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Vertical Framework

Key Genres and Subgenres

  • A general description of the types of stories readers can find in these spaces, and that are a priority for our Premium catalogue.

Notable Elements

  • The classic narrative tropes and parameters that show up consistently in these genres and readers expect to see.

Reader Experience

  • What drives a reader to seek out these stories; what kind of experience or feeling are they looking for? What tone should authors look to create?

Common Pitfalls

  • What should writers be careful to avoid when writing in these genres? What are the problem areas that our scouts and editors have identified as being common to these areas that could cause a user to stop reading?

Recommended Word Count

  • 40,000-word minimum for completed stories
  • Projected 150,000-word minimum for serialized stories/series; this may be broken out into multiple seasons featuring one or multiple different couples
  • 1,500-3,000 words per chapter

Examples

  • Successful examples of these types of stories within our own content ecosystem.

 

Vertical Guidelines: Dangerous Love

Key Genres and Subgenres

  • Romance
    • Dark Romance
      • A romance story that features psychological and often taboo topics. Tone is often dark and dangerous. 
    • Mafia
      • A romance story featuring a love interest who is involved with the Mafia or other organized crime. These stories often include dangerous/possessive leads, kidnapping, and questionable power dynamics.
    • Romantic Suspense
      • A romance story featuring a prominent mystery, suspenseful situation, or thriller plotline, but where the romance between characters is still the primary focus. There is often a murder, kidnapping, or grand theft.

Notable Elements

  • Criminal organizations and secret societies like biker gangs and mafia families
  • Enemies to lovers romance
  • Taboo sexual themes such as BDSM, kink and rough sex
  • Characters behaving badly: cheating and infidelity, kidnapping, and stalking
  • Forced marriage; in Mafia this often shows up as a necessity for uniting rival families
  • Crime: murder and serial killers
  • Possessive alpha-type romantic leads
  • Characters can live anywhere in the world and come from any background

Reader Experience

  • With Dangerous Love, readers are looking for mature stories that explore taboo subjects, often with explicit sex scenes. What drives readers to these books is escapism, where they can explore themes or relationship dynamics that are unlike those they experience day-to-day. Romance, sexual relationships, and character personalities tend to be larger than life to enhance that experience of escapism. The tone is tense, sexy, dark and dangerous.

Common Pitfalls

  • Non-consensual sexual activity (Non-Con) and dubiously consensual sexual activity (Dub-Con)
    • Characters are put into a situation where they do not or cannot provide meaningful consent. This includes scenes where one character is “seduced” by the other and can’t say no, even if “they wanted to.” 
      • To avoid this issue, ensure that characters can express their agency and desire for and consent to sexual situations throughout the story. This is particularly true with Forced or Arranged Marriage or Forced Proximity stories, as well as stories that feature rough sex, BDSM and kink.
  • Underage or teacher/student relationships
    • Romance between an adult and a minor or between a teacher and a student
      • To avoid this issue, underage characters can be “aged up”. Wattpad will not monetize any content featuring a teacher-student relationship.
  • Gratuitous violence
    • Excessive gore or abuse that does not serve the narrative but is intended to shock the reader
      • To avoid this issue, violence should only be featured where it is necessary to move the story forward and should be described at a level that is appropriate to the overall tone of the story.
  • Lack of narrative
  • Unnecessary prologues and backstory
    • Explanations about a character’s past and/or prologues depicting a flashback that slow the story’s pace and delay the hook
      • To avoid this issue, weave details about your characters and their backstories into the main story itself. Overexplaining your characters’ histories (through a flashback prologue or lengthy commentary) can delay the hook, which weakens reader engagement. Think critically about where to begin the plot to avoid overwhelming your readers with info that isn’t fully relevant to the moment at hand. In Dangerous Love stories, it’s more effective to start the story with present drama that shows us what the story’s hook and tropes are rather than with a flashback that digs into the characters’ backstories.

Recommended Word Count

  • 40,000-word minimum for completed stories
  • Projected 150,000-word minimum for serialized stories/series; this may be broken out into multiple seasons
  • 1,500-3,000 words per chapter

Examples

 

Vertical Guidelines: Hot Encounter

Key Genres and Subgenres

  • Romance
    • Billionaire:
      • A romance story featuring at least one main love interest who is very wealthy. This character is often a CEO or powerful business owner but can also have inherited wealth. Luxury and class often play big roles in the plot.
    • Sports:
      • A romance story featuring a main love interest that is heavily involved in the sports world, most typically as an athlete, but can also be a coach, agent, or sports reporter. Common themes include athletic bodies, demands of a physical profession, and minor celebrity.
    • Workplace:
      • A romance story where the main location, conflict, or reason two characters know each other centers around their work or workplace. Most commonly, this is a romance with a CEO, but it can also be between people within rival companies or coworkers. These stories often feature a dominant love interest & there is usually some forbidden love or rivals-to-lovers aspect to it.
    • Historical:
      • A romance story set in a recognizable historical time period of Earth, where the social rules/norms of that time play a significant role in the flow of the story/relationship. Popular time periods include, but are not limited to, 17th C Scottish Highlands, Regency England, and Victorian England.
    • Young Adult:
      • A romance story written primarily for a teen/young adult audience. This typically means it will contain a high school setting and themes like coming-of-age, self-discovery, or first love/new relationships. Because these stories are written for a younger audience they are typically fade-to-black and avoid graphic scenes/difficult concepts. 

Notable Elements

  • Opposites attract; enemies-to-lovers romance, rivals-to-lovers romance, grumpy/sunshine.
  • Marriage before love and forced proximity; often shows up as contract marriage, accidental marriage, or marriage of convenience.
  • Whether slow burn or whirlwind, these stories often feature steamy romance with undeniable sexual tension and chemistry that pops off the page.
  • Can feature bad boy, charismatic, or alpha-type romantic leads - or, on the flip side, the romantic lead can have “himbo” energy and fall first.
  • Secret baby or surprise pregnancy.
  • Stories have reliable stakes and true-to-life challenges, compelling internal emotional conflicts, and complex characters that keep readers engaged throughout the journey to happy ever after or happy for now.
  • The romance between characters is key to character development, with themes such as overcoming trauma through love.
  • Stories can be set anywhere in the world, whether it’s a big city, a small town, a college, or a glamorous vacation destination, and characters can come from any background.

Reader Experience

  • With Hot Encounter, readers are looking for steamy stories where the romance is front and center. Readers are often drawn to the aspirational and wish-fulfillment aspects of romantic achievement, where they can be swept off their feet by the attractive lead into a world they would love to experience. The tone can range from lighter, playful romantic comedy to angsty, sexier drama, but the steaminess, electric chemistry, and payoff is essential, and they must have a happy ending.

Common Pitfalls

  • Non-consensual sexual activity (Non-Con) and dubiously consensual sexual activity (Dub-Con)
    • Characters are put into a situation where they do not or cannot provide meaningful consent. This includes scenes where one character is “seduced” by the other and can’t say no, even if “they wanted to.” 
      • To avoid this issue, ensure that characters can express their agency and desire for and consent to sexual situations throughout the story. This is particularly true with Forced or Arranged Marriage or Forced Proximity stories. 
  • Underage or teacher/student relationships
    • This can feature a romance between an adult and a minor or between a teacher and a student, where one character has much more social and physical power over the other. 
      • To avoid this issue, underage characters can be “aged up.” Wattpad will not monetize any content featuring a teacher-student relationship.
  • Toxic love interests 
    • Controlling, toxic, or abusive behaviour that manifests in the love interest restricting the lead’s agency, stalking, controlling the lead’s behaviour, or emotionally/physically abusing them.
      • We all love a “bad boy,” and this behaviour is often present in Hot Encounter love interests - cold, aloof, bitter, and distant. However, in an effort to replicate bad-boy tendencies, we never want to romanticize abuse.
      • To avoid this, ensure the “bad boy” characteristics of the lead are not confused for abusive, and never should they be directed towards the lead.
  • Surprise shifts in tone
    • Hot Encounter stories can suffer from inconsistent tone if random or gratuitous violence is used for shock value, suddenly shifting the tone from steamy contemporary romance to dark romance and/or horror/thriller (like in Dangerous Love). Common examples of this are surprise kidnapping or surprise stalking. 
      • To avoid this, be purposeful about violence and/or thriller plot points in your Hot Encounter romance. 
      • If a plot point develops into something much darker and more violent in tone and takes away from a happily ever after, your story might be better suited for a dark romance designation within Dangerous Love. 
  • Lack of hook, stakes, or narrative
    • Stories that are largely slice of life or erotica, with limited narrative structure linking individual sex scenes.

Immediate, Engaging and Commercial storytelling.

  • A hook that isn’t immediate at the start of the story or sticky enough to build the narrative around and keep readers engaged.
    •  Just because a Hot Encounter romance might not have a high-concept plotline doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a hook!
    • A successful hook should establish the characters, stakes, and tone and give the reader something to invest in.
    • Don’t be afraid of utilizing tropes and adding more dimension to the “character meets character” hook. Why and how do they meet? Do they have conflict upon meeting? What consequences does their meeting create, and how will they affect their growing relationship?
  •  Stories with no stakes, which cause the narrative to lose momentum and leave characters with nothing to work towards.
    • To avoid this issue, ensure you have a good mix of personal and external stakes that affect the relationship, drive the narrative, and add risk to achieving their happily ever after.
    • Be purposeful with each scene and chapter. What is the central conflict or goal your characters face, and how do they engage with it throughout the story?
    • Use stakes to generate cliffhangers to keep readership engaged.

Recommended Word Count

  • 40,000-word minimum for completed stories
  • Projected 150,000-word minimum for serialized stories/series; this may be broken out into multiple seasons featuring one or multiple different couples
  • 1,500-3,000 words per chapter

Examples

 

Vertical Guidelines: LGBTQ+ Romance

Notable Elements

  • A romance story featuring an LGBTQ+ lead(s) that may explore lived experiences and related social themes but doesn’t fall under any of the other romance genre designations (e.g., Paranormal, Mafia). 
  • The romance between characters is always the primary focus, and the story ends with a happily ever after or happy-for-now ending.
  • Common tropes: enemies to lovers, friends to lovers, second chance romance
  • Whether slow burn or whirlwind, the romance has undeniable chemistry.
  • Stories are often contemporary, with reliable stakes and true-to-life challenges, compelling internal emotional conflicts, and complex characters that keep readers engaged throughout the story.
  • LGBTQ+ characters that have agency. They are complex, inspiring and empowering.
  • Characters can live anywhere in the world and come from any background.
  • Intersectional characters - characters who also experience marginalization on other parts of their identity (e.g., race, culture, religion, neurodiversity, disability) 
  • Coming out, transitioning, and/or coming to terms with one's own sexuality/gender may be a theme. In these stories, the romance between characters is key to such experiences and character development.

Reader Experience

  • With LGBTQ+ Romance, readers are looking for LGBTQ+ romance stories that have happy endings. Readers are looking for stories that resonate, as well as stories that explore themes or relationship dynamics that are different from their own experiences. The romance, sexual relationships, and character personalities are what draw readers in. The tone can be light or serious, but as these stories are Romance, they must have a happily ever after or happy-for-now ending.

Common Pitfalls

  • Non-consensual sexual activity (Non-Con) and dubiously consensual sexual activity (Dub-Con)
    • Characters are put into a situation where they do not or cannot provide meaningful consent
      • To avoid this issue, ensure that characters have agency and are able to express their desire for and consent to sexual situations throughout the story.
  • Underage or teacher-student relationships
    • Romance between an adult and a minor or between a teacher and a student
      • To avoid this issue, underage characters can be “aged up”. Wattpad will not monetize any content featuring a teacher-student or adult-minor relationship.
  • Gratuitous violence
    • Excessive violence or abuse that does not serve the narrative but is intended to shock the reader
      • To avoid this issue, violence should only be featured where it is necessary to move the story forward and should be described at a level that is appropriate to the overall tone of the story.
  • Lack of hook, stakes, or narrative
    • Stories that are largely slice of life or erotica, with limited narrative structure linking individual sex scenes.

Immediate, Engaging and Commercial storytelling.

  • A hook that isn’t immediate at the start of the story or sticky enough to build the narrative around and keep readers engaged.
    • A successful hook should establish the characters, stakes, and tone and give the reader something to invest in.
    • Don’t be afraid of utilizing tropes and adding more dimension to the “character meets character” hook. Why and how do they meet? Do they have conflict upon meeting? What consequences does their meeting create, and how will they affect their growing relationship?
  •  Stories with no stakes, which causes the narrative to lose momentum and leave characters with nothing to work towards.
    • To avoid this issue, ensure you have a good mix of personal and external stakes that affect the relationship and drive the narrative.
    • Be purposeful with each scene and chapter. What is the central conflict or goal your characters face, and how do they engage with it throughout the story?
    • Use stakes to generate cliffhangers to keep readership engaged.
  • Harmful narrative
    • Stories that are inherently homophobic, transphobic, or otherwise harmful to the LGBTQ+ community
      • To avoid this issue, ensure that any descriptions of or references to bullying, discrimination, and oppression are handled sensitively.

Recommended Word Count

  • 40,000-word minimum for completed stories
  • Projected 150,000-word minimum for serialized stories/series; this may be broken out into multiple seasons featuring one or multiple different couples
  • 1,500-3,000 words per chapter

Examples

  •  

Vertical Guidelines: Werewolf

Notable Elements

  • Supernatural mate/soul bonds between lovers that can be fated by a higher power, the result of a biological imperative (verticaling), deliberately chosen, or even rejected.
  • Werewolf pack hierarchies, with an Alpha as the leader and descending ranks assigned to other wolves, such as Beta, Gamma, and Omega. Alongside exploration of both the good—close found family bonds—and bad—abuse of lower ranks—that can be found within those structures.
  • Possessive, extremely protective and loyal Alpha romantic leads.
  • The struggle against or the embracing of a darker, more primal inner self aka the Wolf.
  • A downtrodden outsider, such as a lone werewolf or a human, being folded into a pack and werewolf culture. 
  • A Chosen One, or a werewolf of unique and special importance.
  • Often found in standard contemporary settings, both urban and rural, but commonly crosses over into various other worlds and genres such as fantasy, thriller, mystery, and even historical.
  • Characters can live anywhere in the world and come from any background.

Reader Experience

  • With Werewolf stories readers are looking to indulge in a fantasy about an intense, primal romantic connection, something that runs soul deep and cannot be broken. Part of the appeal is also an empowerment fantasy where, in addition to a perfect partner, someone who has experienced a lot of abuse and been rundown or abandoned can discover a stronger inner self capable of striking back and can find a place where they belong. The tone is sexy, uninhibited, and very emotional in order to highlight those intense, satisfying bonds.

Common Pitfalls

  • Non-consensual sexual activity (Non-Con) and dubiously consensual sexual activity (Dub-Con)
    • Characters are put into a situation where they do not or cannot provide meaningful consent
      • To avoid this issue, ensure that characters are able to express their desire for and consent to sexual situations throughout the story. This is especially important in situations where being Fated Mates or Mate Bonded is portrayed as a compulsion that can be perceived as overriding the characters’ actual desires.
  • Power imbalance relationships
    • This is due to the general hierarchical werewolf pack structures. Particularly, in instances where a main character is an Omega or low-ranked werewolf in comparison to their love interest/their pack.
      • To avoid this issue, it’s key that characters have agency in all of their interactions and decisions and, especially, to avoid instances of noncon/dubcon as previously described.
  • Gratuitous violence
    • Excessive gore or abuse that does not serve the narrative but is intended to shock the reader.
      • To avoid this issue, violence should only be featured where it is necessary to move the story forward and should be described at a level that is appropriate to the overall tone of the story.

Recommended Word Count

  • 40,000-word minimum for completed stories
  • Projected 150,000-word minimum for serialized stories/series; this may be broken out into multiple seasons
  • 1,500-3,000 words per chapter

Examples

 

Vertical Guidelines: Para-Romantasy

Key Genres and Subgenres

  • Paranormal x Romance
    • Paranormal romances feature a prominent romance plotline where at least one of the love interests is a paranormal creature (e.g., vampire, werewolf or other shifter, witch, demon, angel, ghost, psychic).
    • These stories are set in our real contemporary world, with the addition of paranormal elements (like unexplainable transformations and creatures). Sometimes humans are aware of the existence of paranormal phenomena, sometimes not.
    • The main focus of the story is the development of the romantic relationship, rather than the development of broader plotlines throughout the world. The external plot mainly serves to reflect and drive the romance plot. 
  • Fantasy x Romance
    • Fantasy romances are set in a secondary world that is different from our own and features magic and has its own history.
    • A fantasy world will generally feel “bigger” than the world of a paranormal romance, and as a complete secondary world, it will require more worldbuilding than a paranormal romance.
    • A fantasy world featuring a prominent romance plotline where one of the love interests is often a fantasy or mythical creature (e.g., warlock, dragon, elf, fae, dwarf, a god) but not always.

Notable Elements

In both paranormal and fantasy romance:

  • World-building is immersive and interwoven into the story
  • The characters go on an adventure or some kind of journey (usually but not always to fight a dark force or creature)
    • The journey allows the love interests to learn more about each other and fall in love along the way
    • The scope and focus of the individual scenes usually centres on the developing romantic relationship while progressing the rest of the plot
    • The main conflict also creates hurdles for the characters’ relationship to develop
  • The tone of the romance can range from non-explicit to very explicit
  • Characters can come from any background

In paranormal romance:

  • The main character(s) feel othered or alienated until they meet others who accept them (their found family)
    • Their feeling of “otherness” comes from something that makes them special/unique (e.g., having a special power or being a non-human creature among humans)
  • Characters have magic, powers, or other special abilities, or are some kind of paranormal creature (vampire, demon, etc.)
  • Worldbuilding focuses on the paranormal elements but is grounded in our contemporary world
  • The unknown and the unusual are normalized and celebrated
  • The external plot is high stakes and provides a backdrop for the development of the romance 
  • Enemies to lovers or forbidden love are common romance arcs
  • While the Werewolf subgenre does NOT fall under this category (it is its own category), stories that feature werewolf or other types of shifters can fall under this category if there are other paranormal elements involved
  • Characters can come from any background

In fantasy romance:

  • Characters live in a world with magic and other kinds of special abilities, but may or may not have those abilities themselves
  • Royalty is a common feature of these settings; often one character will be royalty while the other is marginalized in some way, creating friction between them.
  • Court intrigue plots are common, as are adventure plots where the characters must go on a journey to fetch something or defeat someone. 
  • Characters can come from any background

Reader Experience

  • With Para-Romantasy, readers are looking for romance stories that take place in a world with magic. What drives readers to these books is (1) escapism where they can explore a new world and (2) familiar romance tropes set in a high-stakes environment. 
  • In both subgenres, the main focus of the story is the development of the romantic relationship, rather than the development of broader plotlines throughout the world. The external plot mainly serves to reflect and drive the romance plot by providing conflict. The scope of the individual scenes usually emphasizes the interaction between the romantic leads as the plot progresses.  

Common Pitfalls

  • Poor world-building
    • Not giving readers enough information to understand the world or being inconsistent about how the world works
      • To avoid this issue, ensure you understand how your story’s world works—its rules, its environment, its cultures. Don’t oversimplify how the world works or avoid explaining things. Make sure the world feels internally consistent and convincing.
  • Info-dumping
    • Giving too much information at the same time or early on in the story.
      • To avoid info-dumping, teach readers throughout the story instead of all at once or in large chunks because that can pull them out of the story or confuse them. Use a mix of dialogue, description and character experience to teach readers about the world. Don’t feel the need to explain everything at once. If a certain aspect of the world isn’t relevant to the scene you’re writing, wait until you need readers to know about it and mention it then.
      • Learn more about integrating world-building into a scene in this Wattpad Creator Education resource on story immediacy.
  • Uneven balance of romance and action-based plotlines
    • Prioritizing the external plot over the romantic plot
      • To avoid this issue, think about how your romance and action-based storylines intersect and work together in the story. The action and paranormal/fantasy plotlines should support the romance by fueling the stakes, character motivations, and conflicts, but they shouldn’t outshine the love story. A good rule of thumb: imagine your story without the romance. Does anything fundamentally change? If the answer is no, you might need to scale back the action and dig into the romance more. The romance plot should be the first priority, with the broader plot creating the right environment for it to thrive.

  • Unnecessary prologues and backstory
    • Scenes outside of the main plot and/or explanations about characters and the world that frontload the story with details that slow the story’s pace and delay the hook
      • To avoid this issue, weave details about your characters, their backstories, and the world into the main story itself. Overexplaining your characters’ histories and the lore of the world (through a flashback prologue or lengthy commentary) can delay the hook, which weakens reader engagement. Think critically about where to begin the plot to avoid overwhelming your readers with info that isn’t fully relevant to the moment at hand. In Para-Romantasy stories, it’s more effective to start with present drama that shows us what the story’s hook and trope are rather than details that aren’t directly relevant to the current plot.
  • Non-con or dub-con
    • Characters are put into a situation where they do not or cannot provide meaningful consent
      • E.g., a vampire, succubus or siren with the power to compel or attract people beyond the other person’s control.
      • E.g., capture / kidnapping
      • To avoid this issue, ensure that characters have agency and are able to express their desire for and consent to sexual situations throughout the story.
  • Damsel in distress
    • Making female characters rely on men to accomplish goals or rescue them from conflict
      • To avoid this issue, ensure your female characters have agency—they learn to do things and save people/themselves on their own or in collaboration with other characters. Allow them to grow throughout the story and become stronger if they don’t start out very strong.
  • Gender Essentialist Magic
    • Only women/only men can do (a certain type of) magic, often due to some difference between genders that is perceived as immutable and biological or essential in some way. For more information on this, we recommend this resource. 
      • To avoid this issue, think about what function this serves in the narrative. How are you trying to show power and oppression? Can you convey the same message without gender essentialist magic? Or if you want to use this trope, how do you plan to subvert it?  

Recommended Word Count

  • 40,000-word minimum for completed stories
  • Projected 150,000-word minimum for serialized stories/series; this may be broken out into multiple seasons
  • 1,500-3,000 words per chapter

Examples

Vertical Guidelines: Speculative Fiction

Key Genres and Subgenres

  • Fantasy
    • High (Epic) Fantasy
      • A fantasy story that takes place on a world that isn’t Earth. The stakes are often large and world-threatening, and the narrative usually features magic, magical creatures, and historic/unusual technology. The plot unfolds through action and adventure.
    • LitRPG/GameLit
      • A fantasy story that takes place on a world that isn’t Earth, often virtual, and features a protagonist who consciously immerses themselves in this world by participating in and playing a virtual role-playing game.
    • Urban Fantasy
      • A fantasy story that takes place on Earth, almost always a major city, but features fantastical elements such as the supernatural, magic, and monsters. It blends the aesthetics of major cities, sometimes with a mix of noir, with the escapist elements of fantasy.
  • Science fiction
    • Dystopian/Apocalyptic
      • A science fiction story that takes place on Earth, or an Earth-like setting, but where society has either crumbled completely or is in some sort of cataclysmic decline. These stories often take place in the future and deal with themes such as government control, environmental disaster, and the persistence of the human spirit.
    • Space Opera
      • A science fiction story that takes place in space and often with a narrative on an interplanetary scale. These narratives feature advanced technology, space travel, and rely heavily on adventure. Romance is often a subplot, but not the main storyline.
  • Horror
    • Monster/Slasher
      • A horror story where the protagonist, often a group of protagonists, are trying to survive from a paranormal/otherworldly/inhuman creature or threat. These stories rely heavily on atmosphere and tension, survival, and the interpersonal relationships between a large cast of characters.

Notable Elements

  • Fantasy:
    • High (epic) fantasy
      • Colorful settings that feel larger-than-life, historic, and otherworldly
      • Magic, magical creatures, and magic systems
      • A primary hero
      • An extensive quest or hero's journey
      • A world-ending antagonist or threat.
      • Large, epic, battles and smaller sword-swinging squirmishes
      • Characters can come from any background
    • LitRPG/GameLit
      • Main protagonist, usually a regular person who is consciously playing a virtual RPG
      • Virtual world features five-sense immersion. Hero experiences the world as if it were real
      • Virtual worlds sometimes resemble high fantasy worlds or apocalyptic Earth, but don’t have to
      • Protagonist may become stuck in the virtual world
      • A character’s stats are important (experience, level, skills, etc)
      • A leveling-up system exists
      • A narrative that centers around character growth on a personal level
      • Characters can come from any background
    • Urban fantasy
      • Usually set in major cities
      • Mythological creatures, monsters, and beings
      • May have a gritty, noir aesthetic
      • Protagonist may have their foot in the human side of their world as well as the magical/fantastical side
      • Romance often a subplot, but not main storyline
      • Characters can come from any background
  • Science Fiction:
    • Dystopian/Apocalyptic
      • Evil or oppressive governments
      • Future versions of Earth after massive cataclysms
      • Societies trying to survive in the face of disaster
      • Found families
      • Plagues or viruses resulting in monsters
      • Characters can come from any background
    • Space Opera
      • Faster-than-light space travel
      • Interplanetary conflict and scale
      • Advanced civilizations and technologies
      • A large cast of characters
      • Found families
      • Aliens, robots, and artificial intelligence
      • Characters can come from any background
  • Horror:
    • Monster/slasher
      • Medium-sized core group of characters
      • A primary character within the group (sometimes known as ‘the Final Girl’)
      • Betrayal, secrets, and lies within the group
      • Interpersonal dynamics and bonding within the group
      • Expectation that not every character will make it to the end
      • Violence and gore to ratchet up the stakes
      • Cat-and-mouse dynamic between the leads and the threat
      • A primary threat that feels otherworldly or exaggerated, i.e. it is not found in the real world
      • Characters can come from any background

Reader Experience

  • Speculative fiction, at its core, is about imagining a world unlike our own. But whether these variations from our world are large or small isn’t what’s important, rather that they go beyond surface level and aesthetics, and actually impact the lives of the characters. This is because readers want to immerse themselves in a narrative that takes them away from the mundane. Immersion is ultimately key. Readers don’t want to just read these books, they want to experience them. For this reason these stories are less concerned with swords and laser guns than the people who wield them. While tone varies from genre to genre, these are stories that feel exciting, dangerous, and sometimes with a little bit of awe and wonder, too. 

Common Pitfalls

  • Preoccupation with world-building and backstory
    • No matter how intricate an imagined world is, no matter how detailed a backstory gets, readers cannot get invested without a story
      • To avoid this issue, remember that these worlds are to be experienced. Allow your characters to be the vehicle of that experience. Readers encounter the world the same way your characters do. In this way, you can space out the passing of information in a way that feels natural.
      • This applies to backstory as well. Allow your readers to get to know a character as they would a friend: over time. By spacing out and delegating the passing of information, readers also develop a sense of wanting to know more about a specific character.
      • Without a story, however, readers cannot immerse themselves in the experience. To avoid issues with lack of story, you can also refer to Wattpad’s guidelines for Immediate, Engaging and Commercial storytelling.
  • Narrative vs Exposition
    • Speculative fiction can sometimes feel overwritten. Either because of worldbuilding or tone and setting, the writing can feel like reading an encyclopedia article rather than a story
      • To avoid this issue, remember the difference between narrative and exposition. Exposition often takes the point of view of a disinterested third party, while narrative has a clear point of view. While there is a time and place for exposition, a descriptive paragraph that relates those details back to the character will be inherently more compelling to a reader.
  • Gratuitous violence
    • Excessive gore or abuse that does not serve the narrative but is intended to shock the reader
      • To avoid this issue, violence should only be featured where it is necessary to move the story forward and should be described at a level that is appropriate to the overall tone of the story.
  • Lack of hook or story engine
  • Unnecessary prologues and backstory
    • Scenes outside of the main plot and/or explanations about characters and the world that frontload the story with details that slow the story’s pace and delay the hook
      • To avoid this issue, weave details about your characters, their backstories, and the world into the main story itself. Overexplaining your characters’ histories and the lore of the world (through a flashback prologue or lengthy commentary) can delay the hook, which weakens reader engagement. Think critically about where to begin the plot to avoid overwhelming your readers with info that isn’t fully relevant to the moment at hand. In Para-Romantasy stories, it’s more effective to start with present drama that shows us what the story’s hook and trope are rather than details that aren’t directly relevant to the current plot.

Recommended Word Count

  • 40,000-word minimum for completed stories
  • Projected 150,000-word minimum for serialized stories/series; this may be broken out into multiple seasons
  • 1,500-3,000 words per chapter

Examples

Vertical Guidelines: Slice of Life

Key Genres and Subgenres

  • Romance
    • Small town:
      • A romance story that takes place in a small, close-knit community. These stories focus on the romantic relationships that develop between characters living in or visiting the town. Small-town romances often emphasize the sense of community, the charm of small-town life, and the interconnectedness of its residents. Themes such as family, friendship, and finding love in unexpected places are common in this genre.
    • Sports:
      • A romance story featuring a main love interest that is heavily involved in the sports world, most typically as an athlete, but can also be a coach, agent, or sports reporter. Common themes include athletic bodies, demands of a physical profession, and minor celebrity.
    • Workplace:
      • A romance story where the main location, conflict, or reason two characters know each other centers around their work or workplace. Most commonly, this is a romance with a CEO, but it can also be between people within rival companies or coworkers. These stories often feature a dominant love interest & there is usually some forbidden love or rivals-to-lovers aspect to it.
    • Young Adult:
      • A romance story written primarily for a teen/young adult audience. This typically means it will contain a high school setting and themes like coming-of-age, self-discovery, or first love/new relationships. Because these stories are written for a younger audience they are typically fade-to-black and avoid graphic scenes/difficult concepts.

Notable Elements

  • Establishes a clear premise and setting that informs the story’s tone and creates a specific vibe/mood/feeling
    • These stories still have a hook, and this is still the way we draw in and retain readers, but the hook is based less on the plot/conflict and more on the appeal of the premise
    • The setting should inform the characters’ motivations and the story’s conflicts. For example, a story set in a high school might focus on students’ academic and social goals, and conflicts may arise from typical coming-of-age struggles like peer relationships and self-discovery
  • The central story engine is focused on character relationships with personal happiness and growth as a primary goal
    • Episodic in nature with smaller and shorter-term conflicts that resolve quickly as a certain level of comfort is important in Slice of Life.
    • Each scene should serve to move the narrative of personal and relationship growth forward to an ultimate goal of self-fulfillment
  • Immediacy is still important—the inciting incident needs to happen in the first chapter and the reader promise needs to be established
  • The narrative should only have one or two POVs, but a strong central cast should be established around them
    • With a strong emphasis on a protagonist that comes across as engaging while also being the type of character that readers can easily insert themselves into and experience the world through their eyes
  • Stories can be set anywhere in the world, whether it’s a big city, a small town, a college, or a glamorous vacation destination, and characters can come from any background.

Reader Experience

  • With Slice of Life, readers are looking for comforting stories where they can immerse themselves in the reading experience. Readers are often drawn to characters based on dialogue and voice, where they can enjoy spending time week after week with familiar characters. The tone can range from cozy to light, playful and romantic and the characters’ growth over time is the main story focus.

Common Pitfalls

  • Lack of hook, stakes, or narrative
    • Even within slice of life, stories need to have a compelling premise with a story that moves forward as characters grow.
    • A premise or hook that isn’t immediate at the start of the story or sticky enough to build the narrative around and keep readers engaged.
      • A successful hook should establish the characters, stakes, and tone and give the reader something to invest in.
      • Don’t be afraid of utilizing tropes and adding more dimension to the “character meets character” hook. Why and how do they meet? Do they have conflict upon meeting? What consequences does their meeting create, and how will they affect their growing relationship?
    • Stories with no stakes, which cause the narrative to lose momentum and leave characters with nothing to work towards.
      • To avoid this issue, ensure you have a good mix of personal and external stakes that affect the relationship, drive the narrative, and add risk to achieving their happily ever after.
      • Be purposeful with each scene and chapter. What is the central conflict or goal your characters face, and how do they engage with it throughout the story?
      • Use stakes to generate cliffhangers to keep readership engaged.
  • Non-consensual sexual activity (Non-Con) and dubiously consensual sexual activity (Dub-Con)
    • Characters are put into a situation where they do not or cannot provide meaningful consent. This includes scenes where one character is “seduced” by the other and can’t say no, even if “they wanted to.”
      • To avoid this issue, ensure that characters can express their agency and desire for and consent to sexual situations throughout the story. This is particularly true with Forced or Arranged Marriage or Forced Proximity stories.
  • Underage or teacher/student relationships
    • This can feature a romance between an adult and a minor or between a teacher and a student, where one character has much more social and physical power over the other.
      • To avoid this issue, underage characters can be “aged up.” Wattpad will not monetize any content featuring a teacher-student relationship.
  • Toxic love interests
    • Controlling, toxic, or abusive behaviour that manifests in the love interest restricting the lead’s agency, stalking, controlling the lead’s behaviour, or emotionally/physically abusing them.
      • We all love a “bad boy,” and this behaviour is often present in contemporary romance. However, in an effort to replicate bad-boy tendencies, we never want to romanticize abuse.
      • To avoid this, ensure the “bad boy” characteristics of the lead are not confused for abusive, and never should they be directed towards the lead.

Recommended Word Count

  • 0,000-word minimum for completed stories
  • Projected 150,000-word minimum for serialized stories/series; this may be broken out into multiple seasons featuring one or multiple different couples
  • 1,500-3,000 words per chapter
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