How Mixing Genres Can Enhance Your Work

By on July 28, 2016
How Mixing Genres Can Enhance Your Work - Writer's Life.org

When writing a novel, one of the most important things to bear in mind is the genre you have chosen to write in. Each genre of fiction has a set of clearly defined rules. Rules which can be stretched and bent on occasion, but rules nonetheless.

When sending your work off to a publisher, they will expect you to be able to say what genre your book falls into. They need to know this to believe that your work is marketable, that there is already a loyal readership for your kind of book, and that people are going to pick it up off the shelves.

Lately, however, it seems that the rules have relaxed a little. Ghost stories can also be thrillers, romance novels can also work as fantasies, detective fiction can also be science fiction. In short, authors have now been permitted to mix different genres together and produce a novel that doesn’t necessarily fit into just one.

Often writers can get too bogged down when trying to make their story ‘fit’ into one particular genre. They can end up spending so much time concentrating on the ‘rules’ of that specific one, that they struggle to complete the story, or at least the kind of story they were hoping to tell in the first place.

Without the constraints of a particular genre, authors have more freedom to do what they do best, to write. So if you are thinking of mixing your genres, here is how to do it.

Write what you love

If you feel like you want to write a detective fiction novel, set 1000 years in the future, but that also has a strong love story as part of the plot, then just go for it! Chances are these are the kind of stories you love to read yourself, and so there is no reason why lots of other people won’t enjoy reading them too.

Mixing genres can surprise your reader, can take them out of their comfort zone, and can make them react. If you are providing something unique and surprising and you are doing it well, your book could attract some serious attention.

Don’t force it

Let your story flow naturally, and only mix your genres if it’s because that’s what feels right. Trying to force a genre mash will feel exactly that; forced, and it will put your readers off. Anything that feels too much like the author is seeking to be ‘weird’ or ‘unusual’ will not sit well with readers. Saying that, don’t be adverse to experimenting with your writing either, and always be open for it to take a strange turn.

Make sure you really mix

Genre mixing isn’t just about telling a whole load of different stories with various contrasting genres in the same book. Your story has to feel complete and seamless. You can tell different stories at the same time, but don't simply follow one storyline, finish it and then start another. Doing this will just feel like a collection of barely connecting short stories rather than a complete novel.

Don’t keep one particular audience in mind

If you start asking yourself ‘what would romance readers like to happen next?’ or ‘what would horror fans like to take place?’ you might find yourself struggling with where to take your story next.

If you tell the kind of story you’d like to read, it will feel natural, and interesting. If you get too bogged down with what other’s think you may end up stopping before you have even really begun.

Writing without boundaries and crossing genres can be extremely creatively freeing.

However, mixing genres doesn’t come without risks. If you are the kind of writer who writes for themselves, not others, and one who feels passionate about writing the kind of story that they would love to read, then mixing genres could really enhance your work. You never know, you could in fact find a new fanbase all of your own!

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

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