Writing Forums

Writing Forums is a privately-owned, community managed writing environment. We provide an unlimited opportunity for writers and poets of all abilities, to share their work and communicate with other writers and creative artists. We offer an experience that is safe, welcoming and friendly, regardless of your level of participation, knowledge or skill. There are several opportunities for writers to exchange tips, engage in discussions about techniques, and grow in your craft. You can also participate in forum competitions that are exciting and helpful in building your skill level. There's so much more for you to explore!

Genre-Elements & hard sells (1 Viewer)

Not open for further replies.


Senior Member
Genre-elements can feel interchangeable at certain times.

We could say: (keep in mind I'm intentionally using hard sells for an example here)

“A magic knight in fairy-land meets a pretty girl/guy but oh no, she’s/he’s a vampire and he must decide if he want to kill her/him”

Or we could say:

“An insurance lawyer who loves dogs but has what he feels is a powerful (sometimes too powerful) moral compass falls in love with someone but discovers she is a dog-murderer. In a cosmic turn of events (we would explain this), he has the power to deny her insurance and let her die of an easily treatable disease, if he chooses. He must decide what to do.”

This is literally the same story with an identical emotional core, but the second version is way more interesting.

No magazine says (that I know of):

"we object to instances of pleasurable terror" or "we object to the despair of an enemy loved". They say "here's something very concrete we dislike".
I disagree. They have the same essential plot, not the same essential story. Plot is one element of storytelling, not storytelling itself. Story, the core myth, has a lot to do with what concepts and motifs are used. Vampire, even just the word, inherently creates a different story than dog-murderer. A vampire is a different idea than a dog-murderer, or, for that matter, a zombie, a serial killer, or a ghost. In a good story, no element is interchangeable; all plays into the core myth.

Magazines list hard sells because tropes that are used often are often used poorly, not because dog-murderers are inherently more interesting than vampires (I, for one, think the first story sounds more interesting, even if it is generic. The second has no emotional ring, for me). There's nothing wrong with a common trope done well, I think, but it's nice of magazines to note their preferences ahead of time so I can narrow down what to send them.

ETA: You yourself noted instances of "pleasurable terror" - an aspect of the vampire mythology clearly absent from dog-murderer mythology. Different motif = different story.


Senior Member
This is literally the same story with an identical emotional core, but the second version is way more interesting.
Completely different. The second one is almost certainly a black comedy. Magazines list their 'hard sells' not necessarily because they hate said tropes but because they want to be frank with their submitters. A zombie romance is less likely to be accepted simply because it has to compete with hundreds of other zombie romances, some of which are probably quite decent.


Senior Member
Funny you posted this, I was just thinking about Star Wars.

In a far off land, a farm boy stumbles across a message from a beautiful princess seeking rescue. He enlists the help of a kindly old wizard, a snarky rogue and his pet dog, and two living dolls in a bid to destroy the dark lord's evil castle.

It's literally a classic fairy tale, just with a sci-fi coat of paint. But for some reason people would rather compare its technology to Star Trek rather than its basic plot to Lord of the Rings.
Joker, that's a better example, because Star Wars incorporates fairy-tale motifs - even the words (princesses, knights, etc.). But it's still not interchangeable with a fairy tale, right? There's also western elements - the scenes on Tatooine in the first movie come to mind - and the element of outer space, which just inherently alters the mythical thrust. It's kind of genre-defying - kind of a mishmash - but nothing, at least not in the original trilogy, seems out of place.

We call it science fiction because that's our best word for myths in space, but it can seem like a misnomer because there's not really any science involved. I still don't know whether it's better to make science fiction a very narrow category that includes, like, only Jules Verne, or if it's better to say that genres are more like loose collections of motifs than strict rules about general thrust.

Sidenote: IMO Star Wars shares more similarity to something like Chronicles of Narnia than The Lord of the Rings. The Lord of the Rings is a more rigorously consistent type of fantasy; Chronicles and Star Wars are looser worlds that feel right because of their atmosphere/thrust.


WF Veterans
I agree with Arrow. Plot is a rather minor point of difference and similarity between stories. The hit, nineties teen rom com 'Ten Things I Hate About You' is a retelling of Shakespeare's 'Taming Of The Shrew' but I challenge anybody to try to get a focus group of typical high school teenagers to find them comparable.

Regarding hard sells, anything can be a hard sell if it's oversubscribed. That's not the only reason, but it tends to be a major one. If the second version is more interesting to a publisher, it is only because there are fewer stories written about insurance lawyers than knights. Other reasons for hard sells tend to come down to taste, it's an aesthetic preference. Some people just like certain settings, voices, characters.

I am not a fan of gangster stuff, for instance, but that doesn't mean I don't like the plot of Scarface, it just means I don't personally like the aesthetics in which that plot transpires. I might well be fine with the same basic plot of Scarface set, say, in Medieval times.
Last edited:


Met3 Member
Staff member
Chief Mentor
Arrow -- This thread offers some intelligent observations about the themes and sub-themes that permeate world literature from The Epic of Gilgamesh forward. Yours are particularly astute. Awareness of these elements, especially the distinction between Plot and Story, is helpful to the writer and reader but of critical importance to the critic. She/he must not only guide and enjoy the boat as it slices through the waves, but explain the dynamics of buoyancy that keep the thing afloat in the first place. I drew hoots of disapproval from certain of my met-them-in-the-pub friends when I drew parallels between the first Star Wars movie and that classic Western, Shane. They thought I was deriding their favourite sci-fi movie; in fact, I was complementing it by positioning it within the tradition of which it is a part.

Poetry is my primary love. For decades--one could even argue from the groundbreaking forms of HD 100 years ago--modern poetry has moved in and out of a bewildering dialectic about the "boundaries" of Form from the hip-hop roots of Eminem to the austere academic explorations found within the covers of The Atlantic. Both extremes are called "poetry", which is not unlike declaring that a fine Arabian racehorse and a Clydesdale are both 'horses'. Penetrating observation! . . .but what the fuck does one do with it? Any thoughts Arrow?
I think that's a different discussion ... a parallel would be, in poetry, no word is interchangeable. Split and divide and rend are all different ideas - different, hm, spells, maybe. A line phrased one way or another conjures something different every time (sidenote: this gives more weight to the importance of rhythm - magic system rules, kinda?). A turn of phrase is literally a transformation. Which is possibly also true of the best prose, but nowhere is it as stark as in poetry.

I'm starting to wonder if their is a substantial distinction between poetry and prose, at least when they are at their best. Maybe: bad prose and bad poetry are different, but good prose and good poetry do the same thing, which is conjure realities out of language. Which is why, to return to the original thread, you can't just exchange one motif for another as if it was choosing between red and blue socks (heh, maybe that's a bad analogy ... red, blue, deeply significant, each a myth in their own right ... ok I'm getting off track)
Not open for further replies.