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For those of you subscribed to the Amid the Imaginary newsletter, you’ll remember that I mentioned a research project I’ve been conducting. The question of my thesis: What trends or themes are in overabundance in the Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Dystopian, Paranormal, Steampunk genres.

To find the answer, I went to the book reading source: Book review blogs

Why them and not casual readers? Three reasons:

  1. They read a ton of books and are more likely to notice specific trends.
  2. They have a demonstrated passion for books.
  3. Since they write reviews for these books, their opinions reflect a greater consideration for the story than a casual reader.

The book blog community came back with awesome responses which I’ve compiled into really interesting results.

Some bits on Methodology (otherwise known as dry facts):

I surveyed 200 book blogs that review self-published books in these genres. My hope was a response rate of at least 30%. It took some time, but I received 86 replies, a response rate of a whopping 43% (Book blog peeps are the best!)

Note: I did not take the survey myself to avoid contaminating the results with bias.

As I started to compile the data, I went through and marked any answers I saw more than once, finding nineteen common answers. But some of those nineteen had only two or three blogs that identified them as trends which isn’t a strong indicator. Using a range of 20-25%, I classified a trend to be one identified by at least 17-21 blogs.

The results were fascinating. Far from the genre specific trends I expected, the main call outs crossed genres entirely, providing more evidence that it’s always about the story and the characters.

The top three categories were mentioned by 64% of surveyed blogs.

They were:

  • Romance Aspect
  • Heroes/Heroines
  • Villains

Each category contained three main points that book bloggers are fed up with. I will go over each one individually in upcoming posts to really flesh out the issues noticed. Keep an eye out for those coming soon.

Meanwhile, some points with strong indicators (20-25%) that were genre specific:

Fantasy:

  • Too many elves!
  • Too much of “The Chosen One”
  • Rushed world building/world building not well integrated with the story

Science-Fiction:

  • Captains are always human
  • Too much of the Han Solo trope (smirking rascal who pretends to only care about money but really has a heart of gold)
  • Too much emphasis on the Science and not enough on the Fiction (the dreaded research info dump vs. storytelling)

Dystopian:

  • Always takes place in the U.S. What happened to the rest of the world?
  • Lacking in diversity (or diversity found only in the bad guy/side kick)

Paranormal:

  • Too many angels!
  • Too many vampires, werewolves, zombies or fae. Try other mythology!

Steampunk:

  • Always Eurocentric. Needs to expand to other parts of the world.

If you’re an author, I am by no means saying that these results mean you should despair and dump your WIP if it includes any of the above mentioned items. I still hanker for a vampire story now and then, or a U.S. based post-apocalyptic situation. Story ideas come to writers from that mysterious ether of the imagination and strike us like lightning from the sky. That a writer should tell the story in their heart is not in question. But we should consider the practical applications of our art as well and reach for something new to weave into a plot line.

Resilience and adaptability: The seasoning of a successful author.

What do you all think about the results so far? Any thoughts on the accuracy? Have you noticed any of these trends in your own reading?

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