I am often asked what genre Tales of the Drui is. This question must be one of the hardest I have ever had to answer regarding my story. When I wrote Tales of the Drui, every scene, every word, was selected with the 35-year-old male fantasy reader in mind. This was my demographic. Unfortunately, the average 35-year-old fantasy reader has little to no time to read. My goal was to provide a fast read for the fans of Tolkien’s The Silmarillion. And I did. Each of my beta readers consistently reported that my 250,000 word novel, felt like an 80,000 word book. Not one of them had any idea how much they had actually read. The story moves fast.
So, if you were to ask me, what genre I’ve written, I would answer, without a doubt, High Fantasy. But, unlike High Fantasy, there is an element missing from Tales of the Drui that pulls the book away from that genre. It is a High Fantasy, but it simply does not read like one. My second guess would be historical fantasy…maybe alternate historical fantasy. But I don’t alter the historical references. In fact, I go out of my way to depict the history as accurately as possible. I also have a massive mythical story line that runs parallel to the history line.
On the other hand, it could be literary fiction, upper market fantasy, romantic comedy, NA (New Adult), and low fantasy, not something easily written in a query letter. In fact…don’t ever claim more than one genre in your query letter. Regardless, of my current indecision, Tales of the Drui began as a romance. I realized, as a romance, the story would not live up to its full potential. Besides, I am too reserved to write a sex scene. Ever.
During edits, 90% of the romantic element was stripped from Tales of the Drui. I had seven beta readers review and edit “Tales” for its “romantic tolerance”. “Romantic Tolerance” is a phrase I made up for this particular revision. I needed to be sure the romantic moments in my book did not disgust, bore, or tweek my targeted demographic of 35-year-old male. I wanted to be sure that, although there was a romance, it never crossed the line into “pages of romantic dribble” (Their words. Not mine). Three of my beta readers were male; three, were attorneys; two, are romance fans; four, sci-fi/fantasy fans; one reads historical war novels and non-fiction. I have met four of these people.
The romance still exists in Tales. It just took a back seat to the main story line. So, why am I having a hard time defining the genre? Because your genre determines your demographic. The majority of Science Fiction readers are male. The majority of romance readers are female. Gender matters. Education matters. Demographics matter! If you write a romance novel that will appease males, chances are, it will not sell at all. If you write a Science Fiction novel with the female romance reader in mind, chances are, it won’t sell. My beta readers spanned the 20-year-old single female, the mid-30’s male attorney, and the 60-year-old war veteran. They all passionately enjoyed “Tales”. But, before I could finish my query letter, I had to select a genre, which would be determined by my demographic.
This brings me to my main topic of discussion: The Princess Bride.
I do not enjoy “chick flicks”. I own every sub-marine movie in existence except “Operation Petticoat” (I love classic movies, Bogart, Heston, Brando…I still could not bring myself to sit through “Operation Petticoat”). If you were to ask me about Princess Bride, I would say, “It’s a chick flick!”
In chorus, many men across the web just shouted, “No, it’s not!”
To them I answer:
“The whole story revolves around a man fighting to rescue the damsel in distress while he vows his undying true love. Love conquers all (of course) and they ride off into the sunset together. How is this not a chick flick!?”
“Because I like it!” replies every male I have every spoken to about this movie. “And I hate chick flicks! Ergo, it must not be a chick flick!”
And they’re right! Princess Bride is not a “chick flick”! For the record, I love Princess Bride! As does every fan of Twilight, every ten year old cartoon watcher, every Tolkien fan, Marvel comics fans, Star Trek fans, and romance fans. Except for those handful of exceptions — everybody loves Princess Bride despite the whole premise focusing on a love story that centers on a valiant hero, his damsel in distress, and their true love.
This is where I paused as a writer and asked, “Why?”
What is it about Princess Bride that accumulated the largest crossover in existence? How could a love story attract so many fans, even those who detest the boy-meets-girl plot lines? What is it about Buttercup and Westley that brought children, romance fans, science fiction readers, fantasy readers, and comedians together? How did Princess Bride do it?
For the last two years, I have dissected this movie. These were my findings.
- There is action. Plenty of it! Sword fights, giants, challenges, torture, murder, plots to start a war! All very exciting elements that keep me engaged.
- There is a great story. No matter how well you write, if you don’t have story, you have nothing. Story is simply the problem/obstacle that prevents the main character from completing their goal/motive. This, in turn, creates conflict. The more problems/obstacles your main character is confronted with, the more determined and desperate the character should become, then the more conflict you have. You want a lot of this. Go nuts! Give your main character hell then give them a spirit that can’t be broken (See the anime One Piece and Naruto for riveting examples of this). Above all else, be logical!
But so many stories have these elements and they don’t crossover. So how is Princess Bride different? The romance and comedy found in The Princess Bride is the secret of its success.
Despite the story being steeped in breathtaking love scenes and heart sweeping dialogue, nearly every romantic moment is countered with an equivalent helping of humor. I could sit and re-watch the opening scene over and over and over…and have. But the moment you see the first kiss between Buttercup and Westley, the whines of 10-year-old Fred Savage disrupt their perfection with, “Is this a kissing book?”
If you have any amount of romantic intolerance, you are, at once, won over by Fred Savage brazenly saying exactly what you were probably thinking. “I don’t believe this” accompanies a hug and their sorrowful adieus. “They’re kissing again,” cuts off their reunion. What romantic elements exist, are interrupted with an exuberant amount of comedy making the romantic element tolerable for those of us who hate watching romance. Even in story book mode, where Savage keeps quiet, you find our Princess Buttercup saying to the Man in Black, “you can die too for all I care.” to which he promptly replies, “as you wish,” and she knows who he really is.
But no. That isn’t how the scene plays out at all. Instead, she shoves the Man in Black down a hill upon saying, “You can die too for all I care!” and as he rolls down the hill, he shouts back, “AAAAAAAS YOOOOOU WIIIIIISH”. Despite the romanticism, you laugh. How can you not?
And for those of us who have an insatiable supply of romantic tolerance, our irritation is carried away by the humor delivered by the disruption, resulting in a beautiful marriage between romance that is contradicted by its comedy.
Laughter conquers all, not love. Laughter exceeds all form of hatred and paves the way for love. Don’t believe me? Watch Into The White.
At the end of the day, I settled on a demographic that will appease the largest reader group: females between the ages of 25 and 35, which makes my genre, upmarket fantasy.