Anthologies – Theme or Genre?

Okay, so you want to compile an anthology of short stories, but there are many things to consider, quite apart from the decision about whether to go ahead with the idea.   Smoke & Mirrors - 030714 2

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What are the main considerations?

– Will it be theme-based, or genre-based?
– Will it be one person’s work, or a variety of authors?
– How many titles should there be?
– What length should the average story be?
– What price range do you aim for?
Yes, there are many more questions, but we now have a flavour of what is involved in compiling a collection of stories.

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Theme versus genre?

Themes – and this is a mere handful of examples.

– Retribution
– Goodness
– Family
– Natural History
– Day and Night
– Environment
– Imprisoned
Anybody can come up with a theme. Your chosen theme can be as tightly controlled, or as wide-ranging as you choose.

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Genre – and once again, a handful of examples.

– Thriller
– Horror
– Supernatural/Paranormal
– Erotica
– Young Adult
– Romance
– Science-Fiction
– Adventure
– Children’s
– Fantasy

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It should be easy to see now that with regard to genre, they are well-established and they each have sub-genres which are easy to identify.
For example, ‘Erotica’ leads to: Straight, Gay, Bi, BDSM, TV, TS, and a few more besides.912FmvSHzYL._SL1500_

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The difference with theme-based work is that it is an even wider spectrum than genre. I’ll choose one theme at random from my previous spontaneous short list, and then I’ll explore it mentally for no more than two minutes. I will set a stopwatch for this exercise.

We’ll say for example that I’m entering a short story competition and the guidelines are:

Genre: Open,
Theme: Imprisoned,
Word count: 2000 min to 2500 max,
Line spacing: Double-spacing in Times New Roman – pt 12.
Closing Date: 34th Zonkemper 2095

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Are you ready for this?

My theme is ‘Imprisoned’? The stopwatch is on …

1. – a 14-year old boy is washed into a cave at the seaside …
2. – a soldier awakes trapped in a damaged tank after an explosion in a battle …
3. – a woman wakes up bound and gagged in a cellar with a straw-covered floor …
4. – a dog is on a small island and the owner cannot swim …
5. – a light plane crashes onto a remote island and the only survivors are a beautiful woman and a handsome man who is ten years her junior …
6. – a car overturns and sinks in a river, but the driver survives the crash …

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I’ve been given a definite theme – imprisoned.
I’ve created a rapid list of ideas and any one of them could work with that theme, but are they the same genre?

No they are not the same genre. To see why; let’s look closer at how my mind works.

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1. – a 14-year old boy is washed into a cave at the seaside … the boy is the son of a werewolf and his anguish brings about his first ever experience of transformation.

2. -a soldier awakes trapped in a damaged tank after an explosion in a battle … the soldier looks down at his scarlet tunic and body armour as he slips his feet from his Roman sandals. He wonders what happened to the other centurions in the explosion.

3. – a woman wakes up bound and gagged in a cellar with a straw-covered floor … there is a longbow, a quiver of arrows and a barrel of dynamite in the corner.

4. – a dog is on a small island and the owner cannot swim … the dog has taken the gun that the female owner used to shoot her husband only a short while before.

5. – a light plane crashes onto a remote island and the only survivors are a beautiful woman and a handsome man who is ten years her junior … the young man is the woman’s long lost brother. He knows; she doesn’t.

6. – a car overturns and sinks in a river, but the driver survives the crash … the man in the car is dressed in women’s clothing and on his way to his first ever transvestite meeting in a remote village.

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What have we established?

An anthology is a supremely flexible production.
– it can be a mixture of stories by one author.
– it can be a mixture of stories by various authors.
– it can be a mixture of stories using a nominated genre.
– it can be a mixture of stories using a variety of genre.
– it can be a mixture of stories using a nominated theme.
– it can be a mixture of stories using a variety of themes.
– it can be a mixture of any of the aforementioned.

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Here I feature, Not What You Thought’, which is an example of mixed genre, mixed theme and mixed authors. The main author is Paul Ruddock who has compiled a selection of his own stories, and complemented them with work by guest authors.

Not What You ThoughtPlease find below, links to this newly published anthology. Paul Ruddock is a blogger, reviewer, author of short stories, and founder of the Indie Author Review Exchange group on Facebook. He also created and maintains the Indie Author Review Exchange blog.

The proceeds from sales of this book will be donated to a British military veteran’s charity.

Amazon UK   £1.99    Amazon US   $2.99

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What’s my experience with anthologies so far?

I have short stories traditionally published in four separate anthologies which are all theme-based and have a variety of authors.

I have one short story published on an audio CD, which is theme-based and has a variety of authors.

I have self-published two anthologies of short stories.

I have a series of five genre-based anthologies of poetry.

Smoke & Mirrors; and other stories, is a theme-based collection.
Twist-in-the-tale, but using a range of genre.

Coming Around; and other erotic stories, is a genre-based collection.
Erotica, but using a range of sub-genre.

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I believe that for general reader satisfaction either can work.
– A genre-based collection will appeal to lovers of the particular genre.
– A theme-based collection will appeal to lovers of short stories.
If compiled well, an anthology can produce a selection of completely different stories.

My personal preference is that an anthology should have around 12 stories.

If you’re new to the idea of anthologies, or have up until now wondered what all the fuss was about, I hope I’ve cleared away some of the mystery. These have been my own thoughts, gained from experience, and are not ideas influenced by any text book information.

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As always, I thank you for coming by and reading my thoughts. Please leave a comment if you feel so inclined.

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8 comments on “Anthologies – Theme or Genre?

  1. Well done, Tom. Nicely put. After reading your story ideas I feel I have an interesting insight into the darker recesses of your mind. Just kidding (a little psychotherapist’s joke there.) Very helpful for those people in the group who haven’t considered this before.I have a story in mind already, and I have a feeling it already crosses genres, though it doesn’t involve cross-dressing. It’s a short and rather amusing one (imo) 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for the visit and kind comments Lesley. Many thanks too for the heads-up that you’ve already got your stall in order.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What an interesting article, Tom, especially as I don’t know much about short stories. I admire your talent and skill in crafting these, while openly admitting to being one creative area that has never been readily accessible to me. You make it sound so easy too! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thank you for dropping by and also for the kind words Ramona. You do realise that I’ll be expecting to see a short story from you now.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A very informative read, Tom. The only thing that confuses me is your use of “anthology” as pertaining to both a collection of short stories by one author, or various authors. I may be wrong, but I was under the impression that an anthology was a group of short stories written by various authors, and a collection is a group of short stories written by a single author.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Kathy and thanks for stopping by. Yes, until a few years ago I would have agreed with that distinction, but like many other aspects of writing I think the line has been blurred. An anthology these days is considered to be a collection of different works of literature, including poetry, which means it applies to both the individual or the group collection. Hence I refer to my poetry series as an anthology. When I first put it together I called it a collection.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Useful, structured, step by step help for anyone looking at putting together an anthology. Looks as though you’ve got your next one sorted from your list of ideas here!

    Like

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