Updated: Sep 8, 2022
Often times, readers fall into categories of genres they like and genres they don’t like.
Some readers love romance novels while others revel in high fantasy. But occasionally these genres overlap, giving us books shelved as contemporary romances, sci-fi/fantasy, etc. In some books, this mixture of genres work seamlessly to create an even deeper experience for readers, combining elements and situations that might not otherwise be thought of or considered possible. One of the most popular of these is paranormal romance. Who doesn’t want to fall in love with a gorgeous ghost from the 1800s every once in a while?
Another example of blending genres is Libba Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty. Set in the late 19th century, Bray’s story centers around a young girl coming to terms with her magical abilities. She soon discovers she has the power to open doors to different planes of reality and even speak with the departed. The trilogy is definitely a superb example of historical fiction packed with fantasy elements.
We know why readers appreciate cross genres, but why do authors choose to write them?
For one, melding together two genres (or more) can widen the scope for potential readers. Instead of having to narrow their work to fit the scope of a specific audience, the author has a chance to branch out. A fitting example is Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones, a tale where a young woman falls for a fallen angel. Regardless of how one feels about her writing style or series in general, Clare’s work is able to cater to multiple groups at once: people interested in fantasy creatures (e.g. werewolves and vampires), people obsessed with romance, and people looking for a thriller. Clare is able to satisfy a wide range of audiences just by mixing categories.
Below are some of the most popular mixed genres. Readers often don’t even realize they’re reading mixed genre novels because of how well the genres fit together.
Mixing genres isn’t all fun and games, however. Done incorrectly, it can muddle the plot and create confusion. So how do writers walk the thin line between greatness and chaos?
First, make sure that the elements of both genres make sense together. This is an issue a lot of people run into when it comes to mixing Fantasy and Science Fiction. At their core, these genres are completely different. Fantasy is typically based in magic, while Science Fiction is based in--you guessed it--science. You may begin to write a story that’s supposed to be a mixture of fantasy and sci-fi, but halfway through you realize that it’s all based in science with no fantasy aspects. The same goes for any mixture of genre. The elements from each should come together cohesively so that neither is lost.
Another tip is to read as many genres as you can--especially the ones you wish to blend together. If you're eager to write a historical romance but you've never read anything from the time period, it's time to start reading. Having a broader library can help you hone in on what it takes to create a great piece, whether its a horror story, a comedy, or a mix of both. Sites like Goodreads have lists of popular genre blending books--so why not learn from the masters?
All in all, make sure to do the research required for both genres and be certain that each aspect comes together in a cohesive tale. Do your vampire robots make sense? Are your aliens having trouble connecting with your werewolves?
Before taking on the task of writing within a mixed genre, strip down your plot and work out how each genre fits. Sometimes you may have to scrap one genre for the sake of another, and that’s okay.
As the publishing industry grows to include even more genres and ambitious writers, more and more books dare to cross the lines between genres. Authors are daring to mix in as many elements as they see fit to include in their work, and us readers absolutely love it.
About the authors:
Madelyn Knecht is a freelance writer, editor, and avid reader from Texas. She loves everything fantasy and has a soft spot for Jane Austen and dark characters with hearts of gold. You can find her on YouTube and on Twitter.
Stephanie Stott is a freelance novel editor and English major from Florida. Over the years, she's found various ways to escape the humidity: taking pictures of her cats, working on her novels, and designing book covers in Photoshop. You can follow her writing misadventures and graphic design creations on her author Facebook page.