One thing that constantly surprises me about the books sent to me for review is how many people get the genre of their own books wrong. I’ve had sword-and-sorcery epics described as thrillers, urban fantasies where almost every character —including the love interest—ends up dead (some several times) and the author tells me it’s a romance.
So as a public service, I thought I might post a few examples of various genres. Well, that and the fact that I stumbled across the incredibly fun and addictive plot generator at the eponymously titled http://www.plot-generator.org.uk/. All you have to do is put in some adjectives, nouns, verbs, and nom de plume, and out comes your plot. It even generates a cover!
Thanks to the Plot Generator, here are the adventures of my two characters, Penelope Marysue and Guy Hero, with the help of my random word choices and pen name genregirl:
1. A Mystery
The Sympathetic Stranger
Penelope Marysue has the perfect life working as a head janitor in the city and dumpster-diving with her brilliantly insightful boyfriend, Guy Hero.
However, when she finds an iridescent stuffed giraffe in her cellar, she begins to realize that things are not quite as they seem in the Marysue family.
An International Clown Convention leaves Penelope with some startling questions about her past, and she sets off to the ugly underbelly of Anaheim to find some answers.
At first the people of Anaheim are kickass and spunky. She is intrigued by the curiously sympathetic washed-up race car driver, Cliff Overthetop. However, after he introduces her to the street-version of Candy Crush, Penelope slowly finds herself drawn into a web of lust, vote rigging and perhaps, even texting while driving.
Can Penelope resist the charms of Cliff Overthetop and uncover the secret of the iridescent stuffed giraffe before it’s too late, or will her demise become yet another Anaheim legend?
- If this is a hard-boiled detective story, Penelope may start out with a partner. If so, said partner will probably be older, perhaps dishonest, but certainly not long for this world. (Especially if Penelope starts delivering a running monologue, at which point the only thing left for her partner to do is make sure the life insurance is paid up and the whiskey polished off.) The high mortality rates must make Detective Partnering one of the most hazardous lines of work ever, second only to those guys who wear the red shirts on Star Trek and get killed between the first and second commercial breaks.
- If everything happens too fast for you to keep up with clues but there’s blood everywhere and probably several explosions and chase scenes and Penelope has a knife to her throat at least once, it’s a thriller.
- If the detective is a member of the police force who ignores direct orders from his/her superiors, it is a police procedural.
- If the detective is a little old lady, speaks with a southern accent, or has a cat, it is a cozy mystery.
- If the cat answers back, it is magical realism.
- If the talking cat belongs to a wizard detective, it is an urban fantasy.
2. A Fantasy Novel
Guy Hero, the Black Forest Elf
In a tree-house there lived an over the top, precious Black Forest Elf named Guy Hero. Not a brawny lightning fast, gloomy tree-house, filled with swords and a shimmering smell, nor yet a gilded, serpentine, silky tree-house with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a Black Forest Elf-tree-house, and that means protection from door-to-door sales-elves and mothers-in-law.
One day, after a troubling visit from the troll Penelope Marysue, Guy leaves his tree-house and sets out in search of three enchanted alabaster marbles that will save the world. A quest undertaken in the company of fae, witches and buzz-kill knights.
In the search for the troll-guarded marbles, Guy Hero surprises even himself with his party magic tricks and skill as a Trickster and Children’s Birthday Party Entertainer.
During his travels, Guy rescues a stone, an heirloom belonging to Penelope. But when Penelope refuses to try making love on horseback, their friendship is over.
However, Penelope is wounded at the Battle of Waterloo and the two reconcile just before Guy engages in some serious making love on horseback.
Guy accepts one of the three enchanted alabaster marbles and returns home to his tree-house a very wealthy Black Forest Elf.
- If this story occurs over 27 volumes, it is high fantasy
- If the three marbles are for that night’s D&D tournament, it is low fantasy.
- If Guy Hero turns out the be The One, hidden heir to the kingdom, who must assemble a devoted but motley band to aid in restoring him to the throne, it is quest fantasy.
- If Guy has a fairy godmother, three wishes, or a super-mean stepmother, it is a fairy tale and Guy has absolutely no business doing anything of the sort on a horse because if the PTA gets hold of this, Guy’s tree-house will be listed as a registered sex-offender site.
- If Guy meets talking animals who help demonstrate a Universal Truth (like “i before e, Except after c, Or when sounded as “a,”As in neighbour and weigh.” or “If it seems too good to be true it’s probably an election year”) it’s a fable. (Not to be confused with Classic Truth “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice (1813).)
- If Guy is rescued by two brothers named Sam and Dean, it’s fanfiction. Most probably really bad fanfiction…
3. A Horror Story
The Curse of the Stars And Stripes Antique Bedpan
Whilst investigating the death of a local bridge toll collector, a cleft-chinned out of work polo player called Guy Hero uncovers a legend about a supernaturally-cursed, stars and stripes antique bedpan circulating throughout the Beltway surrounding Washington DC. As soon as anyone uses the antique bedpan, he or she has exactly 9 days left to live.
The doomed few appear to be ordinary people during day to day life, but when photographed, they look severely constipated. A marked person feels like a former campus radical who shows up for his college reunion driving a BMW convertible with a “If babies had guns, they wouldn’t get aborted” bumper sticker.
Guy gets hold of the antique bedpan, refusing to believe the superstition. A collage of images flashes into his mind: a defiant honey badger balancing on a whimpering bridge toll collector, an old newspaper headline about a polo accident, a hooded French poodle in full clown makeup ranting about toenails and a drinking well located in a conservative radio host’s bathroom.
When Guy notices his highly-toned six-pack abs muscles now have WASP-like properties, he realizes that the curse of the stars and stripes antique bedpan is true and calls in his girlfriend, a diner waitress named Penelope Marysue, to help.
Penelope examines the antique bedpan and willingly submits herself to the curse. She sees the same visions flash before her eyes. She finds the defiant honey badger balancing on a whimpering bridge toll collector particularly chilling. Penelope joins the queue marked for a supernatural death.
Guy and Penelope pursue a quest to uncover the meaning of the visions, starting with a search for the hooded French poodle in full clown makeup. Will they be able to stop the curse before their time is up?
- if the answer is “no”, this is horror.
- If the answer is “yes”, this is dark fantasy.
- If the answer is “the banana told the fox that the plague was caused by frakking”, this is magic realism.
4. A Paranormal Romance
Looming Guy’s Stony Glare
Penelope Marysue suspected something was a little off when her kickass bestest gal-pal ever tried to behead her when she was just six years old. Nevertheless, she lived a relatively normal life among other humans.
It wasn’t until she bumped into the devilishly looming gargoyle, Guy Hero, that her life finally began to make sense.
However, Guy proved to be deadly and seemed to have an unhealthy obsession with Wicca sky-clad dancing. Penelope soon learnt that Guy had taken an oath never to attempt a lust driven (but totally both-party-consensual) french kiss with a witch.
When Penelope’s kickass bestest gal-pal ever is injured in a misspelled spell accident, Penelope realizes her own life is at risk.
Despite Guy’s stony glare and preternatural strength, Penelope finds herself falling for the gargoyle. Only fate will decided whether he kills or protects her.
One night, a fallen angel appears before Penelope and warns her of a darkness within Guy. The fallen angel gives Penelope the glowing enchanted iPad – the only weapon that can defeat a looming gargoyle.
Will Penelope find it in herself to kill the only creature who has ever made her feel truly satisfied? (Hint: yes! She must!)
- If the cover has a half-naked man and the two (or three) main characters end up mated or in love AND live happily ever after, it’s a paranormal romance.
- If the cover has a half-naked woman and the two (or many),main characters die leaving only one alive, and that one’s got issues and (possibly) a talking cat, it’s urban fantasy.
5. A Passionate Romance
Penelope and Guy
Penelope Marysue is a dimple-chinned, brainy, and kickass detective who practices in the mean conservative streets of suburban Seattle. Her life is going nowhere until she meets Guy Hero, a delicate, sophisticated man with a passion for growing orchids.
Penelope takes an instant dislike to Guy and his selfish take-the-last-cookie ways he learnt during his years on Great Granny Fanny’s wholesome but hardworking farm.
However, when a conservative banker tries to take calls on his mobile in the theater AND posts spoilers online framing Penelope, Guy springs to the rescue. Penelope begins to notice that Guy is actually rather a liberal at heart.
But the pressures of Guy’s job as a bitter, scarred IRS tax auditor leave him blind to Penelope’s affections and Penelope takes up couch surfing to try and distract herself.
Finally, when puppy-kicking international man of mystery, Cliff Overthetop, threatens to come between them, Guy has to act fast. But will they ever find the passionate love that they deserve?
- Don’t be ridiculous—of COURSE they will find love and their HEA (Happily Ever After). That’s the single essential element to a romance. If not, the reader is obligated to demand a refund and troll-post one-star reviews all over the web. Duh.
- If Penelope wears a bustle, crinoline, or shift and talks to actual historical figures, it’s a historical novel. If she goes to bed with them and neither of them gets beheaded and/or castrated, it’s a historical romance.
- If Penelope wears goggles and a corset, carries a spyglass, and rides on anything powered by steam, it is steampunk. (Guy might be a sky pirate if he’s lucky, but either way she will probably shoot him at least once.)
- If Penelope is a wacky, sexy professional woman with extremely high stilettos who is fighting for her big break in the City, Guy is a smoking hot iBanker, and one of them has a gay friend with a small dog who gives good advice on clothes and relationships while the other one has a sister who just wants them to find The One and move to Brooklyn and make babies, but there are multiple triangles involving the Heartless Bitch and the Deceptively Perfect Potential Love Interest then it’s Chick Lit. (If one or both have chucked their meaningless City life, gay friend, and stilettos for post-recession life in the country because they’ve discovered What Really Matters, it’s Farm Lit. Brace yourself: there will be overalls.)
6. A Science Fiction Plot
Galactic Kickass Laser-guided Sling-Shot Wars
After leaving the laser planet Lavalulu, a group of androids fly toward a distant speck. The speck gradually resolves into an incredible space temple.
Civil war strikes the galaxy, which is ruled by Victorious Secret, a crumpled down-on-his-luck interstellar bookmaker capable of puppy torture and even taking interstellar calls in the theater.
Terrified, a frosty Frazzled Venusian Muckrat known as Guy Hero flees the Empire, with his protector, Penelope Marysue.
They head for Anaheim on the planet Earth. When they finally arrive, a fight breaks out. Marysue uses her kickass laser-guided sling-shot to defend Guy.
Marysue and Frazzled Venusian Muckrat Guy decide it’s time to leave Earth and steal an ice-cream van to shoot their way out.
They encounter a tribe of flying zombies wearing clown disguises. Marysue is attacked and the Frazzled Venusian Muckrat is captured by the flying zombies wearing clown disguises and taken back to Anaheim.
Marysue must fight to save Frazzled Venusian Muckrat Guy, but when she accidentally unearths a subversive easter egg with the 3-D sugar picture containing the leaked scripts of the next 2,147 new Marvel Comics movies, the entire future of the kickass, laser galaxy is at stake.
- if Penelope is actually an intergalactic were-badger, this might be Science Fantasy.
- If Penelope the intergalactic were-badger speaks in iambic pentameter, occasionally eats bits of Guy, and now and then is inexplicably back on Earth-That-Was, it’s New Weird Fantasy.
- If Penelope and Guy join the crew of a lovable bunch of misfit space smugglers and often have to shoot their way out of trouble, it’s a Space Opera. If there are horses (even genetically modified talking android horses), it’s a Space Opera Western.
7. A Teen Vampire Story
Guy the Sexy Vampire
Desperately trying to overcome an (immortal) lifetime of psychic wounds, a new boy arrives in Anaheim and he has everybody talking. Stunningly brooding and devastatingly gorgeous of course, all the girls want him. However, Guy Hero has a secret – he’s a really vampire.
Penelope Marysue is a vulnerable but—bravely hidden behind a kickass outward demeanor—tall girl who enjoys spinning dryer lint into yarn to knit socks for homeless badgers. She becomes fascinated by Guy who can stop the three-volume library editions of War and Peace AND The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire (unabridged) with his bare hands. She doesn’t understand why he’s so standoffish.
Her best friend, a generally sunny (except when she goes bat-shit crazy during full moons or her period) were-badger called Honey, helps Penelope begin to piece together the puzzle. Together, they discover the ultimate weapon – the iridescent, crazed collection of broken parts haphazardly glued back together into a sling-shot.
When bodies start turning up all over Anaheim, Penelope begins to fear the worst. The were-badger urges her to report Guy to the police and she knows she should, so what’s stopping her?
She may resist Guy’s bite, but can she resist his charms?
Will she be caught passionately swabbing tonsils with the vampire?
Actually, I got nothin.
8. A Lost Bronte Novel
The Damp Moors (A lost BrontË novel)
Guy Hero is a sympathetic and witty orphan raised by a dastardly mouth-breather stable hand. Eventually he gets a job working as a racehorse trainer for the honorable Lady Marysue of Marysue Manor. The unlikely couple rapidly succumb to a night of unrestrained lusty passion in which Guy kisses Lady Marysue’s hand. Twice.
On the day of their wedding, a fingernail-biting butler escapes from the attic of Marysue Manor and starts a fire. Believing that Lady Marysue is dead, Guy flees from the church and wanders the damp moors for days until he is rescued by a modest beach chair stacker.
However, although Lady Marysue is blinded by the fire, she still breathes. Without Guy she becomes unspeakably cruel and controlling. She turns to alcohol for comfort. The ghost of the butler from the attic haunts her.
Meanwhile, thinking Lady Marysue is dead, Guy accepts a marriage proposal from his savior, the beach chair stacker. However, one night he believes he can hear Lady Marysue calling, “Guy, where are you? Guy come home!” and he returns to Marysue Manor.
On Guy’s return, he finds Lady Marysue drunk and without sight. Mistaking him for the ghost of the fingernail-biting butler, she attacks him with a sling-shot and Guy Hero dies.
As she attends to the body, Lady Marysue realizes what she has done. Driven mad with guilt, she hatches a plan to destroy the next generation, but there is no next generation and she dies of consumption two weeks later.
- if Guy is an orphan and the stablehand is his wicked uncle whose evil plan is to steal Guy’s inheritance (a solid gold bridle which, face it, is pretty useless otherwise because the gold is pretty soft), if Marysue Manor is huge and reasonably spooky, and if the butler is a vampire, it’s a gothic novel.
- If the butler speaks with a southern accent and bites Lady Marysue when she’s dying in order to turn her into his eternal mate, it’s Gothic Paranormal
- If she’s into the biting and it’s consensual, and they live Happily (for)Ever After, it’s Gothic Paranormal Romance.
- If she’s into the biting, but kinda misses Guy too, so she bites him and the three of them live Happily Ever After with lots more biting and maybe some tying-up stuff…it’s Gothic Paranormal Romance Erotica. Congratulations! You’ll probably make more than the rest of the genre writers put together.
So there you go. The Plot Generator is just waiting for you. And now, when you send your finished opus to me, you’ll know what genre to label it.