Five A Colorful Background

Not every suspense novel must take place in Jamaica, Istanbul, or Singapore. One of my own, Blood Risk (under the pseudonym Brian Coffey), is set in Pittsburgh and the surrounding countryside, certainly a mundane place. No matter where the story is set, the writer should create gritty background, a stage on which hotels, houses, streets, and people are uniquely painted. This is part of the escape a category novel provides and is as important to the suspension of disbelief on the part of the reader as is an intriguing plot or solid characterization.

In short, what distinguishes category fiction from mainstream fiction is its use of all five of the elements named above—a strong plot, a hero or heroine, clear and believable motivation, plenty of action, and a colorful background. With this in mind, let's look at the seven major genres and see how they are similar—beyond these five rules—and how they differ. When you have learned to write well in one category, you will be able to write well in others.

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