If you’ve ever taken a road trip through Texas (and now a handful of other lucky states), you’ve likely seen or stopped at a Buc-ees gas station. Buc-ees is actually more than a gas station, it is a road trip icon! During my last stop at this celebrated oasis of gas pumps, snacks and clean bathrooms, I got to thinking how Buc-ees could be a metaphor for genre fiction writers. Bear with me, dear reader, I promise, I’ll get there.
When you stop at a Buc-ees you know what you’re getting, much like when you pick up a genre fiction book. You know Buc-ees will have tons of gas pumps so you don’t have to wait, lots of clean bathroom stalls, so you don’t have to wait OR worry about germs, and loads of snacks, so everyone in your vehicle can get the munchies of their choice and you can all drive away happy.
The point of genres for readers is that they know what to expect. That is not to say that they don’t want originality from writers, but they expect certain things to be in the novel. For example, if I pick up a Women’s Fiction novel, I expect that there will be a strong female POV character with some growth in her arc. If I pick up a Historical Romance, I expect a historical setting AND a happily-ever-after or happy-for now ending. If I pick up a murder mystery, I expect the first body to fall pretty quickly and I want a satisfying puzzle to solve. Give readers what they expect so they can be happy readers!
Genre fiction can be of high literary merit, but if it purports to be of a certain genre, readers have expectations to meet. I would be horrified if I walked into Buc-ees and they were out of my favorite cherry sours, just like I would be angry if my mystery novel did not contain clues and red herrings. If I had to actually wait in line at a Buc-ees to use the restroom, I would be shocked. Likewise if my Historical fiction book has a bunch of anachronisms. People love Buc-ees BECAUSE they know what to expect AND their expectations are met each and every time. Your readers will love you the same way if you are careful to meet genre expectations with originality AND do it consistently.
You could be the Buc-ees of your genre…