Genre fiction is like oatmeal.
Now, just hear me out.
Many people have studied the bases of stories. I think it was Socrates who said there were only five original story plots. (Don’t ask me what they are.) So, sticking with the number five, we’ll say the oats themselves are genres, or different classifications for stories. We’ll name the genres as follows: Romance, Adventure, Western, Mystery, Fantasy.
Obviously there are many ways to mix and match these genres, and endless combinations of how much of each to add in. Fantasy and Mystery. Romance and Adventure. Western and anything else. There’s rarely a book written without romance of some sort, and even fewer written in which there isn’t emphasis on some sort of relationship, be it familial, friendship, enemy, or... or what else is there?
So, in oatmeal it’s the same, right? I don’t know anyone ANYONE who likes oatmeal plain, without anything in it. At least sweeten it a little.
That’s where romance comes in. Romance is the sugar. Or I guess honey, or artificial sweetener, or molasses, or agave, or whatever your preference is. But as I explained before, romance is perhaps ill-named because it can include all types of relationships. But I put it as romance because that’s what it is at it’s most extreme. It can be taken in smaller doses, depending on your preference when sweetening. Perhaps the different types of sweetener could be the different types of relationships. But that might be taking this metaphor just a little too far.
Adventure is the spice of a story. Without it, what kind of journey would the hero take? What would keep us reading into the wee hours of the morning? What would get us to take that next bite? A hint of cinnamon? Maple? Nutmeg?
Westerns are the nuts. Some people love nuts in their oatmeal (some people like me). Add a little pecan or walnut and I’m in heaven. Other people can’t eat them, either because of allergies or because they just don’t like them. And some are indifferent; take them or leave them. It’s the same with Westerns.
Mystery is the milk. If you add enough milk everything in that bowl of oatmeal becomes a mystery. You take a bite and think, “Wait, was that an oat? A bit of blueberry?” But it doesn’t matter because it all satisfies, even when you have to work harder with a spoon. If you add just a little milk, it blends everything together with that perfect smoothness that takes away the sticky and makes it palatable.
Fantasy is the fruit. There are those that cannot stand fruit in their oatmeal. I don’t understand it, but there you have it. Fruit adds texture, flavor, variety, and color. What would life be without those? What would a story be?
And in case you’re wondering what I had for breakfast: Oatmeal, with a teaspoon of artificial sweetener, half a handful of pecans, a sliced banana, a hint of cinnamon, and a splash of milk.
It was delicious, just like a story would be.