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Does Genre Matter For Screenwriters

By Author: Joseph Hughes
Total Articles: 37

Do you know what genre your story is? Genre is what Hollywood uses to define, describe and categorize films, and like any other kind of "insider" jargon, it works as a form of shorthand.
It is used throughout the movie business, not just by producers and marketing departments, but also by audiences. So as a writer, you need to understand what genre your film is in order to communicate quickly and easily with others in the business. In fact, if your goal is to actually sell something you've written, rather than being a starving writer sitting in your garret dying for your art, it's essential that you understand genre.
Pretty much all writers are familiar with the main genres - they include action, thriller, drama, comedy, horror, sci-fi, westerns, musicals, romance, epics etc - but aren't sure how to use that knowledge.
For writers, genre fills a number of roles:
It defines your film: If you are going to market your film, you need to know what genre it is. Why? Because the first thing any producer will ask you is "what's the genre?" If you're not convinced about that, just look through the listings on something like Inktip - all the requests clearly state the required genre up front.
It can help you to write your film: Each genre has specific elements that people expect. It is essential as a writer that you know what is expected in each and every genre - if not, you'll look pretty silly when people start laughing out loud when reading your drama.
It can help you to make your script unique: First know thy enemy... if you want to write something unique and different, you must firstly understand what is expected. Once you understand genre, you will be able to bend and shape it to create something original.
Of course, most films these days combine two (or more) genres - such as rom-coms - but that doesn't mean you can simply throw anything into your script and call it a sci-fi-rom-com-action-western-drama. Rather than something original, you'll just have a mess!
Learn the basics of each genre and how to write them, and you'll not only have scripts that are more marketable, you'll also learn pretty quickly what types of scripts you like to write.
And once you know your own strengths and preferences, you can start to find that most elusive of things, your "writer's voice".

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