – Single and Multiple Point of View Characters
    – High Stakes
    – Character Development
    – Secrets, Lies, and Twists
    – External, Internal, and Philosophical Themes
    – Subplots (e.g., Romance)

Genre Drives Audience Expectations


Consider how you can leverage your knowledge.

  • Identify your favorite genre.
  • List the essential story elements.
  • Distill how top authors use your favorite genre’s story elements to write bestsellers.

Leave a Reply

What do you consider the best characteristics of your favorite genre?

Visit the Insecure Writer’s Support Group

Insecure Writer's Support Group

Take a moment and checkout Alex Cavanaugh’s popular Insecure Writer’s Support Group. I encourage you to sign up and take part in the monthly blog challenge. You will also find a list of bloggers signed up for the monthly challenge that are worth checking out. The first Wednesday of every month, we all post our thoughts, fears or words of encouragement for fellow writers.

7 responses to “Understanding Your Favorite Genre Gives You the Advantage Bestselling Authors Know Well”

  1. wordsfromanneli Avatar

    Very well laid out, Grant.

    1. Grant at Tame Your Book! Avatar
      Grant at Tame Your Book!

      Thanks, Anneli! It helps me understand by seeing an image of what rattles around in my head.

      1. wordsfromanneli Avatar

        Yes, me too. I like to see it in front of me – not just in my head.

  2. Tonja Drecker / Bookworm for Kids (@TDrecker) Avatar

    I have something similar on the wall in my writing room, but your’s is even more detailed. Love it!

    1. Grant at Tame Your Book! Avatar
      Grant at Tame Your Book!

      Thanks for commenting, Tonja. You’ve made me curious… would a poster-size version help?

  3. Abby Harding Avatar

    Good graphic! I started writing a cozy mystery earlier this year and fizzled out because I didn’t have enough of a grasp on the over-arching tropes and plot points and got derailed. This is a very helpful chart! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Grant at Tame Your Book! Avatar
      Grant at Tame Your Book!

      You’re welcome, Abby! For your cozy mystery, you might find this post of interest. https://tameyourbook.com/evidence-boards/

%d bloggers like this: