Dragons and Cowboys and Jason Bourne, Oh My!

Virginia McKevitt

That got your attention didn’t it, but the topic really is about crossing genres; can you, should you and if you do, can you pull it off. This coming from a fantasy, mystery, thriller, romance, action, eh, novelist (try slinging that out there when someone ask you what your book is about).

Someone once told me fantasy has rules. I agree, its magic, you can do anything: pigs can fly, cows can talk, a kiss can wake a princess, but wizards always have to carry a staff. No I’m serious. I was told never to break that rule. It has to do with quantum physics and pole shifts. Serious stuff that could change our world as we know it.

All kidding aside, every genre has rules that have been bent over the course of time. Plato or some famous cartoon character (Pluto, I think) divided literature into three classic genres: poetry, drama and prose but somewhere back in the 1900’s all hell broke loose. In 1898 H. G. Wells wrote a science fiction novel, War Of The Worlds, that spawned widespread panic in 1938, when it was aired on Halloween, by actor Orson Welles as a news bulletin. People actually believed the world was being invaded by aliens.

That is power people! Ah, but I digress. Back to the present. Today we are bombarded with creatures and human beings who are brought together in every imaginable way; love, or friendship, or even in a common goal, to save the world, and we do it by mixing genres. Case in point: Romance is supposed to be happily ever after with a strong emphasis on, well romance. With Fantasy, one designs the world’s geography, race and magic, with good verses evil. Westerns should have a hero in conflict. You get my point.

Jump to the present; rules are made to be broken and so they are. Today’s readers expect more. Romance doesn’t always end with the lovers riding off into the sunset. They do eventually; they just go kicking, screaming and fighting first. Sometimes the evil sorcerer wins, and we get a certain amount of satisfaction from that. Oh, and the hot guy in the cowboy hat? He runs off with the beautiful lonely widow’s brother.

For god’s sake people just make it believable! If you don’t your reader is out of here and them babies are hard to get back. How do you do that you ask? Do a little research on your subject matter. Know the basic structure of the genre you are writing in. What makes it work and why readers like it, then stretch it.

I know, I know. You have to write it for you. Well if that’s the case then you shouldn’t be disappointed if only you read it. The little lady down the hall ain’t going to be happy if Jack and Jane don’t make it. That’s what makes her read romance, because in spite of it all, they will be together. If Johnny expects his assassin to be like Jason Bourne, give him a little romance, but don’t have him cutting out hearts or humming the theme from Barney. Wait, that sounds creepy. It might work, she thought.

Ahem… So, write your paranormal romance about Jack the vampire, who lives a tortured existence because his mother was an alien who came here from that planet no one can pronounce, and then one day he falls in love and marries a half human history teacher who figures it all out, and then they ride off into the sunset in her time travel machine to live happily ever after. All in one breath.

See how easy that was.

Virginal McKevitt is an American author of fantasy. Her 5 star novel, FRACTURE The Secret Enemy Saga can be broadly described as fantasy incorporated with elements of the paranormal, suspense, mystery and romance. Learn more about Virginia at her Amazon author page and her blog.

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10 thoughts on “Dragons and Cowboys and Jason Bourne, Oh My!”

  1. Title had me bopping over here as fast as I could click. The post did not let me down. I may need to add one of your lines as an email signature

    “You have to write it for you. Well if that’s the case then you shouldn’t be disappointed if only you read it”

    I don’t mind books that cross-genre as long as the writer knows both genre and can give me what I’d expect from the cross. But I think too many of us write the book, realize we don’t know what genre it is, so we slap a bunch of different genres on its label because it has elements of the genre in it. I’m guilty of it myself. It’s hard if your background in creative writing is high school or even college classes. Those may teach how to write a story but few teach how to determine genre and target market and the importance of knowing and understanding those before starting to write. Again fantastic post.

  2. I’m seeing a lot of cross-genre works these days, particularly in the speculative fiction genre. Case in point: China Mieville. Does he write fantasy, or sci-fi, or steampunk, or (bug) romance? I thought “The City and the City” was brilliant, but what do you classify it as? Sci-fi noir, maybe? 😀

    Granted, Mieville clearly knew the genre rules before he began to bend them. So your premise holds, Virginia — know the rules before you try to break them.

    1. Hello Lynne, I’m sorry to say that I have not read “The City and the City” so I cannot answer that question. On a brighter note, we writers do love to bend the rules, don’t we. I say bend away, just don’t fall short for the reader. I try to keep the “huh” factor out of the equation.

  3. ‘Mix and match’ seems to be a new genre, with just about everything in it. Don’t get me wrong, some authors do it quite successfully; remembering of course that success is a relative thing. Some established authors turn out an amazing quantity of material (spewing out dozens of titles), which they sell quite successfully (there’s that term again), and I won’t name names but I wouldn’t accept payment to read it.

    So, yes, the rules are being bent but come on! When someone just looks at the stats, and gets a list of the most popular genres, and writes a story or in some cases a whole series (one author comes to mind who churns out, literally dozens in a series) that takes in all of those genres; ending up with witches, werewolves, vampires, shape-shifting alien gay and lesbian, erotica, committing the most heinous, serial killing, crimes of passion imaginable, throughout the whole time/space continuum, via a time travelling space-warp. I’m sorry, I don’t care how good the writer is, the suspension of my disbelief (very necessary for any kind of enjoyment of a story) is never going to happen. With the exception of maybe Douglas Adams.

    Great Post, Virginia.

    1. Lol TD, That was a mouthfull. You have made my point. Crossing genres can get out of hand. All joking aside, you hit the nail on the head with “suspension of my disbelief”. I want to believe what I’m reading, fantasy included (since that is what I write). Our brains are hard-wired to imagine almost anything but even our imagination will balk when pushed to far. Thanks for the response.

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