Mar 27, 2013

Prequel to A to Z - Defining Women's Fiction

I have blogged before about the genre that I write - and the fact that I was well into my draft before I knew how to define it. One of  the tricky things was trying to decide the amount of romance that showed up in my writing.

I think one of the reasons people are hesitant to read women's fiction is because it might be romance, and I have discovered romance makes people uncomfortable.  I really think this is part of the reason there are so many YA writers because the hints at a beginning love are there, the fun crush phase, first kisses, and the like, and because lots of people get nervous that in reading this lovely heart warming story, there is going to be descriptions including words like bulging and heaving and bodice.

The Romance Writers of America organization defines women's fiction as, "a commercial novel about a woman on the brink of life change and personal growth. Her journey details emotional reflection and action that transforms her and her relationships with others, and includes a hopeful/upbeat ending with regard to her romantic relationship."
People like romance, and women's fiction typically has some elements of romance in it.  The difference, however, is that the primary function of women's fiction is the journey of the woman, on her own. It is about self discovery and empowerment and realizing who she is, and sometimes that involves love, but not primarily. It often addresses issues the character faces in her role as a mom, wife, career woman, sibling and friend, and the character is usually in her mid-20's or older.

I would argue that most of Jane Austen's books are actually women's fiction, as well as Little Women, because most of the character development takes place in a woman who is at the end of her teens if she is still in them at all. In fact, I'd bet that if you go through some of your favorite books that you have read, you will discover they fit the parameters of women's fiction quite well.

Do you read women's fiction? Did you realize that maybe you do more than you thought? Do you have a favorite book/move in this genre?

12 comments :

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I completely agree with you about Jane Austen. I do read some YA my daughter wants me to read and many of them are exactly as you describe.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

As a guy, I don't really read the genre. I have read a couple light romance books (by fellow blogger buddies-authors) that might qualify.

JeffO said...

I have read women's fiction and enjoyed it. Here's the thing, though: if you label it 'women's fiction' and stick it in its own clearly-defined, labeled place in a book store, and you slap a cover on it that's pik with pictures of shoes, a lot of people (guys) will not pick it up and will not read it. It's a shame, because some of them are pretty darn good.

Lynn Proctor said...

i have read women's fiction and i noticed even as i was reading something last night, that i gave it that feel in my head :)

ilima said...

Bulging, heaving, and bodice. Haha. I've thought about this distinction lately, and though I love me a good romance, if it's alongside a really great character story, all the better.

Julie Luek said...

Women's fiction is one of my favorite fiction genres. To me it embodies good stories. Period. Touches of romance without the commercialized label and content of romance. I love a story with a good character, a different plot, and I find a lot of that in good women's or literary fiction.

Ru said...

That definition is great! Thanks for this, I've always felt the "women's fiction" label was sort of vague, and now I get it.

Jai said...

Fantasy is my favorite genre though I like to read other genres as well.

My favorite books in fantasy could be considered Women's Fiction. I like books that are about self discovery and empowerment.

Jai Visiting from A-Z Challenge

Donna K. Weaver said...

I would agree. I think it's funny that people don't want to read a romance (if it's written by a woman) while most books have some kind of romantic element. A little romance ups the ante because the characters have more to lose.

Heck, look at the Bourne books (in the books Marie doesn't die). Those have a huge romantic element, even once Bourne (or David Webb as is his real name) and Marie are married and have a family.

Look at all the romance in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

My book, A Change of Plans, is listed as a romance but it has many women's lit elements and could easily be marketed as such.

Morgan said...

Oh, I'm a sucker for this genre... I do love it. Though I can't write it!

sydneyaaliyah.com said...

Hi Tasha, I have to let you know that I learned the type of fiction I wrote based on some of your post. I wasn't comfortable with romance because I felt my writing was more about the women and not as much about the romance. So, thank you. I can't wait to read your A to Z posts and learn more about our genre.

Jess Stork said...

I've always wondered why Little Women would be found in the Children's section. But I guess it could be both.