Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Guest Blog Post by Jana Oliver on Writing Different Genres

In conjunction with my review of Forbidden (link to follow soon), Jana has very kindly written a blog post about her views on writing different genres. I'd like to thank Jana for an insightful post, and totally encourage you to go read about Riley's adventures in The Demon Trapper series! 

Writing Different Genres

Some authors write in only one portion of the fictional playground while others hop around and check out other parts of the sandbox to see what's fun and new. I'm one of the latter and to date I've written paranormal romance, medieval fantasy, a curious genre-blend of science fiction, fantasy, mystery and alternate history as well as young adult urban fantasies. 

For me the genre isn't as important as the story, though I'm sure others might disagree. We seem to have this need to categorize things and segregating books into genres allows bookstores to shelve their stock in separate sections, the visual equivalent of 'if you like this kind of book you'll enjoy all these others next to it.' 

Each genre has its own tropes or rules of the road as it were. A 'true' romance is expected to have a HEA (happy ever after) or, as a nod to the times we live in, a HFN (happy for now). Fantasy often involves complicated world building, a heroic quest and perhaps an epic battle between good vs evil (think Lord of the Rings). Science fiction might explore one man's (or woman's) fight against technology or against an unjust dystopian society. Mystery often has the classic 'who dunnit?' premise or a hunt for a MacGuffin (something that characters are willing to sacrifice everything to obtain.) 

All this labeling is secondary to the process of writing the actual story. When I switch from one genre to another I keep those basic rules in the back of my mind but I do not let them hinder me. This is why I often end up with genre-blended stories. An excellent example is my Demon Trappers Series which is a merry mix of fantasy (demons, agnels, necromances and witches) along with romance and mystery. Because it's set in 2018 Atlanta it could also be considered alternate history. I am not afraid to blend those genre rules, playing with them to tease out a more dynamic storyline. 

When I write I don't focus on one genre or the other. It's not until after the first or second draft I begin to see the individual genre threads. I usually weave in a few of the standard mystery elements (red herrings, double crosses, such as that). I'll examine the romantic thread to determine if I've given it enough weight and that the hero and heroine are moving forward, that their relationship is implausible. When it comes to the fantastical elements, I have to ensure my world building is solid and that I follow my own rules. If I say that Holy Water is a means to keep your house safe from demons, then that has to hold all the way through the series unless there is a legitimate reason that's not the case. I have to be very careful not to change my own rules to bend the story in a new direction. 

A well crafted genre tale is a joy to read. You can immerse yourself in the prose or 'fall through the hole in the paper' as Stephen King would say. As an author, employing various genre conventions to build my book is like mixing a great cocktail. So make mine a double: a shot of mystery, a splash of fantasy, and a dash of romance. Oh, and one o those cool little umbrellas would be nice as well. 

Macmillan Children's Books (U.K. Editions)

Demon Trappers: Forsaken - Jan. 2011
Demon Trappers: Forbidden - Aug. 2011
Demon Trappers: Forgiven - March 2012

1 comment:

Birgit said...

I agree that the story is more important than the genre too! Personally I might be an eclectic reader, but not quite as eclectic as a writer ... at least I'm not genre-hopping all that much! I'm rather fond of genre blending though - as long as that doesn't mean a cross between Splatterpunk and Historical Romance, yikes!?