Bending the rules, is that one genre, or several?

Welcome back to another blog hop, with #OpenBook. Here’s this week’s prompt.

Is ‘genre-bending’ and ‘genre hybrid’ a reality or a fallacy? Has plot changed since Shakespeare or the Bible?

I think that stories, if they’re good enough, transcend genre. In the end, does it really matter if it’s supposedly Sci-fi or Historical Romance, as long as it moves the reader?

Of course, there is a problem with that theory, as I’m sure you can see. And that is the expectation of the reader. They’re expecting one thing, they get another. If they like Sci-fi, they won’t buy Rom-com.

But, consider this

Life is not fixed in one genre, and experiences will not always conform to what you might expect. After all, everyone’s life consists of episodes in various genres, romance, adventure, maybe crime or politics, all different parts of the same whole.

You get the picture? If your life is not constrained by genre, why should your reading or writing be?

Although, if someone asks me, I will say that I write Sci-fi and Steampunk, it’s not that simple. Other genres have to intrude. I cannot write a single genre story. I guess my job is to mash it all together in such a way that the story becomes accessible to anyone.

I mix my Sci-fi and Steampunk stories with romance, crime, adventure and even history (it might be the history of the future but that still counts). In an effort to make it accessible, I try to make the fiction at least as prominent as the science.

Which doesn’t mean that the science isn’t there, or important. It’s just that it’s not overbearing and never the focus. Science exists in life today, it always has but most of it is in the background. It happens without us noticing and we accept it. So if the story is set in the future (or an alternative present), it’s the reality for the characters. Like us, they accept it as part of their world and get on with it. I remember the first Star Wars film (now there was a genre mashup), the technology used was old and imperfect, just like it is in real life.

That taught me a lesson, the future might not be the utopia that everyone expects. Even halfway across the Galaxy, things will still break down or give you false information. You can use that familiarity to your advantage, make the reader feel at home in your writing.

I want to get all the people who wouldn’t normally read what I write (because they think that it’s not their genre) and turn them into fans.

How do I do that? By trying to be relatable, by starting my stories off in a familiar place, with an experience that we can all relate to. Like opening a hotel room door, working in a café, meeting your soul mate. Or even by getting off a train. We’ve all done this sort of thing, even if we haven’t we know people who have.

Then, when the reader is invested in the normality of the initial idea and wants to know more, you can hit them from left field. Site the hotel or café on another planet, with an incredible view from the window. Put your soul mate in charge of a spaceship. Or make the train journey a riot of steam and brass in a quasi-Victorian society.

While I don’t claim to be an expert, I have had quite a few reviews that start “I don’t normally read Sci-fi, but….,” so I must be doing something right.

I suspect that I haven’t really answered this weeks question, especially the bit about Shakespeare. I promise to try harder next time around.

Let me know what you think about this week’s subject.

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I’d love to get your comments, please leave them below. While you’re here, why not take a look around? There are some freebies and lots more content, about me, my writing and everything else that I do. You can join my newsletter for a free novella and more news by clicking this link.


6 Responses

  1. phil huston

    The lines get murky when story form or style get wrapped up in discussions of Genre, and no one is quite sure what’s what. Is Noir a Style or a Genre? Is it always hard-boiled or is screwball comedy in there somewhere? Is Cozy a Style or a Genre or a Form? Can a Cozy happen in outer space? Is that a SyFy cozy? Cozy is generally a sub-genre of crime fiction which includes all sorts of mystery forms, usually procedural associated with criminal activity. Which is NOT the header Mystery Genre which could include crime fiction, or an archaeological procedural or hypothesis. What happened the Aztecs? Do we use it as a backdrop for a cozy, a spy thriller or as academic history?

    Yeah. So whatever they want to call it, it’s just a story.

  2. P.J. MacLayne

    What gets me is the artificial rules set for some of the sub genres. Like Christian romance can’t have anything more than a chaste kiss involved. And supposedly a cozy mystery can’t have any swearing. Too many rules!

    • Richard Dee

      I’ve never been a big fan of rules. Sure I get the concept but some of them are so obviously made to be broken that it would be a shame not to.

  3. Amy Miller

    I do think that certain “genres” are actually made up of multiple genres, and that it’s more acceptable to blend the colors. I don’t like to read sterile stories, though sometimes I do get in the mood to have a straightforward easy read. I like when it’s a story, and not so interested in classifying it. I just want to enjoy the world.

    • Richard Dee

      Once the words start flowing, I find it impossible to tell what’s going on, genre-wise. At that point, it’s just a story that needs to be told.

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