What's your story type and why does it matter?

A book fanned open

Now that I’m feeling more settled in Arizona, I recently attended a writing Meetup. I’ve found a lot of excellent writing groups on Meetup before (if you haven’t tried it yet, go to meetup.com and search your city). And this group was no exception!


At the meeting today, one of the members gave a very insightful presentation on story types.


Now keep in mind, story type doesn’t mean genre. It also doesn’t mean your plot, or your theme. Instead, story type has more to do with how a character (or characters) moves through all of those elements.


You may have heard of story types before. They say that there are only a few out there — and that every story falls into one of those categories. Some common examples you may already know include ‘Coming of Age/Rite of Passage’ and ‘Monster in the House’. I’ve heard different numbers quoted before, but today we looked at 10 different types, and tried to put our own stories into one of those categories.


So, here’s what I came up with for the Wondercats…


At its heart, there are elements of a ‘Buddy Story’. This is where two characters (often opposites, with contrasting or mutually exclusive goals) must work together to achieve a common goal. They learn to accept their differences, and are stronger together. And eventually, they develop a strong bond.


The cats will certainly do that in my book. But, there are five cats. So, I think it fits better into a category called ‘Institutional’. This is where a group, sometimes mismatched, joins together for a common cause. Or, a member of the group must examine what being part of the group means, and decide whether or not they want to be a part of it. Guardians of the Galaxy is one example. Office Space and The Devil Wears Prada are other examples.


The institution referenced here can be a physical one (like a school or hospital), or an ideological one (like a government or belief system). I think my book will fit best into this category because the cats will need to come together, and to decide if they can really live as a family unit or as aloof housemates. And of course, they have their own set of rules and beliefs, different from those of their human companions.


So why is this so important?


One major reason is comp titles. The thing is, when you pitch your book to agents and editors, this is something critical to include in your pitch.


Basically, it stands for “comparison titles.” It’s books that are similar to yours, that give the agent or editor some idea of what your book is actually about. And since genres can have a HUGE range of stories (mystery can include everything from gory crime thrillers to cozy mysteries, for example), a story type may be a better way to go in terms of explaining what your story is really about. Plus, it helps with setting up your marketing materials and descriptions.


I still need to think of another ‘Institutional’ story that parallels my book idea. I’ll spend the time to come up with some good ones. But, off the top of my head, maybe there’s a comparison to the group of children from Stranger Things (is that arrogant for me to be comparing my book to one of the greatest shows on television?)

On the surface, the plots aren’t similar at all. But, you have a group that lives by their own rules outside of the world of adults (and without so much power or authority as the adults have, but with a greater freedom to bend the rules and operate on their own schedule, to some extent). A group that must solve problems independently, sometimes with the help of adults/authority figures, but often on their own. Also, one of them has superpowers, as do the five Wondercats.

If you want to know more, here's a great list that covers the 10 different story types.


So what do you think of this story type idea? And if you’re a writer and you’ve looked at story types, what category does your book fit into? I’d love to hear about your story on my Facebook page.