There is no harder genre to define than women’s fiction. Lordy, lordy! Is it fiction for women or fiction written by women? Is it feminist fiction? Is it any book with a female protagonist? Is women’s fiction simply an dumping genre for writing that isn’t romance but isn’t quite literary? Is it anything that just wouldn’t appeal to most men? Does it have to be about a family or does that make it a family drama and is that different? Must the protag be over thirty but under sixty?
Figuring this out has exhausted me and I write women’s fiction. Can you imagine how hard it is for folks who don’t write it to understand exactly what we’re doing?
To me, women’s fiction is a book about a woman or women. Ok, that’s the not the hard part. The hard part is that the protagonist’s journey is about self-discovery, self-preservation, self-acceptance or self-improvement. And this journey is taken in the company of others who affect the main character, influence her, but do not save her.
In women’s fiction, the main character saves herself.
Are there romantic undertones in some women’s fiction? Absolutely. Is it the driving force of the novel? No. Is it what makes the main character tick? No. Could there be some paranormal elements in some women’s fiction? Sure. Is it the driving force of the novel? No. Is it what makes the main character tick? No.
Do you see a theme emerging?
Women’s fiction isn’t the same as chick-lit (and I love chick-lit). To me, chick lit is always light in tone and nature and voice — and that’s not always true of women’s fiction.
The driving force of women’s fiction is the motivation of the main character to get herself from point A to point B to point C, learning and changing and growing and making mistakes along the way. What makes a women’s fiction main character tick is the methods by which she learns and changes and grows and makes mistakes.
Women’s fiction tackles extraordinary real life issues and emotions.
For me, the sign of a great women’s fiction book (don’t get me started on calling it a women’s fiction novel, I just can’t/won’t/wouldn’t do it for a million bucks. ok, well, I’d do it once for a million and a half) is when I close the book or click the Kindle and wish I could meet the characters.
Does it doesn’t bother me there isn’t a “man’s fiction” genre or that I write with women in mind and know my novel probably won’t appeal to men. Nope.
I realize some genres don’t have steadfast rules and writers call their work whatever they want to call it. I have been in classes and groups where writers have said to me “HEY! I WRITE WOMEN’S FIC TOO!” And then I read a page or an excerpt and find it’s not what I think of as women’s fiction.
A journey to find a man or a new pair of Christian Louboutins are both worthy journeys indeed but for the sake of this blog, and my sanity, women’s fiction is commercial and/or literary work that focuses on a women’s journey of self. Whether or not she wears high heels.