Study Different Genres to Sharpen Your Storytelling Skills

Every story can teach you something new. However, by focusing on specific genres, you can sharpen your storytelling skills in specific ways.

Dramas and comedies are best for learning the importance of emotional change. Watch a drama like “Titanic” or a comedy like “The 40-Year Old Virgin” and you’ll see that at their heart, the stories are about a hero yearning for a better life but not knowing how to get it. Their struggles are less about physical battles against others and more about mental struggles within themselves. The outer physical conflict simply makes their inner turmoil even worse.

In “Titanic,” the hero feels trapped into marrying a rich man just for security, but she doesn’t even like this man. What’s really leading her to a loveless marriage isn’t just the pressure from her mother and the temptation of a life of luxury, but her own unwillingness to stand up for herself and take control of her own life.

In “The 40-Year Old Virgin,” the hero wants to lose his virginity, but he wants to lose it to a woman he loves. His challenge is finding a woman to love and overcome his own fears about being in a relationship.

While dramas and comedies are always about emotional change, action thrillers are always about plot and physical conflict. By studying action thrillers, you can learn how to create physical obstacles that get increasingly more difficult.

When you just focus on mindless physical action, you wind up with duds like “The 355” or “Terminator 3.” When you create an intriguing physical conflict with an emotional story, you wind up with great movies like “Titanic” or “Die Hard.”

Action thrillers work by constantly changing the obstacles facing the hero, forcing the hero to keep fighting even harder to overcome the constant stream of obstacles blocking their way. Every good superhero movie is about the hero learning about their own powers and using those powers to defeat a villain.

Action thrillers emphasize plot twists and surprises. A straightforward plot will always be boring. An unpredictable plot will always be interesting. By studying action thrillers like “Mission Impossible” or any good superhero movie such as “Ironman,” you can better understand how to tell a compelling physical story.

Horror stories are best at emphasizing villains. The more terrifying the villain, the more greater the horror. Many mediocre action thrillers are bad because the villains aren’t that threatening. Horror stories rarely make that mistake because they make the villain as terrifying as possible. The greater the threat of the villain, the more intense the story.

Finally, don’t overlook mysteries because mysteries focus on intellectual challenges, plot twists, and character interaction. The hero must confront multiple suspects and their interaction is rarely physical but more mental conflict through dialogue.

In a mystery, every character has a goal so their dialogue clearly shows how their speech strives to achieve a specific goal. The hero’s dialogue is always meant to uncover the truth from the other hand, the other characters’ dialogue either tries to mislead the hero or provide more information for the hero.

So study different story genres and you’ll learn the following:

  • Drama and comedies – emotional change
  • Action thrillers – plot and physical conflict
  • Horror – villains
  • Mysteries – plot twists and dialogue

Every writer has their strengths and weaknesses, but you can always learn more. Even if you hate a particular genre (such as horror) study it anyways. You’ll be surprised at how much you can learn by watching the type of movie you thought you would hate.

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