The Touchy, Subject Fiction i.e. Women’s Fiction

September 29, 2008 at 6:12 pm 24 comments

Ususally I hate defining things because it’s the fastest way to pigeon-hole yourself. Yet today I’m wondering how do others define Women’s Fiction. I think a lot of things come down to perception.

IMHO, Women’s Fiction are stories that deal with women’s issues and the heroine’s journey during one of the most trying times in her life.

Examples:

Jennifer Weiner’s Little Earthquakes. That story is about what it’s like to be a mother. Also, a mother’s worse nightmare–when your child dies.

The other end of the spectrum can is Sophie Kinsella’s Can You Keep A Secret?. This story is about a women who has basically been overlooked her whole life and how she’s dealt with it. This book is funny as hell, but it still deals with the heroine’s journey.

The middle ground in this genre is Jennifer Crusie’s Tell Me Lies. This story deals with infidelity, abuse, mother/daughter relationships, and old flames with a dark humor. I know it doesn’t look any “lighter”, but you have to read the book to know difference.

I’ve been pondering this since I’ve written my BBW novel. Weight issues just seem to be the biggest taboo to write about in women’s fiction (or romance for that matter). I’m curious as to why. Weight is a woman’s issue. (I’m aware men also deal with it to, but I’m talking women’s fiction. Go ahead, call me a sexist.)

Or maybe you have a totally different definition of women’s fiction. Tell me, I’m curious to know.

EDITED TO ADD:

Lucienne Diver of The Knight Agency has defined it.

Women’s Fiction (chicklit, lady lit, general women’s fiction)

There’s been some argument about whether or not women’s fiction is a genre separate from romance. I think it is. The term women’s fiction, like mainstream fiction, can be pretty all encompassing and therefore hard to define, but I’d describe it as a genre primarily for, by and about women. Not necessarily their loves, though this might play into it, but their trials, their relationships with their families, with each other, how they encounter and overcome adversity and emerge stronger and generally differently than when they began. Chicklit and Ladylit are both women’s searches for self, at different times in their lives, and generally told with a wink and a nod. Other women’s fiction would be family sagas, Southern women’s fiction, like that of Joshilyn Jackson, or simply mainstream fiction told with a feminine bent. (Think Jodi Picoult and Rosamunde Pilcher).

Not sure if I disagree or agree, but it’s food for thought.

Advertisements

Entry filed under: beliefs, books, good books, Jennifer Weiner, Jenny Crusie, Sophie Kinsella.

Music and Novels: Understanding Voice A Plead to Law and Order: Criminal Intent

24 Comments Add your own

  • […] Melissa Blue wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptThis book is bfunny as hell/b, but it still deals with the heroine’s journey. The middle ground in this genre is Jennifer Crusie’s Tell Me Lies. This story deals with infidelity, abuse, mother/daughter relationships, and old flames with a b…/b […]

  • 2. edie17  |  September 29, 2008 at 11:42 pm

    Usually it’s women’s fiction is about a woman’s journey, and normally includes a romance instead of the romance being the main plot. Barbara Samuel books are WF. So are Susan Wigg’s latest books. I think Tell Me Lies would be Single Title romance, but maybe that’s just semantics.

  • 3. coffeegirl88  |  September 30, 2008 at 2:09 am

    I consider women’s fiction to be stories whether it’s funny or serious to be a story about the heroine’s journey minus the focus on romance. A strong example is Jennifer Weiner. I would classify all her books as women’s fiction.

    Why isn’t weight dealt with more? Not sure. Again, have you read Weiner’s other books? Good in Bed deals with weight issues, so does In Her Shoes (sort of). I think in some ways it’s just such a big (no pun really) issue that runs so deep in all of us that there really isn’t a way to not piss off a reader. I mean, look at romance novels. If the heroine is heavy, don’t make me list the euphamisms, she’s miserable and pathetic and usually is looking to be “fixed” generally by the hero. It doesn’t matter what her career she’s a mess until the hero comes along and makes her feel worth while. I hate this. Why can’t a heroine be heavy, comfortable in her own skin, and be fabulous and completely irresitable to the golden god hero? Any why, now that I look at that last sentence do I feel like I’m writing about fairy tales?

  • 4. Melissa Blue  |  September 30, 2008 at 2:38 am

    I think Tell Me Lies would be Single Title romance, but maybe that’s just semantics.

    I think this one title of JCs is borderline. The reason I think it leans more towards WF is that the heroine’s arc was so huge. It didn’t have an HEA. Nor did the hero have a huge stake in the outcome. He was along for the ride per se. VS. Bet Me where both the hero and heroine’s journey was equal.

  • 5. Melissa Blue  |  September 30, 2008 at 2:41 am

    Why can’t a heroine be heavy, comfortable in her own skin, and be fabulous and completely irresitable to the golden god hero?

    I agree to a certain extent. I’ve seen heroine’s who weren’t overweight and they didn’t acknowledge their own beauty until the hero came onto the scene. But I think because the issue revolves around weight it’s frowned upon.

    My heroine doesn’t realize how unhealthy she’s become. The hero likes her just the way she is. I think where the focus gets lost in most BBW novels is that the heroine doesn’t find the her inner beauty for herself, so that she can love herself.

    But then again, it just may be semantics.

  • 6. coffeegirl88  |  September 30, 2008 at 4:15 am

    Oh I agree that there are plenty of heroines no matter the size who don’t appreciate themselves until the hero comes along. Needless to say most of those are books I didn’t enjoy much. I prefer my heroines a little more capable (don’t get me started on the whole too stupid to live thing).

    I think the taboo of weight is going to continue as long as it exists in real life. We do ourselves a great disservice not liking ourselves, no matter the size. I mean, if you are healthy who cares what size you are?

    By the way, I could rant about this for days.

  • 7. raine  |  September 30, 2008 at 5:45 am

    Sexist. 😉

    Sigh…I agree pretty much with your basic definition. They are stories that deal with women’s issues, and the heroine is in the process of a journey (I think women’s fiction MAY deal with romance, or it may be one of the elements, but not necessarily…for example, I think you can have a book about two sisters discovering their feelings about each other, and it may not have anything to do with romance, but it is women’s fiction–just my opinion).

    And I’ll agree that weight issues are one of the lesser-touched on issues. Something about publishers believing the readers want the escapist fantasy, rather than identifying with a woman who carries extra pounds possibly, but don’t get me started– I don’t want to take over your blog, lol).

    Is it the BIGGEST taboo? Don’t think so. The first thought that came to my mind was incest. A very touchy subject. Also lesbian behavior, or bisexuality (not talking erotica, but women’s fiction written in an honest manner).
    I also notice a lack of stories about women who’ve ‘cheated’ on their husbands/significant others. Again, possibly not wanting to rock the heroine Love Boat (again, I’m glossing over this, ‘coz you can’t tell me there’s not a large percentage in real life, and yes, such a heroine COULD be made to be sympathetic).
    And there even seems to be a lack of stories about women who do not WANT to get married or have children (yes, there are such freaks of nature out there).

    And I apologize for going on like this, Mel—ACK!!

  • 8. Amie Stuart  |  September 30, 2008 at 1:11 pm

    WIll read comments later but recently SBTB had a blog post about this. HOnestly, I think it’s a bigger deal in romance than women’s fiction.

  • 9. Amie Stuart  |  September 30, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    I *think* Susan Kay Law has written a couple books about infidelity but i haven’t read them–yet. Two of my favorite…FAVORITE womens fiction books deal with death and breast cancer. That would be Lolly Winston’s Good Grief (whose follow up book WAS about a husband’s adultery) and Allison Wynn Scotch’s The Department of Lost and Found. More later…I have to be at work in 45 minutes 😀

  • 10. Amie Stuart ~ On the Back Porch | Other Places …part tres  |  September 30, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    […] Melissa Blue is talking one of my favorite subjects…WOMENS FICTION. […]

  • 11. Amie Stuart  |  September 30, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    and based on my favorites I think that with some books it really IS in the execution. You can get away with anything as long as you do it well.

  • 12. Melissa Blue  |  September 30, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    I think the taboo of weight is going to continue as long as it exists in real life. We do ourselves a great disservice not liking ourselves, no matter the size. I mean, if you are healthy who cares what size you are?

    I think this is where the true problem lies. What’s healthy? The medical standards? (The BMI says I’m supposed to be 130 pounds.) Society’s standards? *I hope not* Maybe I’m naive, but I think once you accept who you are the rest will fall into place.

    Also: This is the place for ranting.

  • 13. Melissa Blue  |  September 30, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    The first thought that came to my mind was incest. A very touchy subject. Also lesbian behavior, or bisexuality (not talking erotica, but women’s fiction written in an honest manner).
    I also notice a lack of stories about women who’ve ‘cheated’ on their husbands/significant others.

    Yes. Stories like these are considered “literary” not women’s fiction. Again they are women’s issues, but just not something you’d find in the genre. I guess if you want to write about them then you’d have to upstage Hemingway.

  • 14. Melissa Blue  |  September 30, 2008 at 5:00 pm

    HOnestly, I think it’s a bigger deal in romance than women’s fiction.

    I think what the big problem is that WF bleeds into romance or vice versa. I can blame it on marketing, but even then I don’t think people realize that women’s fiction encompasses a large part of the market, but it’s called something else on the spine.

    Romance, though I love it, can start a flame war if the writer doesn’t stick to the tried and true ways.

    It really is all about the execution.

  • 15. coffeegirl88  |  September 30, 2008 at 5:41 pm

    What’s healthy? Someone who doesn’t suffer the obvious ailments brought on by weight like diabetes. Someone not on the verge of a heart attack. Someone who can at least walk the mall/grocery store/around the block without wheezing.

    The BMI is a joke. Did you know by that standard nearly every football player is obese?

    Glad to know my rants are welcome, of course you might regret it one day, but I’ll just point you back here.

  • 16. Melissa Blue  |  September 30, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    Someone who doesn’t suffer the obvious ailments brought on by weight

    According to the BMI I’m overweight and unhealthy. I don’t have high cholesterol. My heart is just fine. I’m don’t have diabetes, but I’m at risk because again if you look at the BMI chart…I also don’t have high blood pressure, but again according to the chart…I’m pretty much in good shape, but according to medical society I’m at risk for EVERYTHING therefore I must lose weight. Any health issue is written off as me being overweight. What in the hell does a common cold have to do with my weight?

    *Now I’m ranting.*

    Now if they told me I’d never again get to wear my high heels because my feet will swell up to balloons I’d go on a diet right this second.

    I’ll admit I’m shallow.

  • 17. Amie Stuart  |  September 30, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    I have to agree w/Coffee…as long as your sugar/cholesterol etc are on track who’s to say?…and again, execution does come into play. Not everyone can write about these subjects in an appealing way. Im NOT saying the fat girl should be funny etc…I’m just saying a great writer can make those outward things point toward inward things that a broad audience can relate to!

  • 18. Amie Stuart  |  September 30, 2008 at 7:20 pm

    >>Yes. Stories like these are considered “literary” not women’s fiction.

    I disagree. You might find them there more often than in WF but not always….again, Susan Kay Law (Just Sex and The Paper Marriage) comes to mind. Also Jennifer O’Connell’s Bachelorette #1 (though I’m not sure any cheating went on).

    Garden Spells was marketed as more upscale WF but could just as easily have been marketed as a romance. (Sorry this is one that totally unimpressed me)

  • 19. Melissa Blue  |  September 30, 2008 at 7:58 pm

    Garden Spells was marketed as more upscale WF but could just as easily have been marketed as a romance.

    I liked this story, but felt it dragged on and on and on. Right when I was about to give up on it, it started to pick up. I think I stuck around for the magical element.

    And I should have been more specifict. I’ve yet to see incest being tackled in WF. Or maybe I’m unaware of this type of book.

  • 20. Amie Stuart  |  September 30, 2008 at 10:05 pm

    I’ve yet to see incest being tackled in WF.

    Incestuous Women’s Fiction. You could launch a whole new subgenre *shudder*

    Srsly would you really want to read it? To me it would be sad–and I’ve heard stories (like adopted siblings not raised together who met later in life and fell in love)

  • 21. Melissa Blue  |  September 30, 2008 at 10:36 pm

    To me it would be sad–and I’ve heard stories (like adopted siblings not raised together who met later in life and fell in love)

    Hell, no. I’d just like to see genres be a little more broad.

    Okay. I’d like less rules about what’s taboo.

    Then again it gives an author the chanxe not only to write about it, but to be the one who execute well.

  • 22. pamwritesromance  |  October 1, 2008 at 3:51 pm

    I think we have been and still are moving into such a wonderful time in fiction–the rules are bending, blending and breaking, and I truly feel that anything is on the table. I remember picking up Liz Maverick’s Crimson City in Borders and on the spine, it was labled Paranormal Action Romance. Hell yeah!

    I think somebody could do a fabulous book dealing with incest and it could be romance, WF, sci-fi, mystery or literary, but not everybody could write that book. I know I can’t write romantic suspense, so I keep with my strengths instead of writing for the market. I’ve got an idea for a WF book dealing with adoption–quite darkly, too. But I know I can write it. As another follower of the fabulous Jenny, I agree with her–write the book you want to read and let publishing pick the genre for it.

    (And speaking of Jenny and BBW–Bet Me. It’s a must read.)

  • 23. Essa Adams  |  December 1, 2008 at 9:51 pm

    Hi – discovered your interesting blog comments when searching for bbw women’s fiction. I write both romance and women’s fiction, preferring the lady lit with a spiritual bent. My comments are about what goes on the cover of a book with an abundantly lovely heroine.

    What I am thinking — this said after two-plus years of attempting to market my bbw women’s fiction novel I purposely designed with three fat women on the cover — I think this… that no one wants to play with the fat kid. Not even the fat women want to read the fat book? That is how hard this book has been to market. Perhaps if I had hidden the women inside, still said on the outside that they were abundant women, but not used their images??? I’m not ranting, just matter-of-fact, today anyway. Smile.

    Three women unperturbed about their size, throughout the story undefined by their weight — three powerful, though spiritually-wounded menopausal women living to fulfill their sacred contracts… deals with reincarnation concepts, spirituality, friendship, love vs. kindred spirit passion.

    A timely issue all the way around — but I do think the cover design has been the difficulty of marketing issues. This was women’s fiction foremost with the eternal soul mate relationship working the background as the women deal with their sacred wounds and life purpose.

    Yes, Melissa, I think weight is an issue no one really wants to read about, no more than they might want to see a truly fat and imperfect-looking model in the dress they want to wear on New Year’s Eve. It’s about imagery and idealism. Escapism. But to me, facing size diversity means some authors need to put it out there anyway for others to ponder another perspective and see if that works for them.

    Lately, I just say my novel is one of the first that would not cross-over as far as hiding what was really inside the cover, no more than the first black R&B groups wanted to be forced to cross-over in hiding their faces behind generic album cover designs. We are who we are, accept it, love it, we say. So when will it be a large women on the cover be accepted enough to be read?

    Thank you, Melissa, for your hospitality here. Best of everything with your family, education, and writing. I know you love your work, too.

    Essa

  • 24. car insurance  |  February 8, 2009 at 6:58 am

    good site!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed


I’m a Twit-Head

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.

Feeds

You Like Me!

  • 9,220 hits

%d bloggers like this: