What is women’s fiction? What separates it from other female dominated genres?
Brandi Spencer (formerly B. C. Marine), Secretary-Treasurer Authors 4 Authors Publishing
Three weeks ago, I compared romance, erotica, and women’s fiction. Today, Iet’s take a deeper look at women’s fiction.
How we define it
Like it’s sister genres of romance and erotica, women’s fiction can mean different things depending on context. Contrary to its most obvious meaning, women’s fiction is not merely fiction written by women. Female authors write in every genre imaginable, which would render such a definition useless for categorizing stories. And while most writers in the genre are women, there are male authors of women’s fiction. So what is it then?
It’s about a personal and emotional journey.
The stories are introspective and driven by the protagonist’s character growth. Unlike romance and erotica, which focus on a set of lovers, women’s fiction focuses on the journey of a woman as an individual. Relationships with lovers, family, and friends are vital to that journey, but her character arc takes precedence.
Isn’t that a lot like literary or upmarket fiction?
It is! In fact, there is a good amount of overlap between them. And like literary and upmarket fiction, women’s fiction is a popular genre for book clubs. They provide readers with plenty of discussion topics as their readers relate the protagonist’s journey to their own.
What about Chick Lit?
Chick lit is a subgenre of women’s fiction with lighter subject matter and page counts. It’s important to note that the term is considered derogatory by some people. Even the necessity women’s fiction in general as a label is debated in writers’ circles. Because no equivalent genres exist for men, many argue that putting women’s fiction in a special category implies that the rest of fiction belongs to men. For now, both women’s fiction and chick lit have endured as genres, but depending on who you discuss them with, be prepared for some strong opinions on the role of sexism in literature.
Women’s fiction covers a broad range of themes related to women’s emotional journeys. Here are a few examples:
- Love and loss - The protagonist has a short-term relationship that teaches her something about herself.
- Mother-daughter relationships - She discovers something about her mother that repairs or enhances the bond between them and possibly make the protagonist a better mother herself.
- Friendship - She goes through a dark or trying event in her life and pulls though with the support of loyal friends.
- Cultural memoirs - The protagonist endures life in a highly misogynistic society.
Women’s fiction is an abstract and controversial genre. Do you read women’s fiction? Should it be a distinct genre? Let us know on our Facebook page or comment down below!
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