Crossing Genres

Good morning! Well, its been an exciting few weeks with book releases and readings, and promoting the hell out of my stuff. I’m so excited to get back to actual writing, and talking about writing. Today, in collaboration with the fine folks at The Writing Forge, I’m going to talk about crossing genres, both as an author and also within singular books.

For more check out this podcast: “Look Both Ways Before Crossing Genres

So, what does it mean to be a cross-genre writer? Well, it’s more prolific than you might think. Very rarely does an author stick to one genre alone for the entirety of their lives (I was going to say career but I’ve never actually known a ‘retired’ writer. We write up until the day we shuffle off the mortal coil as far as I know). Nora Roberts writes romance but she also crosses over into Mysteries as J.D. Robb. J.K. Rowling went from YA fantasy to Adult Fiction, Anne Rice has written everything from Vampires to DomSub, to Christianity. Hell, even James Bond’s creator, Ian Flemming wrote “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”. So the better question is not should you become a cross-genre writer but when and how.

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Writing in multiple genres can be done in one of two ways. By switching genres completely by novel or story, or by incorporating multiple genres into one project. Let’s start with the first.

So, let’s say you’ve been churning out kids books for the last ten years and you’re ready to jump into something new. You’re an established name in the genre, with a following (let’s dream big while we’re dreaming). Yay for you! But how do you go about the transition seamlessly?

First, know the genre you’re getting into. Mysteries don’t follow the same plot points or tropes as kids books (wait, do they?) Read as many mysteries as you can, gain a good understanding of typical tropes and character types for your new genre. Discover what you like and what you don’t, what works, and what doesn’t. This way, you’ll be ready to write a mystery that will appeal to the die-hard fans of the genre and hopefully make your work more acceptable.

Second, if you’re established in one genre and are jumping the creek into another, you may want to try a pen name. When people know you for a certain story/genre type, they’re going to follow you. But maybe they don’t want to read your new blood spatter fest to their 8 year old. So, establish a new name for your new genre. (J.D. Robb, A.N. Roquelaure, etc.)

However…if you are a sci-fi writer and you’re dabbling in fantasy, this is a smaller jump and you can probably keep your name. Those followers you have will probably be more lenient and accepting of your next adventure, and if you can take an established base on a new adventure all the better.

What would be the benefit of writing in multiple genres in this way? I’m so glad you asked. Here’s a bullet list.

  • Its a great way as an author to diversify your writing, get your work into different venues, and expand your base of readers
  • It can help beat boredom of following the same tropes/patterns over and over
  • It will help grow your skills as a writer. Romance writers know dialogue and relationships, Fantasy writers know word building, Horror writers know suspense. All of these skills can be honed and developed to the betterment of all your writing.
  • It makes you hard to pin down and undefinable. Frankly, I don’t like being put in a box. Yeah I write romance, I also write speculative fiction, suspense, sci-fi, and erotica. I dabble in poetry, and sink into human interest non-fiction. Don’t you put your labels on me.
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Now Let’s talk about utilizing multiple genres in a single novel/story/project.

Its slippery slope. Genre fans are genre fans for a reason. They like the predictability. They like knowing where the story is going and that it will end in a certain way. Mixing up loved tropes, taking side quests, and tripping the hero on his journey might lose you some fans. And genre fans are a huge base. I’ve even turned off a couple of readers because some of my romances were not ‘sweet’ enough. They were a little too dark for the genre. And that’s a risk I took by telling a grittier story in a genre that likes to stay flowery.

BUT the benefits to writing this way, are that you can incorporate elements of storytelling that best suit your characters and the story itself. I wrote a science fiction novel set on the rings of Saturn with time/space wormholes, and a heavy nod to literary poets. It had elements of religion, and romanticism, and social commentary, all in the midst of blaster fire and moonglass blade fights. It was one of my favorite stories to write and one of my best recieved and I think that’s because sometimes a story is just too big to fit in one genre.

Sometimes your story, is more like life. A daring, romantic, mysterious, fantasy western set in modern day suspense-filled and poetic semi-reality. And its interesting and unpredictable in spaces, and comforting and ties up well in others. And that’s why knowing the elements of each genre is important and can boost your plot line into something quite magical.

Crossing genres is, all in all, a great way to improve your writing and your reach. Knowing your audience, and understanding the different and distinct elements of your genres will help you do it in a successful and enjoyable way. I hope that you all give it a chance and let me know how your forays go.


The Beautiful Writers Workshop: Novelty #1: Plot

Can you believe I couldn’t think of a more creative title? Me neither. Some days are like that.

Today, is not my normal blogging day, but we’re getting into the meat and potatoes of writing a novel, and this kind of thing needs space. So, without further ado..

What is Plot and Why is it Important?

All right, I get it, it’s a dumb question, we’re all writers and we all KNOW that plot is the basic story of your novel. It is the idea. The “what happened”, and why, and “what’s going to happen next” of any decent story. I’m not trying to dumb it down for you. But the true test of a good plot lies in the simplicity of answering those questions.

Now, you can have books that are character driven (an event happening TO a person, or BECAUSE OF a person). And you can have books that are historical non-fiction, based on one specific moment in time or occurrence. The PLOT of your book expands more than just beyond an event (otherwise The Hunger Games would have been maybe 50 pages long). The plot is the premise or sequence of events. Some novels will follow a very specific order of events that are common to their genre, or as we like to call them tropes. Tropes comes from the Greek Tropos define as “turn, direction, way” and refers to common, recognizable elements or sequences of events.

Many genre specific tropes (I almost prefer ‘formulas’) are embraced by the audience and even expected. Examples include: “the hero’s journey”, “enemies to lovers”, “small towns”, “cold cases”, “missing persons”, “AI gone wrong”, “fairy tale retelling”. But if almost every novel follows a plot formula how is it #1, that readers don’t get bored and #2 that you tell an original story that hasn’t been done before.

It’s an interesting dilemma on the part of a writer. We know which formulas work in fiction and straying from them often makes a plot fall apart or leaves a reader angry or unsatisfied at the end.

(She’s gonna want to talk to your manager)

But how do we follow commonalities in plot structure and still make it a fun, captivating, and surprising journey for our readers? The answer my friends, lies your ability as a writer to do five things: (Fuck Yeah! A bullet list!)

  • Begin with a unique event or crisis. This comes back to the “scan the headlines” exercise I’ve had you do before. A lot of weird shit goes down in the world. A lot of undercover, shady AF stuff too. Use it as a springboard, to your “what happens then/if” story building.
  • Tie the reader to your character (through love or hate) and make their reactions to events unique or contrary to the norm. (ie a cheerleader who fights vampires. A small town farm boy who becomes a powerful Jedi. A teenager who comes into supernatural powers without the maturity to handle them and doesn’t use them to download free porn–come on.) Character building will come later in this series but if you create unique ones, their actions will create new takes on formulas.
  • Use honed writing technique to build tension for climaxes. Yikes, that sounds dirty. Tension is one key to making a story more than just series of events. So much of this depends on your voice and writing style. But the big take away here is about risk. Making the risks personally huge for your character, and even the world at large, will keep the plot fresh and drive it forward.
  • Play with the number and intensity of climaxes (story arcs). I think I’ll start using story arcs (some prefer ‘beats’) because every time I type climaxes I can’t stop giggling. Ok. Story arcs are BIG deals in your plot. Think of these as door ways, crisis-points at the top of your arc, that your character has to move through in order to get closer to what it is they want/need. Once they hit that doorway, or crisis point, they can’t go back. A serious change has occurred either in the setting or with-in the character and they must move forward. Next blog will be all about these arcs so I won’t go into much more detail here.
  • Consider using unexpected but intelligent twists. The best movies and books I can think of that do this are: “The Sixth Sense”, “Fight Club”, “Gone Girl”, “Mind Hunters”. What better way to shake up an audience than by having them accept one reality for the entirety of the story, only to show them the true reality at the end.

All right, so there are some tips for building an effective plot that carries readers throughout the book. My advice to you this week, is to explore various tropes and patterns, especially those in your genre. Turn a piece of paper (landscape-style) and write out the typical pattern of your story, then overlay events and characters of your proposed idea. See how they match up, see if you have enough tension building scenes, just play around with it. I’m not much of a plotter myself, but even I will do a general outline to keep myself on track and make sure I’m building a solid plot.

Next time, more on story arc, how to climax well (*snork*), and end satisfied (*hahahahaha). Until Thursday, happy writing.