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Book Development - Genre

One of the hardest things to do, sometimes, is deciding what genre the book should be. Sometimes this is difficult because two plotlines are equally powerful - think romantic suspense type books: is the romance the primary plotline, making it a romance, or is the mystery the primary plotline making it a mystery?

Other times, the storyline can follow even more paths. For instance, the book I'm editing at the moment, Bloodroot is a fantasy (the main character is an elf) set in the year before Edward IV becomes king. The Earl of Warwick, Duke of York, King Henry VI and others make their appearances, though the main plotlines revolve around Mederei merc Cynwal Gwion and her family. Originally, the story was going to be historical with no fantasy ... that didn't work. Second choice: fantasy set in fantastical world ... that didn't work. Third choice: fantasy set in historical world. It's worked. (Finally!!)

Azure Maris is in another murky area which is why I originally set it as a young adult speculative. Mermaids, giants and the like are typically in the realm of fantasy ... DNA and underwater cities are typically in the realm science fiction. Azure inhabits both worlds: she has her tail, but through DNA (book 2 again) we learn that there is a gene that can turn land folk into sea folk. As the series progresses it becomes less fantasy and more science fiction though in a contemporary setting.

What are some things that you need to consider when deciding on the genre?
  1. Research. Historical takes more time to research than the other genres with fantasy taking the least amount of time followed by contemporary. Science fiction, depending on how much science plays a role in the plotline will take more or less time. In addition, research might thwart your historical novel (case in point: Bloodroot. Ireland does not have a tradition of tapestry weaving, which I discovered in research. The storyline revolved around tapestry weaving therefore, I had to change the genre.)
  2. Interest. Those who read navigate to certain genres. Personally, I like mysteries (historical and contemporary); fantasy (other world, contemporary and historical) and I'll touch on science fiction if it catches my attention, though I usually remain in modern settings. The writing process for a novel can take upwards of a year to accomplish (from idea to editing to submission) then you can add maybe another six to twelve months for the publishing process. You are going to spend a lot of time with your story - you'd better like it.
  3. Characters. Quite honestly, Azure was always a contemporary fantasy/science fiction series. There was never any doubt in my mind when I started the novel that Azure would be anything else. Bloodroot on the other hand has taken almost two years to figure out. While the storyline remained the same - Mederei's story does not change, but the world in which it is set does. Interestingly, by making it historical fantasy, the entire series has exploded with possibility.
  4. Storyline. In the first example of romantic suspense, this can play an important role: do you emphasize the mystery, the romance or subsume both and focus on character development? Some of this depends on your personal writing style. For me, who doesn't usually read romances, and prefers a mystery, the romantic plotline is always a subplot, never the main plot. Honestly, if I were to ever attempt a romance with mystery subplot, it would turn out terrible since I do not have the ability to write strong believable romantic characters.
  5. Theme. Sometimes you have a theme that you wish to explore. In Azure Maris the theme is How big is your God? There are many ways that God is bigger than us, and there are many ways to explore that immensity. I chose Azure to be a mermaid because of one specific question: if aliens and mermaids exist would that shatter Christianity? In another case, exploring contemporary problems (human trafficking, war, greed) can be less touchy if explored through another lens (historical, fantasy or science fiction).
These five points can help you decide which way a book can go if you're struggling with the genre. If there is something not quite right with the novel, look at the genre. Sometimes, making an historical novel into a fantasy or science fiction can help. Sometimes, changing the time period might work. Keep writing.


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