Hello one and all, welcome to another #SensualSunday post. Another week lies ahead of us, and who knows what it might bring. Maybe new ideas, or a plot twist, or even a solution to that section in your latest WIP that’s been driving you insane. One never knows but if you keep your eyes and ears open you never know what you may find.
Today’s post is all about genre choice. Seems simple enough. But I’ve run across some books that have left me feeling dazed and highly confused about their genre.
As any author knows our characters are our guiding forces. They tell us what we need to know to form the story they have to share. To an author they are living, breathing beings and while they don’t have any real form to them, the story they are contained in gives them shape.
Now, determining who these characters are, where they are from, what they do, believe in, and so forth helps an author to figure out what the genre of the book will be. I’m not talking about what genres your publisher (if you use one) might list it under, but your core genre. For instance, Paranormal or Sci-Fi. Everything outside of that, like romance, BDSM, etc. is icing on the cake. But an author needs to know, going in, what their genre is to be.
Could it change part way through? Sure, but if it does that means the previously written portions need to be altered/updated to fit. You can’t have half a book being one genre and the rest something else entirely. It’s like writing a werewolf story that suddenly because a zombie horror but there was never any mention of zombies! This is also where reader confusion kicks in. If a reader doesn’t feel like they have just read a cohesive work, they are going to say something. Usually nothing very flattering.
Time for an example. One book I read a while back was decidedly a paranormal romance. Clear as day. No question about it. Then I hit roughly the two-thirds mark and everything changed. Took on a fantasy, almost sci-fi feel to it. Threw me for one hell of a loop. Had me questioning all I’d previously read. Was it so subtle that I missed the clues the author had potentially dropped? Sadly, no. I finished the book, let it digest, and then went back to read it again a couple days later. I knew the ending, knew all this additional information, but it still was reading as a para-romance for over the first half of the book. No hint (and I was reading word for word slowly) of the shift in dynamics/situation to come. It was almost as if the author had run out of material and smooshed in some extra stuff they’d had on the side to get their word count up. After the second reading I was even more confused by the story, and while the characters had remained (for the most part) the same through it all, that sudden jolt to a whole new tale part way through rattled me.
Now, as an author myself I can’t post reviews on sites under my author name. Not that I apparently needed to. Between the time I’d bought the book, and then got around to reading it, there had been several reviews left about it. All had more or less the same core theme to them – what the hell had they just read? And ratings that reflected this overall thought. All of which dragged the book down through the ranks because folks were shying away from it.
Was it a good read? Yup, right up to that point where everything began to change, and not for the better. If the author had written these two genres as separate books they’d likely have had raving reviews from the readers. But smashing them into one just made one hell of a mess. Running out of material for a story is absolutely no excuse to do this. Stories are only as long as they need to be. Not determined by us authors, but by our characters.
So let’s be clear here. Pick your genre based on what your characters are feeding you. If, and it can happen, the characters lead you in a new direction like my example above then go back to the beginning and fix it. Keep your story one cohesive piece that is melded in perfection. Any editor worth their salt would catch you making this mistake, but for those who don’t have one at their disposal for whatever reason, take care. At the very least use a beta reader to ensure what you have to publish is a tight work that reflects on you in the best light.
XO Moira Callahan