JUST WHAT IS WOMEN’S FICTION?
“The” exclusive, all-encompassing classification of Women’s Fiction has been debated, discussed and defined in a variety of blogs, book clubs, writing classes and writers’ groups.(Once you get started with alliteration, it just flows; I was an English teacher, I love the sound.) Stating that it is fiction about women and by women is minimalistic and misleading. (Sorry, again)
Women’s Fiction does have a strong female protagonist. She may not know she is strong or that strength may be tested, but she is a woman for whom the reader cheers and cares for.
Changes and decision-making are a major aspect of WF. Most follow some sketchy facet of Vogler’s’s character journey. Some event or person takes the protagonist out of her comfort zone, makes her rethink her position, role or path and at the end of the story, she is different. One critical part is the change must occur after SHE makes a decision or decisions, which causes the change in her. No one can direct her to whom she should be, no one can choose her path. That’s one of the elements I like best about WF; the woman is in control of her path.
“Change” is necessity and usually part of the Women’s Fiction definition. “Change” is a constant in a woman’s life. (Irony there) Career changes, marriage, birth of child, loss of a lover, changes in location all create waves to unbalance any one’s ship. It’s usually the women who stabilizes that boat.
Usually romance is part of the story as well. I like romance; I write romance, but I like the place of romance in WF. Love makes everyone’s life easier so I can’t imagine writing a book without a romantic interest. In WF, it doesn’t have to be paramount and the book t doesn’t have to end in marriage or two people riding off in the sunset together. I like that. It makes the ending less predictable; the reader can imagine the “happily ever after.”
For the best part of WF has layers of complications. Besides the protagonist’s journey and the intricacies of a romance, WF also usually has an added plot line some element which gives an added depth. Often WF has an added thread maybe a serious illness such as Alzheimer’s, mental illness or alcoholism.
It’s one of the reasons I like to read WF and write WF. I like character-driven novels (with a little love/romance) and a complication/issue, which makes the reader think long after the last page. As the author, this is fun—what can you add, twist to change the MC’s life so she ends up where she didn’t expect to be—and she finds a new strength, a new look at her world.
In Levels of Truth, Caroline inherits a house from her adoptive mother. This shakes up her world, she thought she was close to Annabelle, her adoptive mother, but she didn’t know her mother owned the house nor that Annabelle visited yearly. Caroline learns she was born in the house, which raises questions? What secrets was Annabelle hiding? What is the connection to the house? And of course, what causes the changes in Caroline’s thinking, what choices does she have to make? And of course, there is a romantic interest……Just imagine.
There is also WF-Book Club fiction. Are your eyeballs rolling? Women’s Fiction with an added issue or topic easily fits into Book Club. Book Club fiction needs controversy, a social issue to foster discussion. If everyone likes the characters and all their actions—there is no discussion. I am a member of two book clubs and moderate another. If everyone thinks the book is great, they would have made the same choices as the main character—then it is a night of wine-drinking, snack-eating and members’ storytelling—not discussing the book. (sometimes nights like that are needed in book clubs.) If a reader questions—how would I have handled that? Would I have done that differently or if the reader has strong opinions of joint custody or care for the homeless, THEN the book club has a rousing discussion.
Romance, Women’s Fiction, Book club fiction have fine lines of separation. If you are unsure where your book fits, check out NJRW (New Jersey Romance Writers) definitions of romance, check out WFWA (Women’s Fiction Writers Association) for good definitions and shades of meaning. Also, check out Scott Eagan’s Babbles blog for his definitions of romance, WF and romance. Good, clear comparisons of each. I have used his comparisons in my writing classes and a book group.
As I am editing, I am well-aware of needs of a book club. I create discussion questions for each book as I write. I write Women’s Fiction. I love tracing a women’s journey of self-discovery.
Do you write or read Women’s Fiction? How would you define this genre? Who are your favorite WF authors?