Sunday, April 10, 2016

Sunday Musings: Adhere to sub-genres in your story?

Happy Sunday.

Having a fun weekend? Quiet? Productive?

We're busy here at MuseItUp looking for the next favourite read, new author, and supporting all our Musers...they really do have some terrific reads. Plus they support and help each other, whether established authors or new to our industry.

Once again, and for the last time this time around, we're musings on CHUCK BOWIE, Mainstream author:  questions on series writing:

When crafting your novel, how firmly do you adhere to a sub-genre: speculative fiction vs science fiction; murder/crime/mystery; suspense vs thriller; historical romance vs historical drama?

Let's get musing...

I have not personally had this problem, since all of my books have the theme of social issues. But if you have started a mystery in your book and you don’t follow through then the reader will be left with a question of what happened. Or if you have a vampire and then don’t use the character in any way that would be a book I would not want to finish. It is up to the author to keep the reader engaged and not following through with a sub-genre you started would be a very confusing book to me. So yes, an author should definitely decide on a genre and stick to it. That doesn’t mean that a book couldn’t have added sub genres within it. If you started out with speculative fiction and suddenly something that is definitely science fiction appears in your book that doesn’t mean that you can’t use that. A good example of that is The Dresden Files where the main character is a wizard and he deals with all kinds of characters including vampires and werewolves as well as full on science fiction monsters. The story is enhanced by the presence of those genres in each book of the series.

Another example is my own WIP which starts out as a love story, but it quickly turns into an adventure/mystery story with lots of action. The love story is still there, but the other genres only help to round out the story. This doesn’t prove that all stories can be done in this way, but if, when the author is writing, the plot suddenly takes a turn the author doesn’t need to turn it back if the story makes sense and it works with the plot and the characters. I always say let the characters move the story and if they decide to move it in a direction in which you hadn’t thought then so much the better. That’s what writing is all about, really.

I don’t necessarily feel I have to follow the rules of a specific genre. I write what pleases me and while it fits in urban fantasy, it also sometimes fits into erotica, or mystery, or action, or romance. I know some people have liked what I’ve written in Olivia’s stories. I’ve also gotten feedback where someone gives me one star for exactly the same thing that someone else gave me five stars for writing. You can’t please everyone so you might as well please yourself.

I know, the reading public is shifting, not entirely away from physical bookshelves in libraries and books and mortar stores, but it’s for those reasons – SHELVES and reader expectation – that we still need to fulfill those reader expectations. As an author I’m responsible to know my audience. If my readers like to read mysteries, there are rules I have to adhere to in order to provide that reader experience. Within the genre of mystery are even tighter sub-genres, like “cozy” which means certain things…they all have specific elements which dedicated readers expect. I can’t sell a fifth century Viking adventure story to someone who’s expecting a World War II GBLT submarine tale. There are elements such as story length within the sub-genre that also help define it, and story arcs. Spec fiction could have elements of fantasy, but if you have a sprite in science fiction, it better know how to operate a specific piece of scientific equipment. Authors who know what they’re doing can write by the seat of their pants, otherwise, figure it out first. Reworking a 100K legal thriller as a space opera fantasy which typically tops out maybe 65K can be exciting for some who have lots of energy and no deadlines, but for the rest of us… Writers and Readers: Hey, if I bought an expensive ticket to sit in the box at an opera, I’d be rather unhappy to end up ringside at a mud wrestling match because I got on the wrong bus.

MJ LABEFF, New Mainstream author

All genres of fiction have certain rules authors follow, but I think when it comes to blending genres and subgenres it’s up to the author to decide how much of the subgenre will be part of the story. As authors we brand ourselves by genre: mystery, suspense, thriller, horror, romance, science fiction, or urban fantasy and so on. It’s easier on us as writers, and it’s easier for readers to buy our books. The crossover effect of writing in a subgenre is amazing, but I don’t think it’s as important to adhere to subgenre rules. If you’re writing suspense thrillers and your hero and heroine happen to fall in love does that make your story a romance? I think not. Are you required to make the romance the integral part of the story? I think not. Do you have to give the hero and heroine a happily ever after or happily for now? I think not. You’re writing suspense thrillers. What if one of them should perish in gun fire or at the hands of a deranged serial killer? Will you disappointment your reader? I think not. It’s a suspense thriller. The reader expects your hero and heroine to face grave danger. So in my humble opinion, it’s important to adhere to the rules of whatever main genre of fiction your writing. The subgenre is just another layer in the story. This was such an interesting question. I can’t wait to read the other authors and readers opinions!

When I write, I usually don't adhere to a specific sub-genre much, though the story usually ends up falling into a certain genre at the end. Generally, my stories are almost always historical fantasy, but I have elements of other things too, like philosophy and mystery. What's most important is that it's a good story, and, of course, genres are important so readers can find your story, but in essence, sometimes the best stories can't be classified in one sub-genre, but might fit in a dozen different genres! And that might be what makes the story so amazing.

I have only rarely written a story to fit a particular genre. Usually, I just let the story flow and see where it takes me. I then decide after it's written, which genre it fits into. Several times, when using a prompt from my writers' group, I have planned to write a horror story and it has turned into a humorous, fantasy story. So, if I can't adhere to a genre, I know I'm not going to manage to adhere to a sub-genre!

I stay with fantasy or s-f.  Within that broad frame, the story rules and goes where it wishes to go.  There is usually romance or the promise or possibility of future romance depending upon the chemistry that develops between the male and female protagonists.  Other sub genres don't matter. The fantasy short story "The Neighbor" featured a mystery, for example, even though my other works about the characters are not mysteries.

Accuracy with respect to setting, on the other hand, is extremely important.  Readers, myself included, respond badly to glaring and even to less dramatic errors.  I haven't placed any of my novels in a specific time and location as yet.  Should I do so, I'd do some pretty extensive research to ensure that my work respected the site and period to the full extent that it impacted on the story.

Dear reader, thank you again for joining us and we’d love to hear from you. Keep smiling and have a fun week. Never stop believing. See you next Sunday…nothing better than being cozy in bed with some Musings.

If you have a question or comment you’d like us to muse upon, do not hesitate to contact me Christine Steeves-Speakman  at

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