May 30, 2011

What's In A Genre?

I’ve been reading about constructing paranormal novels. It’s interesting, but to be honest I haven’t learned a ton – yet. One thing I did learn was in order to be a paranormal novel, the element of the paranormal must be so integral to the story that if you took it out, you wouldn’t have a story.

Well duh. *Face-palm*

This isn’t exactly breaking news right? I mean, ANY novel you write must have the main element of the genre woven tightly through the plot. What’s Harry Potter without the magic or The Shining without the ghosts?

So, my question of the week is about balancing your books elements and how far you can skew that balance before your book becomes something other than your intended genre.

Case in point: Twilight

Before you throw Oreos at your screen (I know who you are), stick with me. Answer this question:

What genre is Twilight? Go ahead and think about it.

I've seen Meyer's books be lumped in with Fantasy, Horror, Paranormal, Paranormal Romance and Romance.

Meyer's book is an interesting case study to me because it crossed reader (and generational) lines. I know women who would have NEVER picked up a book about vampires (or any other paranormal type romance much less horror or fantasy), but they are DIE HARD Twilight fans.

In fact, Twilight continues to be the only vampire book they have ever read. These women prefer sweet romance, chick-lit, rom-coms and women's literary titles. Bodice rippers are too much for them. Reading Twilight didn't send them to the bookstore with their money clutched tightly in their hands looking for more vampire/human romances. Why? Because these women know that 90% of the time vampires are creepy and the concept of being in love with someone who bites the heroine whenever they get turned on (and the heroine likes it) isn't appealing to them personally.

So, how did Twilight manage to sneak it's way onto their nightstands? Is it possible the paranormal elements were softened enough for non-paranormal fans to accept?  Perhaps Twilight isn't so much about the fact that Edward is a vamp, but about the development of the all encompassing romance via Beauty and the Beast.

If Edward weren't a vamp, but a hunky underdog/loaner vying against Jacob the personable jock for Bella's attention, would the story still work?

To be fair, I'm not accusing Meyer of manipulating her story for maximum exposure. In fact, based on an interview posted on Amazon's website, it appears that she doesn't normally watch TV, movies or read books about vamps, which might explain a lot. She didn't try to write a bestseller. She wrote what was in her heart and got lucky when a gagillion other people thought it was pretty cool.

I don’t have answers (sorry). It’s just something cruising through my mind as I analyze the books around me. I want to hear what you think. Am I off base? What am I missing? How do you categorize your book? Would you pare down specific genre elements of your book to gain larger readership?
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