|Photo credit: Jody Art on Flickr|
“I read your post about reading what you write, and coming to love your genre. So I was wondering, what if one incorporates other genres and mediums? One of my WIPs is a YA-fantasy adventure with a lot of fairytale elements, but I've taken what I learned reading horror (mostly of Poe) to create dread in my story, and I've paid attention to cinematic techniques seen in films by Studio Ghibli to create an endearing and living world. What is your perspective on cross-referencing genres and mediums?”I’m sure most of you have heard that you should write what you know. While I partially agree with that (more on that topic some other time), I think it applies especially well when referencing incorporating what you have learned from creative mediums, whether writing, movies, music, etc. You see, I’ve written in the past about why it’s so important for writers to be well-read, and this question right here is one of the many reasons why.
While I tend to read a lot of YA and some MG novels, within those age groups I read from various genres: paranormal fantasy, straight fantasy, sci-fi, dystopian, etc. And from every book that I’ve read, regardless of the genre, I’ve learned something—whether it’s the importance of voice, or including poetry in prose, or what a good opening and memorable characters look like. And when I write and revise, I make a point to look back on those lessons and continue to learn new ones from whatever books I read throughout the course of the year.
One of the most important tasks a writer has is to absorb everything possible—what rain feels like in November when you’ve forgotten an umbrella, how that movie gave you the chills, why that book was so gripping that you stayed up until three in the morning on a work night to finish it, how that song makes you pause every time it comes up on your playlist. Nothing is sacred to the writer—not that terrible cut that required stitches, or your first kiss, or the first time you laid eyes on your newborn. Writers make note of and store their experiences for writing reference later on.
In short, writers cannibalize everything. Or at least, they should. And when it comes to genre, I don’t believe it’s any different.
Let’s think for a moment: when is the last time you read a book or watched a movie that was 150% one genre? Nearly every non-romance genre has some sort of romantic subplot (even The Lord of the Rings which is as straight fantasy as it gets has romance) and many non-mystery novels have some sort of mysterious intrigue and so on. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at a couple novels.
- Across the Universe by Beth Revis—Across the Universe is undoubtedly a YA Sci-Fi novel, but it certainly cross-references other genres as well, the most obvious of which include a romantic subplot and murder mystery. That doesn’t make it a mystery or romance novel, but it still has elements of those genres. To further draw a point, it’s listen on Amazon under “Teens > Mysteries” and at Barnes & Noble.com under “Teens- Romance & Friendship” and “Teens- Science Fiction.”
- The Fault in Our Stars by John Green—I would have thought that The Fault in Our Stars would be listed under YA Contemporary, but I’ve found that it is often listed under romance. Regardless, it has elements of romance, realistic fiction, humor and even tragedy. That doesn’t mean you’re going to find it in the Humor section at Barnes & Noble (if you do, it’s been terribly misplaced), but you can’t deny that elements of those genres exist within the novel. It’s listed on Amazon under “Teens > Love & Romance” and at Barnes & Noble.com under “Teens: Realistic.”
Just two examples of many, but the point is this: genre is rarely cut and dry and you certainly shouldn’t be afraid of drawing from absolutely everything you’ve learned along the way. Your writing will be better for it.
How do you pull from other genres, mediums and experiences in your work? What multi-genre novels can you think of as examples?