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What Women’s Fiction Writing Is and Is Not

Probably not surprisingly, women’s fiction writing is one of the newer trends out there in the literary world. While I don’t have an exact date as to when it came about, the actual term is most definitely a 20th-century invention.

Sure, some form of the modern-day romance novel has been around ever since writers realized they could make serious moolah off of throwing male and female protagonists at each other within dramatic plots. But contrary to popular opinion, that’s not what we’re talking about this week.

In fact, it’s probably best to jump right to our literary Definition before we go any further into discussing women’s fiction writing. Otherwise, you might have a completely inaccurate opinion of the subject.

Women’s Fiction:

First and foremost, women’s fiction isn’t the same thing as a romance novel. If anything, it’s going to much more closely resemble literary fiction since it follows a main character or characters as they discover their truer selves.

According to the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, these “stories may include romance, or they may not. They can be contemporary or historical and have magical, mystery, thriller, or other elements.” But “the driving force... is the protagonist's journey toward a more fulfilled self.”

We’re going to go much, much further into possible plot lines in Thursday’s Challenge, but for now, let’s just establish the basics about what makes women’s fiction writing women’s fiction writing and not chick-lit or romance fiction.

  1. The main character is always going to be female. Always. Because this genre is meant to be an inspiration to its predominantly female readers. Which brings us to point #2 about women’s fiction writing plots…

  2. The plot is not supposed to be driven by smooches. Oh, there can be plenty of them in there if the author so chooses. If this kind of manuscript is what you’re working on, feel free to have your characters smooch away! I’ve even read women’s fiction where there’s plenty more than smooching. However, getting all doe-eyed and kissy-faced can’t be the driving motivation. Any included romantic relationships are meant to be a mere sideshow to the main point. As the aforementioned Women’s Fiction Writers Association notes, “… the driving force of a romance novel is a love story, a mystery’s is the exposure of an event, a thriller’s is a fear-inducing chase or escape…” But women’s fiction writing – and reading – is all about seeing a protagonist get from a less-fulfilled place to a more fulfilled place.

  3. The setting can be anything. Remember, women’s fiction can “look” like historical fiction, sci-fi, contemporary fiction, fantasy, etc. So you can put it in the past, the future, the present or some completely made-up world. Just as long as it adheres to points #1 and #2, you’re good to go.

There’s nothing more to it than that! Other than, of course, inspiring or empowering women; portraying strong emotions without being cheesy; and getting to the heart of what it’s really like to be a woman. All in mere black and white.

Since that’s what we’ll be exploring further on Thursday and Friday, women’s fiction writing fans, this is your week!


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