Whose Fantasy Is This Anyway?
Part 4 – The Special Challenges of Blending Genres
This is the fourth of a five part series about authors navigating fantasy’s many overlapping subgenres (see also parts 1, 2 and 3: Whose Fantasy Is This Anyway? Part 3 Whose Fantasy Is This Anyway? Part 2 Whose Fantasy Is This Anyway? Part 1 ).
While sticking like glue to a subgenre’s parameters and expectations may boost sales by catering to readers’ expectations, it also results in formulaic writing.
Fantasy seems particularly afflicted with paint-by-the-numbers novels, some procreating themselves into lengthy series. This is OK as long as it leaves oxygen in the room for authors attempting something more ambitious, say combining elements of several subgenres into a cool synthesis of plot-lines, characters, and themes – agnostic of their subgenre of origin. Or tossing all the standard categories into the garbage and writing a sui generis work. It’s your fantasy after all!
For example, suppose your modern fantasy contains a smidgen of romance – a kiss or two, possibly a French kiss? At what point does it become paranormal? Both of my novels interweave romance with drama, action and magic, but romance isn’t absolutely the story’s central feature, so I wouldn’t consider either novel to be paranormal ( judge for yourself: https://amzn.to/2DohgJH https://amzn.to/2DoDAmJ ).
And what happens when you’re bold (or pretentious) and address themes? Does that push your work into the realm of literary fantasy? I used environmental motifs in my first novel and explored the nature of borders geographic and attitudinal in my second book, but both books can be read as purely exciting stories, I hope.
And does a propulsive plot bully your novel’s fantasy elements aside and nudge your work into the action & adventure category?
Complications like these highlight why some writers don’t stray far from one particular category, especially if they’ve achieved success in that space. For those that do blend elements of multiple genres and subgenres, recognize that making what you’ve written appealing to potential readers and minimizing their uncertainty about just what they’re buying may be more challenging than for a straight-up, single-genre work.
The concluding part in this series touches on how to address this (see Part 5).
(The wonderful image is by Stefan Keller from Pixabay)