Women’s Fiction vs. Romance
There are similarities between women’s fiction and romance, but also distinct differences that editors look for as the key elements that make for compelling women’s fiction.
This genre explores the complexities of women’s lives, dealing with issues that historical and/or contemporary women may be going through, or have been through. Women’s Fiction is often humorous, but can also be deeply emotional.
Romance Writers of America® 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.
The heart of a women’s fiction story may include romance but it is invariably a novel driven by a relationship that is at the very core of the plot. For instance:
- A man may be waiting for the heroine of these novels but he is not the center of events.
Although women’s fiction often incorporates grave situations such as abuse, poverty, divorce, familial breakdown, and other social struggles, it can also explore positive aspects within women’s lives.
Women’s Fiction deals with women in all aspects of their lives from cradle to grave. It also deals mainly with women’s relationships to other women, rather than women’s relationships with men. Sisters, mothers, daughters, friends. This is why it’s called Women’s Fiction.
Your heroine can be overweight and suffer from ‘spreading-butt’ syndrome, she can be over 30 (or 40 or 50, even over 80!), she can have several children ranging in age from diapers to potty trained to elementary school and on up. She can have a husband or two (but not at the same time), sometimes she can even have three. She can have no husband, but still have the children. The woman doesn’t have to be beautiful. In fact, she can look normal–like you and me. Real women come in all sizes and shapes, with different colored hair, freckles and warts, long toes, crooked toes, lovely legs or sagging breasts. The point is, avoid putting the women in a women’s fiction in a clichéd box that evokes curvy lines, long slender legs, and alluring eyes.
Keep in mind that writing women’s fiction isn’t necessarily about rape, abusive relationships, overcoming addiction or surviving cancer. Think: Under the Tuscan Sun, Bridget Jones’ Diary, The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood, The Secret Life of Bees, The Devil Wore Prada, Steel Magnolias, Letters to Juliette, Delores Claiborne, Fried Green Tomatoes, The Shell Seekers, Our Father, or The Red Tent.
While each woman’s journey leads to a different path, the above titles are excellent examples of how varied authors explore women’s life experiences.
Years ago, I met a lady, who at the age of eighty and recently widowed, decided to travel around the world–alone. She didn’t want her daughter or other family with her. She said that all her life she had given to everyone except herself. She wanted to experience life and on her own terms. She planned to keep a journal detailing her fears, her doubts, her joys as she traveled to China, India, Japan, Africa, and Egypt. Did she do it? Yes! I’d like to be her when I grow up. The point is–wouldn’t this make a wonderful women’s fiction novel? I think so.
As Geoffrey Chaucer penned in 1308, “All good things must come to an end.” This concludes my discussion on the formula for writing specific genes. I hope this series has proven interesting and helpful. Whatever genre you decide is your ‘cup of tea,’ I bid you…
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