The idea of narrowing your story down to one genre can sometimes cause major confusion. The likely reason for this is you're crossing genres.
As writers explore their story worlds, elements may present themselves which is outside the main genre they planned for their story. Cross-genres are fine. But, it's important to realize what you are doing to avoid confusion and feeling defeat.
Over the years, I've heard write what you read, and read what you write. In my opinion, this suggestion isn't always great advice.
For one, I love medical thrillers. Could I write one? Not without extensive research. I know nothing about the medical field. But then you may wonder what if the story is about a doctor's personal life rather than his occupation. Wouldn't it still be a medical thriller? This would depend on the subject matter and story question. I'd say it's possible to produce such a book and still hit the medical thriller genre, but it would still need a splash of medical element.
The main reason for this topic this week is a revelation I had. I have two incomplete novels waiting for completion and a third in progress. I'm thinking the reasons for the incomplete novels may have a lot to do with not knowing what genre I was writing.
Those who know me are aware of my genre dilemma over the years. Those who've read my work can see the broad range of genres I write. Only recently have I truly come to understand how genre can effect what we write and how we write it.
When writing Escape to Love, I knew from the word 'go' I was writing a paranormal romance novella. There was no question of the basic plot - boy meets girl, forces separate their joining, boy gets girl. Those of you, who have read this, or even the blurb, know that this story turned into a historical paranormal romance. So, even though I had an idea of the genre, I still crossed over to another genre.
In most cases, this will work. In some cases, the story will need some rewriting because of the crossing.
If you start out with a dead body in Chapter One, and then by Chapter Thirteen you have an alien, who you didn't expect, I'd say you have some rewriting to do. Something in the beginning needs to give the reader a clue as to this new genre element or you will jar the reader. Chances are your book is about to be thrown across the room. Now, I'm not saying you need a spaceship or something to that extreme, but some hints. Maybe the dead body has a glowing mark on its chest; this would give a science fiction element - preparing the reader.
Say you start a romance novel, boy meets girl, nothing unusual. Then, at the half way mark, we learn the heroine is a ghost, with no indication of such in the first section of the book. You'll need to do some inserting along the way to prepare the reader.
Sixth Sense, the 1999 movie starring Bruce Willis, is a great example of planting hints along the way to keep from jarring the reader (or viewer) out of the story.
So, do you know what genre your story is? How many genres are you crossing?