Monday, February 23, 2009

What is women's fiction?

This is one of those genres I am actively looking for. It really is a tough one to write so I thought I would take a few minutes and outline exactly what I see this genre to be. Before beginning I think it is important to look at some of the ideas people have about women's fiction:
  • Stories without romantic elements
  • Stories we have tried to market in other areas and now will try calling it women's fiction
  • Stoires with women and huge baggage issues.
Get the idea?

I have always said that a story in the category of women's fiction deals with real issues that real women deal with. These should be stories that show the female journey to the goal of understanding who she is as a person, in a relationship, in the world.

Too often, I see authors attempting to create stories out of conflict. Sure, there needs to be some conflict in the story, but the story itself doesn't have to be built around some catastrophic event. No, we don't have to deal with a divorce followed up by a chronic disesase. The story can just be about a life changing event.

The other element I like to see in these stories is a chance to truly relate to the characters. I see these stories as those that women sit around and talk about. The stories that women can say, "I know just what she is going through." I want the stories to be those that we can laugh and cry with them.

The book (not the movie) Under the Tuscan Sun is a great example of this. While we watch her go through the process with her husband of building this house, we also watch her grow as a female. We watch her come to grips with life, with relationships outside of marriage and with her own strengths and weaknesses.

That, in my humble opinion, is women's fiction.


  1. And that said, must women's fiction always involve a female lead winding up the novel with a successful relationship? As in the movie, "Tuscan Sun."
    I really enjoyed the movie on many levels, and am completely in love with the beguiling male realtor, but did notice that most books intended primarily for women are centered on her searching for, and ending up with a classic "healthy relationship." Would the movie have been successful without the Deus ex Machina appearance at the very end, of an appealing guy for her? Dunno.
    This runs parallel to the complaint that readers buy a historical, but "find out it is really one more romance in disguise," and are not happy about it. It's a confusing business. I do notice more historicals featuring male leads do not assume their lives are not worth recounting unless they wind up in a committed relationship. Since I liked the movie so much, I have no good answer here.
    Since I am writing a historical, and feel pressured by the market to (waste) a lot of pages detailing the leads' romantic thrashing about, when I feel strongly that the real story is elsewhere, the struggle of one little boy to become a man, I find this all most disheartening. I can only conclude that I can write the book for myself, and be honest, or wrench it into yet one more generic romance, and leave most of the story on the floor. "Gladiator," versus "Tuscan Sun'?
    Does anyone else have any thoughts about this? I must find some Jodie Picoux. Don't think they are all romances, but she has been established for a long time.
    The books about romance writing all stress that the relationship "must be the main focus," and that "subplots must not take over." But the so-called subplot is by far the more interesting part for me. Perhaps I need a male lead, as in the classic cowboy buddy movies. The requirements for female leads seem quite different. So sad, too bad.

  2. Anon,

    No, I don't think there needs to end up with a successful relationship. I should caution though that in the book, she is happily married and she and her husband work at establishing the house. The movite really takes it for another twist.
    As for the historical disguised as a romance, I would have to say that the reader is not looking very well at the covers. Historical romances are very clear. Along the same line, you can have historicals with great romances that do not fall into the category of a romance (the happily ever after).
    Now, as for your story, I would say to write this as a historical and keep that as the focus. If you have no desire to make the relationship the central plot and the romance being the final HEA, then don't write it. Stick to a straight up historical. You don't have to make it a romance to sell it.

  3. Yes!
    Thank you, Scott. Pitiful to admit, but I keep realizing I don't much care if the female leads winds up with the young noble or the much more (to me) enticing highlander. But I do care a great deal about the way this child changes everybody.
    As the man said in one of my favorite newer movies, "Seabiscuit," "People think we found a broken horse, and fixed him, but the truth is, he fixed us. Everyone of us."
    I have not read the book, "Tuscan Sun," but have watched the movie at least four times. A real romantic at heart, it seems. I must read the book.
    Perhaps I need to think about why Diane Lane's character matters to me, but my own, seems, frankly, generic and close to boring. The Devil is indeed in the details, as usual. My impression is that it will be much easier to market a romance in this tight market than a real historical, but I almost never want to read any of them, Abe excepted. Painful truth there.