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This may be true in a sense. After all, in a mystery, the detective solves the crime, in a thriller, someone saves the world, and in a romance, the hero and heroine will get together in the end. (And probably have sex on page 191.)
However, it's not the destination but the journey that's important. And a skilled writer can make a reader forget that it's all going to work out in the end. Or at least have them wondering how, or if this might be the one book where things don't work out.
In a short story, the author had my heart pounding as her hero was in danger of drowning. Intellectually, I knew he'd be all right. He was one of the author's recurring characters, after all. So why was I trapped in the read the way the hero was trapped in the ocean?
Maybe it's because I have some deep-rooted fear of being helpless in the water that heightened the tension, but I was reading the story as my "fall asleep" read, and there was no way I was going to get to sleep after reading it. This is what good writing can do. It can make a reader forget the formula, not be sure the predictable outcome will actually happen. And even when the reader is aware of it, while they're reading, they're caught up enough not to care.
Another book I'm reading involves the clash of the Amish and "English" worlds. Given that it's a romance, I know the hero and heroine will get together. But the author does an excellent job of keeping the reader from being sure which way it will go until very near the end of the book. Which will make the drastic lifestyle change a relationship would require? And that's enough to keep the reader turning pages.
How can you avoid having your book appear formulaic? (And I don't like the term. I much prefer reader expectations.)
For me, it's making sure you've created characters your readers care about. The reader has to want the protagonist to save the world, solve the crime, or fall in love for that "happily ever after." After all, we read genre fiction to escape, and knowing that everything will work out in the end makes us look at our own lives through different eyes, if only for a little while. They want to believe there are people like that in the world, and they want to be able to join them solving the crime, saving the world, or falling in love.
It's not where you end up, it's how you get there.
Causes Terry Odell Supports
Pro Literacy Worldwide, The Nature Conservancy, The Adult Literacy League, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society