Thursday, December 10, 2015

Mixing Genres

I've heard it said that a writer needs to pick a certain genre for his or her story and stick to it.  If it's horror, don't go too far down the romance aisle.  If it's a detective story, don't make it the centerpiece of a sci-fi universe.  I've often wondered just how true this advice is.

Of course readers want to know what they're buying.  Picking up The Firm when you're really looking for Twilight can be disheartening.  So your novel needs to fit into some category without  going too far into another.  Further, picking one genre helps figure out where to place your book in stores and online.  Readers can't find you if they don't know where to look.

That said, I think that the advice might be a bit too rigid.  After all, what we're after is a great story, and no great story fits neatly into one particular box.  I think the guts of the tale has to come first.  Yes, you should have an idea where you want it to go, which will lend itself to a certain genre, but you need to first focus on telling a good story.  If you get too caught up in "Gee, is this romance or humor," you'll drive yourself to paralysis.

When you've finished, ask your beta-readers what they think.  If you've found a good group of folks who are willing to give you honest feedback, they'll tell you if they thought the genre was clear enough to categorize, or if you've simply confused them.

In the pursuit of a good story, sometimes you're going to have to mix genre elements.  Don't be afraid of that.  Add in whatever is necessary to bring out your book.  If that means you break convention, then so be it, but limiting yourself will keep your novel from growing into what it might be - something special.

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