Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Baking a Genre Pie

My novel can't decide what it wants to be when it grows up so I'm taking a write and see approach. Is it a murder mystery or a romance? Could it be romantic suspense? I'm leaning toward murder as a main course with a side dish of romance, but I'm wondering if I've stirred in too much romance.

This got me started thinking about genres and how much fun playing mix'em and match'em can be. I think the two universal spices are mystery and romance. They are the salt and pepper of the literary world. The onions and peppers. The parsley and mint. You get the idea. Things just taste better with love and danger added.

What are the two things we always hear that a great story needs? Well, it needs a hook. A question that must be answered, a journey into the unknown in search of enlightenment. Spice with a whiff of personal peril and you've got mystery. Nom!

Second, a novel needs compelling characters that matter to us. We want to see them, learn from them, larger than life personalities that we can't look away from. Enter romance, stage left. This is what romance does so well. A romance is all about compelling people (and a little hot nooky, but mostly about the people.) Nom nom!

Romance and mystery work together so beautifully, it seems to me that they are the perfect match. Whether you start with danger as the catalyst for love or spice the intrigue with a pinch of desire, the result is the same: Awesomesauce.

Both genres have a formula that must be followed, most especially the ending. The mystery must have a solution and the romance must have its HEA (Happily Ever After). This could be so limiting and yet these are two of the most popular genres. They account for a large portion of published novels and reading tastes. Why?

I think the familiar framework allows for greater creativity within the rules. Instead of trying to reinvent chicken pot pie, mystery and romance writers perfect the recipe and make it their own, give it their own signature flavor.

My time is limited and I read for entertainment, so I like knowing that my novel will be resolved, that my questions will be answered and that the couple will end up together. I like HEA. I spend enough time worrying about my kids and their future. I don't want to waste my energy worrying about characters in a novel.

What's your favorite genre recipe? Share time!

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