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  • Writer's pictureJ.B. Manas

Book and Movie Genres: How Well Do They Line Up?

Cinema Motion Pictures book reading books and movies

Originally posted on June 23, 2018

I’ve eagerly watched and enjoyed many of the blockbuster films this year, including Infinity War, Solo, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, and others. Still haven’t seen Deadpool 2 yet, but it’s on my list! I’ve also been watching Westworld and enjoying its complexity while I suffer the long wait till Game of Thrones returns in 2019 (and even longer wait for Winds of Winter).

It occurred to me as I examine book genre trends in the sci-fi and fantasy areas, that the popular trends in books vs. movies/tv tend to differ in subtle ways.

In film and TV, genre-blending stories are as popular as ever: e.g., superhero thrillers that span earth, space, and sea; blockbuster monster films (Skull Island, Jurassic World, etc.); technothrillers like Westworld, horror/sci-fi blends like Stranger Things, and so on.

In literature, at least in the sci-fi and fantasy world, sticking closely to a sub-genre and observing its tropes (while still aiming for a unique story) is the norm, with more defined borders around each sub-genre. Currently, space opera, urban fantasy, cyberpunk, and military sci-fi are all doing well.  It’s harder to gain visibility in a crowded genre like action-adventure, for example, unless it’s a killer concept or an already popular author. And if a story spans multiple genres, it’s even harder, because the bookstores don’t know where to place it (and readers aren’t quite sure what to expect). This is why publishers always have the same battle cry, “Give me the same, but different.”

Psychological thrillers/mysteries are big in both film and literature, and in fact, many such novels are made into movies  (e.g., Gone Girl; Girl on a Train; Woman in the Window; The Marsh King’s Daughter; Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; just to name a few). Oddly enough, most books in this genre are traditionally published, while the sci-fi arena includes a good portion of indie books.

One thing is certain. A story with great characters, a compelling premise, and a killer logline will have a much better chance of finding an audience in any arena. In the book world, if it’s an easily identifiable sub-genre, all the better.

As a writer, these are the things I tend to ponder as I plan a new book series. Either way, for me, the story comes first. If it doesn’t appeal to me or offer a set of characters I want to spend a lot of time with, it doesn’t matter what genre it is. But more on that later!


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