Once upon a time we had genre. Genre dictated how we wrote, which setting we used, the length of the book and characters we created. It dictated which shelf the book would sell from. Genre made promises. Romance promised love, action promised excitement, horror promised sleepless nights.
Then we crossed over. Paranormal romance allowed us fall in love with vampires for example. But these hybrids were tricky. They posed problems. Should they go on the paranormal shelf or should they go on the romance shelf?
And now, not only are the genres crossing over, they’re having a party and everyone is invited. We have historical romance with enough humour to entice chick-lit readers. This used to be all serious sex scenes and no embarrassing blunders. Thank-you, Bridget Jones. We have Young Adult (YA) Paranormal with Historical and Contemporary Romance; those would be the yummy Salvatore brothers. Not to mention all the wonderful YA dystopian fiction with psychological twists and sci-fi flavours in The Hunger Games.
Why are we getting away with this? Simple. Amazon has no shelving issues. Ok, maybe some Amazon employee will disagree, but online booksellers can have as many different shelves as they want.
Why would we want to do this? Easy, more genres equal more readers. More readers equal more sales. And it is fun.
But ask yourself first:
- Why are you doing this? Have you read somewhere that dystopian fiction is the way to go and now you want to force your cute, young-love, farm story into a book about a city destroyed by robots?
- Does it advance the plot? Or does the story work just as well or better with one genre?
- Does it affect your characters? Putting a medieval princess in a current day setting will force her to change? Is that what you want?
- Do you know both genres well enough? Don’t try to bluff your way into a genre. Readers like genre because it’s familiar. It’s like pretending to be a Star Wars fan at the annual convention. It won’t end well.
- How does it affect your dialogue? Will your characters be able to understand each other or do you have to create a whole new language? This can either add to the conflict or take away from your plot. We can’t all have a Babel fish, but it was a great way to solve Arthur’s problem. How will you deal with it?
- If you choose genres that are opposites will you be able to entice the ‘other’ genre’s readers? Romance readers are generally not crazy about eviscerated corpses and horror readers don’t care about the butterflies in the heroine’s tummy. It is not impossible, but think about it.
That said, go for it. Amazon freaks me out. I once read a crime thriller, then some dystopian fiction, followed by some historical romance and they recommend a crime thriller set 50 years after the earth has been partially obliterated and can only be saved a time-travelling crime-solving medieval princess, who falls in love with the leader of the new world. Not really, but wouldn’t it be cool?
I had so much fun writing that sentence I think you should leave a comment behind with your own genre combining plot. Thank-you, Amazon. I have so much more genre for my book.
by Mia Botha
If you enjoyed this post, read:
Say it, without saying it...
A Writer's Sketchbook
What Watching Disney (and Pixar) Taught Me About Storytelling
Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate