Thursday, July 16, 2015

Women's Fiction Is Not About Psychotic Drama

Women's fiction is a tough genre to categorize. It isn't just about women and it isn't a story with just a female protagonist. It also isn't a story where the author has just eliminated the characters from having sex. It is a  much deeper and thoughtful genre that is very much character driven and one that depends on a connection the story makes with a reader. 

When I first started representing women's fiction, I felt it very important to define it. Women's fiction is a genre that looks at the world through a female lens. It is a chance to see how women face the world and over-come challenges. It is a genre that explores, what I call, the female journey. It is also a genre that taps into a literary criticism model known as reader response. The meaning and the message of the story come through the interaction the readers have with the characters. The more of a connection, the stronger the message. 

Now, with that said, I have seen an alarming number of submissions out there trying to be women's fiction, but seeming to miss the mark. While these stories might have the initial foundation of a good story, these projects often head right off the cliff with what the authors add to the stories. It seems a lot of people out there believe women's fiction is about adding in psychotic drama to the stories. Instead of focusing in on one issue that the readers connect with, the authors have felt the need to add in a ton more of problems. For example. 
  • Middle age married woman with kids starts to question if being the soccer mom is worth it
which is a fine premise and one people can relate to...but then the author adds in...
  • And then she finds out the husband is having an affair
  • And the husband has lost his job
  • And she now has Ovarian Cancer
  • And her mother is a helicopter mom causing trouble
  • And now she thinks having an affair with the ex-high school boyfriend who took her virginity in what might have been rape is a good idea.

Here is the problem. Readers can probably relate to one or maybe two of those ideas. But when the author starts adding in all of the other elements, the story really becomes a psychotic fiction story, and, very much comical. This is beyond unbelievable and something that readers will not be able to relate to.

I do know some authors believe that by adding in all of the other elements, it is giving them a wider audience. Nope, this is just going to turn everyone away. Using that argument is the same as writing a science fiction, fantasy, paranormal novel set in Ancient Roman Times for an adult audience with a New Adult focus, but doing it as a YA Illustrated book. It isn't going to reach that many people.

If you really want to make a strong story, take one of those issues and really flesh it out. Show us that, although the plot might seem like a relatively easy thing to solve, show us that the story has a lot of variables and really requires that "women's intuition" to solve it. Don't just make your characters weird and plots psychotic just to make a longer story.


  1. "Women's fiction is a genre that looks at the world through a female lens. It is a chance to see how women face the world and over-come challenges. It is a genre that explores, what I call, the female journey." I love that description. You almost make me want to try writing "women's fiction". I've always considered it kinda "chick lit" stuff and veered away from it. I had to laugh at your "everything but the kitchen sink" scenario above.

  2. Chick Lit is a version of it but really tends to look at the younger and more urban crowd. Often, chick lit tends to be much lighter and much more commercial in that the references used are specific to that exact time and place. When you think of Sex in the City, that would be chick lit. The references are very specific and probably will not extend to populations outside of that specific time and generation. When it comes to women's fiction, it can be both light or serious. The central story arc, however, is the growth of the character.