This is the third in a six-week blog tour series for the Northwest Independent Writers’ Association.
Science fiction romance? Fantasy mystery? Western science fiction? Paranormal romance? Science fiction mystery? Gaslight fantasy? There’s a lot of ways to mix up genres within your fiction, and some writers really enjoy the possibilities as they combine genres. But there are some issues to keep in mind as you go about mixing up the genres.
Note: for the purposes of this blog, I am using “genre” in the commercial fiction sense, which means the mixing of various subsets of commercial fiction. In the literary and academic world, “genre” means the separation of types of writing such as poetry, prose, and nonfiction of various sorts. While writing a weighty philosophical tome in poetic form that hearkens back to the Greek era would fit “cross-genre” under the literary/academic definition, that is NOT what I am discussing here. Even though it could be entertaining, you’re likely to drive what readers you will have crazy.
So back to the topic.
The first caveat about crossing genres is that you must be familiar with the tropes, clichés, and accepted standards of the genres you are crossing. No excuses. Know what you are writing, down to the type of characters your readers will expect and the type of plots that are common. Some genres are more forgiving than others, but if you’re not mindful and knowledgeable about what all readers in the genres you mix will expect, you’re not going to have many readers.
Secondly, do pick genres that go together reasonably well. Christian hardcore porn, for example…well, there might be a market for it, but my suspicion is that it’s highly limited. But a comedy of manners set in space? Well, just take a look at A Civil Campaign by Lois McMaster Bujold, which mixes an Austen-ish plot with political power struggles on another planet. Westerns and science fiction cross very well if you pick the right science fiction subgenre. Plausibility needs to be the primary awareness here.
Third, you’re going to need to decide which genre is going to dominate the story and drive the primary plot. In A Civil Campaign, for example, while romance is popping out all over, a power struggle which affects an empire that controls several worlds is a dominant plot while the romances and science-focused subplots are secondary but still important. They do affect how the primary plot unfolds but they’re not the dominant story. On the other hand, if you pull out the subplots, the dominant story becomes much less interesting.
All that said, though, writing cross genre can be quite fun. It’s a means for you to add depth to your work and give strength to your characters. Additionally, you might bring in more readers than you would if you hadn’t mixed up a genre or two. I explicitly market two of my best local sellers, Alien Savvy and Shadow Harvest, as a mixture of science fiction and western. Because I live in a rural ranching community, that combination of genres appeals to readers who otherwise tell me “I don’t read science fiction.” My current work in progress, The Ruby Project trilogy, is a mixture of cyberpunk, Western, and thriller. I do a lot of hand-selling around Christmas and it’s easier if I can attract a new reader by drawing them in through a familiar genre.
And that’s the consideration you really, really need to think about when writing cross-genre work. Who is your audience and what do they expect from your book? No matter what, the genres you cross need to have reader appeal. Above all else, it is the reader who is going to buy your book and, if they like it, spread the word about you and your writing.
Keep the reader in mind, and enjoy your work.
Other posts in this series by Joyce Reynolds-Ward (note: each website owner will post at some point during the week listed).
March 29-April 4th—Organizing Your Plot www.joycereynoldsward.com
April 5-11—Self-editing, grammar, and beta readers https://authorwilliamcook.com/blog/
April 12-18—Genre and cross-genre https://tanstaaflpress.com/news
April 19-25—My Approach to the writing process https://varidapr.com
April 26-May 2—Reading to Impact your writing www.conniejjasperson.com
May 3-9—Advice for new writers https://lecatts.wordpress.com