I’ve always been a writer. I haven’t always known I was a writer. I’ve also always been a reader, but I have always known that. I’ve loved to read as long as I can remember. B is for Betsy series is my earliest memory of favorite stories. A Wrinkle in Time has stood the test of time, and remains a favorite story (so much so that I gave a copy to my ten- year-old grandgirl for Christmas).
What I read, I read without regard to genre. I loved a story that tells a compelling story, but I paid no attention to genre.
So when I started writing, I just wrote. And I wrote without regard to what genre it might be. Which, as it turns out, is rather important when it comes to marketing, and, as it turns out, is Women’s Fiction—my stories are Women’s Fiction. Feels rather comfy, having a genre to fit into.
It’s rather a loose fit, sort of like an old favorite pair of sweats. According to Wikipedia,
Not a list of parameters, really, that qualifies a work as Women’s Fiction. Just that it’s about women. “Trying to wrap a definition around women’s fiction is a little like trying to put a fence around a band of wild mustangs.” 1
No wonder it took me so long to find my genre, to realize where I fit!
Other genres have a more established set of elements that we look for and expect. If we pick up SciFi, for instance, we don’t expect it to be set in year 1458, unless time travel is involved, or perhaps there are robots running around. Romance, too, has certain elements we want—a swoon-worthy hero and a damsel, in distress or not. Women’s Fiction can and does incorporate these same elements. Or not.
Women’s fiction can be historical, or it can be contemporary. It can also be futuristic. Women in space, in galaxies never before seen or heard of. It’s the story about the women that drives the story versus the romance or the issues of space or time travel.
One common element in Women’s Fiction—although not requisite—is generational issues, a saga, even, that spans a few or several generations. My story did that. Turned generational. It’s about the issues these women face in life. It’s about sisters, and mothers and daughters, a heritage that has passed down for more than a hundred years. Classic Women’s Fiction, a comfy fit indeed.
Literary Agent Linda Hyatt of the Hyatt Literary Agency explains, “Good women’s commercial fiction usually touches the reader in ways other fiction cannot.” 1
There’s a bond with readers, characters facing things we as real people (shhh, don’t tell my characters I said that!) face in real life. It’s not that the affair led to the break-up of a years-long marriage and subsequent swoon-worth hero and happily ever after romance. Women’s Fiction is the issues that allowed the affair to take place, the issues that broke the years-long marriage. It’s the mix of family and friends who are part of a woman’s life, who are there in her darkest moments as her allies. Or, perhaps, as her foes. The mother-in-law who blames the wife that the husband cheated. There’s a dynamic that blazes through Women’s Fiction and stakes a claim. It’s the wife’s reaction to the failed marriage. Perhaps the affair was hers, perhaps she’s the one who broke the marriage. The story, the point and definition of Women’s Fiction, is that it is her story. The cheating husband or the wounded husband is secondary to her story. Whether hero or fallen woman, she is our main character, our protagonist. Women’s Fiction is real life issues that we all can relate to, and yet remains fiction.
Maybe it’s not romance at all. Maybe it’s a struggle as a woman in a man’s world. Mona Lisa Smile by Deborah Chiel comes to mind. Very much a story of a woman’s struggle against the standards set for women of the day.
There is not always the happy ending or easy resolution we expect in most other genres. Women’s Fiction draws the reader’s emotions into the story, a well-written story has a reader laughing out loud, or crying uncontrollably. Truly, though, any genre wants that reaction from the reader.
Jane Austen is classified as writing Romance, but thinking of her stories, they’re about the women as much or more than the romance. Lizzie, for instance, as she judged Darcy for his pride and prejudice, discovers her own pride and, well, her prejudice. In the end of course, they end up happily ever after. I think their love never would have seen light of day, though, if Lizzie had not made her self discoveries. Darcy too, of course, but this was really Lizzie’s story more than anything else.
Women’s Fiction reverberates in a way other fiction does not. It leaves a mark, an impression. All good fiction draws us into the story, to walk along with the characters as they travel through the weft and weave the author has woven. But Women’s Fiction is deeper, longer lasting, memorable.
“I often think about these stories as the type women will sit around and talk about. The stories that allow women to say, ‘Hey, I’ve gone through that.’ ” 2
Place your own life in a different era. How differently would your life play out? What would be different if you had been born a hundred years earlier? If you were a contemporary of Jane Austen? If you were alive during Biblical times?
Share your story.
“I once said I should write down all the story ideas in my head so someone could write them someday. I had no idea at the time that someone was me!
Ms. Mason has been writing since 1995, and began working in earnest on her debut novel, Tessa in 2013. She resides in the Upstate of South Carolina since 1988. Besides Tessa, she has Clara Bess, book two in her unsavory heritage series. She is currently working on Cissy, the third and final book in the series. It will be released in June of this year.
Come visit me at:
#womensfiction, #storiesaboutwomen, #noboundaries, #wildmustangs, #generational, #saga, #thewomanisthehero, #emotionalresponse