How do you define your story? A surprising number of authors find it difficult to answer that simple question, but whatever your genre or form it’s an important question to know the answer to.
So, how do you go about doing this and doing it right? How an author defines their story varies of course, but knowing the following is a good place to start:
Getting this right will give potential readers – and your designer – a launching point for understanding your book. By assigning it to a genre, you group your story in with others they may know, allowing them to immediately get a feel for your book.
Your book may fall under more than one genre, but you should limit it to no more than two. Focus on the overarching themes of your story to pick out which genre/s fit your story the most.
Who you’re writing for
Stating your intended readership is much like stating your genre – there are pre-assigned notions with media intended for certain audiences that give people an idea of your book by associating them with others.
A book written for children is different from one targeted at young adult (YA) audiences, and different again from the adult market. There is a standard of content to uphold in each of these readerships and all are unique onto their own.
Who your main characters are
This doesn’t have to be a detailed recount of their tragic backstories, or a comprehensive description of what they look like. Choose a few of their defining features that characterise them the most.
Where your story takes place
Is your book set in the primary world? The secondary? Is it a recognisable location like London or Dubai, or have you set yours in a more localised or rural area? Is it completely the same as our world, or does it have a mystical/technological twist? Does everything take place on a different planet, even? This should be the easiest question to answer if you’ve already done the worldbuilding for your story.
What your main problem/theme is
In fiction, this would be the main issue that your characters are trying to resolve and the thing/s stopping them from doing so. Are they having to repair their skip but are stuck on a desolate planet with little supplies and no form of contact with the outside world? Are they woefully underprepared children of prophecy, but the evil is looming and everything coming to a head?
In non-fiction this could look like the main point that you are trying to get across. If your story is about a person’s life, is it a story of resilience in the face of hardship? A tale of pioneering success?
Some stories are hard to sum up in a single sentence. For your publishing team and potential readers to understand your work and get excited about it, however, you need to be able to answer the question ‘what is your story?’ as comprehensively as possible.