Blurred Genres

“Embracing the Elephant” is a work of realistic literary historical fiction. Too wordy? Well, yes. But let me explain…

I never gave much thought to genre – I am an eclectic reader and have enjoyed everything from fantasy to historical, sci-fi to memoir, contemporary fiction to biographies, horror to romance, literary to…well, whatever might be thought of as the counterpoint to literary. Mysteries and spy-thrillers are always good for an evening’s entertainment. I don’t limit myself to genre – I try only to limit myself to good writing (and even then I can be a little forgiving in the face of a compelling plot or fascinating characters).

I’m not given to judging a book by its genre. I will read something based on subject matters that have caught my interest (however fleeting that might be) and the word of friends and professional reviewers whose opinions I have come to trust.

Now that I’m writing, however, I believe my approach may be aberrant (in a good way) and not likely to aid in the distribution of my own work (which is bad).

Agents and publishers want to know the genre into which your story falls so that they can expose and market it to readers most interested. Why waste time advertising to people who have no interest in an edgy sci-fi piece? If your book has no romance, then the “Outlander” set is not likely a good target audience.

But what if your book crosses genres? Is it good to blur the lines anymore? Is “realistic literary historical fiction” going to catch anybody’s attention – or simply make them yawn?

One glowing review for “Embracing the Elephant” read: this book “has something for everyone: a coming-of-age tale, adventure, romance, and a page-turner plot.” I thought the review was wonderful – now I’m less sure. Not because I’m not pleased with the words, but that I now believe a potential agent or publisher or reader whose preferred genre is historical fiction would not necessarily gravitate to my book based on this description alone.

  • “Literary fiction…concerns itself with subtleties and complexities of language, theme and symbolism and tends to be character-driven rather than plot driven.”
  • “Historical fiction is a story made up but set in the past, borrowing true characteristics and sometimes real figures of the time period in which it is set.”
  • “Realistic history means stories that could have actually occurred to people or animals in a believable setting.”

Yes, yes and yes. “Embracing the Elephant” has all of the above – but is it a good idea to say so? Is “realistic literary historical fiction” too blurred?


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About Lori Hart Beninger

Lori Hart Beninger is a native California writer with three critically acclaimed historical novels (Embracing the Elephant, A Veil of Fog and Flames, and A Peculiar Peace) that follow two 19th century young adults as they struggle with survival and acceptance in the pivotal era of the California Gold Rush up to the American Civil War. Please visit for synopses, availability, reviews, and more.
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1 Response to Blurred Genres

  1. frenchc1955 says:

    Thank you for following my blog!

    Liked by 1 person

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