Pulling new genres out of the hat

The nineteenth century witnessed the birth of the sensation novel. It drew on melodramatic writing about the insane and the criminal elements in society as well as gothic and romantic genres. Romance and realism, which had been opposing types of literature, were combined in this new genre. Common elements of the sensation novel were characters unaware of their true identity, important letters misdirected, a character resorting to disguises, a heroine in physical danger, and an aristocratic villain. However, sensation novels often contain elements that were allegorical and abstract reflecting social anxieties in uncertain Victorian times. If this piques your interest, you might enjoy The Woman in White and Lady Audley’s Secret.

Sensation novels illustrate how a new style of storytelling is replicated until it becomes genre. Writing in a genre typically means following rules and conventions. In return for submitting to these the author is allowed to make particular illogical leaps. For example, romance novels often assume that soul mates exist so finding that person is the key. There may not be a need to come up with astounding actions to demonstrate how much one person loves another. Rather love is measured by amount of desires and longing for the other. Romance writing is also based on the supposition that there is a turning point beyond which the couple will remain in love forever. However, romance can be one of the more restrictive genres.

Perhaps, I have an idea for a romance novel, but the pair is not going to meet on the first page and there will not be love at first sight. Instead each of them will be distracted by other possible lovers. After my main pair finally join together and the romance really begins, one of them will stray from the relationship. My novel no longer fits the requirements of a romance.

So, I play with the idea of changing the genre. I add trappings of new technology and place the story on another planet for a sci-fi space opera. Maybe, I research a past period with societal rules similar to this one. Then, I rewrite my novel into an historical one. Or, I just leave it in the current time frame and make the story a bit more introspective concerning the role of a woman in society. Now, I have created a piece of women’s fiction. Finally, I could condense the time frame and redo the major characters as seventeen-years-olds. Often, this is all that is needed to transform a novel into a YA book.

However, I could be brave and leave the book as is. If enough similar works are written, it will morph its own new genre.

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