The more I read, the more I watch, the more I write, the more I understand that storytelling, in any genre, is about the delivery of emotions. When you pick up a book or go to a movie, see a play, listen to your grandma, you are doing so with the expectation of feeling something. You want an emotional ride.
You ask the storyteller to throw you into misery to make you laugh, into confusion help you make sense, into terror to let you feel relief, into the lives of the alienated so that you might feel connected. If these expectations aren't fulfilled you feel unsatisfied. Comedy's gotta make you laugh and horror's gotta make you feel scared or you feel cheated.
For writers and performers it can make for difficult times especially when you decide to bend or blend genres, or shift tone within a piece.
The first time I remember this happening to me was while I was a teenager watching Jimmy Stewart in No Time for Comedy on some CBC afternoon movie or something. The first half of the movie played like a Frank Kapra comedy, fun and quirky... then at the halfway point of the movie, it became a drama. And it kinda makes sense the screenwriter was one of the writers on Casablanca... and Arsenic and Old Lace. Two great films... one weird mash up.
The experience was interesting... but I wouldn't call it enjoyable.
I find I'm learning a lot about craft by looking at the reasons I look forward to or enjoy particular books or movies. Why do I keep going back to the same writers, the same directors, the same books, the same movies again and again.
I suggest we're looking for the creation or repetition of a feeling... a satisfying emotional experience. I think this is why certain authors and filmmakers become brands. You know what you're going to get if you pick up a Charles Dickens, Margaret Atwood, Bernard Cornwell, Nick Hornby; see a film by Kapra, Kurasawa or the Coen brothers; just as sure as you know what you're going to get if you watch The Simpsons, Deadwood, Frasier, or Felicity (okay, I don't know about Felicity but I bet the people that liked it... liked it.)
I'm saying there's something more than style. There's a feeling you want to have when you experience a story that has nothing to do with special effects or movie stars but has to do with fulfilling the emotional need of the audience.
The writer's job is, through story, to deliver it.