John Truby on Genre

Just finished reading an article in Script Magazine that talked about the importance of genre in writing a movie script1. Since I always thought genre was just a setting, it really opened my eyes about how it can help the writer build his story.  The article is by John Truby, a recognized screenwriting instructor in Hollywood.  Basically, the article points out that genre helps the writer:

  • Develop the main character by providing a desire line with which he must be aligned. (What is my motivation?)
  • Categorize the relationship between hero and villain, or even define who is the villain.
  • Develop the plot by providing standard story beats around which to build the story.
  • Provide a deep thematic question that the story attempts to answer or express.

Truby then goes on to say that once you’ve established the core genre, transcend it by making your hero unique and human and by twisting the story beats ever so slightly.
Since nobody really reads this blog, I thought it was a good place to record that I liked this article.  Someday when I’m scanning through all depressed, maybe I’ll remember how cool the article was and read it again.
1Script Magazine, Volume 17/Number 1, January/February 2011; Genres: The Secret to Your Success pp 22,23; John Truby

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1 Response to John Truby on Genre

  1. Bryce Lynch says:


    I agree completely. I just finished Truby’s The Anatomy of Story and found it very helpful. Truby goes out of his way to say how important it is to determine your genre and that each genre shares specific story beats. However he doesn’t say what those beats are or how to determine genre. He says the detail is beyond the scope of his book.

    From his website: Action (11 beats), Comedy (15 beats), Detective (10 beats), Crime (8 beats), Thriller (9 beats), Horror (15 beats), Science Fiction (11 beats), Fantasy (13 beats), Love (12 beats), Memoir (7 beats), Myth (15 beats). His website sells individual audio classes that seem like they would list them. I’d gladly buy another of his books on the topic but I couldn’t find any and the audio classes are way out of my price range.

    I am looking for any information on those genre specific beats and how to determine which genre best fits a particular story but in particular I’m looking for:

    Myth, Fantasy, Science Fiction & Action

    Do you know of any resources on that topic? Any help is appreciated. I’ve searched online and came across your post.

    Thanks in advance.

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