I’m so honored to be here for the celebration (and cake!) and talk about the genre that I love – Women’s Fiction.
What is it? And why do I write it? Gosh, let me count the ways . . . Really, I’m going to duck and let some of today’s fabulous writers of Women’s Fiction share their thoughts. For starters, I’m calling on the pros: the recent Women’s Fiction finalists for the Carol Awards. Yes, these ladies are the best of the best.
Meg Moseley, debut author of When Sparrows Fall (way to go, Meg!) on the reason she writes Women’s Fiction: “I write women’s fiction because it lets me explore big themes and important issues within the framework of relationships that might or might not include romance. In real life, ‘true love’ isn’t limited to romantic relationships, but can also include the bonds between parents and children, between siblings, and between friends. In women’s fiction, all these bonds—and the forces that would destroy them—provide endless possibilities for meaningful stories.”
Susan Meissner, a former Carol winner and a finalist this year with A Sound Among the Trees, says she likes the RWA Women’s Fiction’s Chapter’s definition. “…[it’s] 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…” Susan added, “The RWA definition goes on to include a detail about a romantic thread that is of course the heart of RWA and that the broader definition of Women’s Fiction doesn’t necessarily have. But I really like the idea that Women’s Fiction is about a woman or women in the crucible of change. I am drawn to Women’s Fiction when I shop for books to read, so I guess it stands to reason I would also be drawn to them when I sit down to write.”
Lisa Wingate, author of Dandelion Summer, had this to say: "I think the things we choose to write about come from our passions. I'm passionate about the lives of women and families--about the struggles we all face and the joys that are part of our lives. I want to create books that are entertaining, but also good for the soul-- that don't leave readers feeling sad or disappointed, or wishing they hadn't read the book at all. I think we are all called to add something good to the world, to inspire and uplift, to add our colors to the canvas. I have met so many people who have wonderful ways of doing that. I admire them. I want to be like them. I love to write about them."
The judges of this year’s Carol were unanimous – Lisa received the first ever PERFECT score in the history of the Carols to bring home the trophy in Women’s Fiction! Congratulations, Lisa.
I’m a little afraid after that to offer any wisdom or my measly thoughts about Women’s Fiction. I just know that it’s a story that’s heartfelt and emotional. Even so, I’m going to try and distill it down for you.
What does a WF novel look like? It may include one or more of the following with possible scenarios.
- Woman in marriage – marriage stale, infidelity issues, sandwich generation, chronic disease or end of life issues, crossroads, a child in crisis that alters family equilibrium, blended families, unequally yoked
- Single woman – career woman looking for a change, perhaps the biological clock is ticking, a single parent (from death, divorce, or never married)
- Identity – returns to roots to get back in touch with who she is. Flees to a new city/country/job to solve identity crisis. Career path is off track and there is a hunger to recapture joy. Often the theme of who she is in Christ.
- Crisis – dealing with an unexpected crisis – late-in-life pregnancy, death of a loved one, a devastating diagnosis, guilt and/or blame over crisis situation, change in employment status, faith lost or newly realized in face of adversity.
- Ethical dilemmas – gray areas in relation to same-sex marriage, right to life, quality of life, end of life issues. Often an inner struggle to sort out feelings and do that which is Biblically sound without damaging relationships. Often a bridge to healing and restoration rather than condemnation.
- Addiction issues – alcoholism, pornography, gambling, approval addiction – may be personal issues or within the family or circle of influence.
- Social causes – enlightenment over a social issue and becoming involved – often with resistance from family member or community or within the social issue itself. Can be anything from dog rescue to human trafficking. Generally done at the grass roots level and not through political channels keeping it personal and emotional. Event from the past may fire passion.
- Romance – second chances, late bloomers, finding love accidentally, lifelong love – all can be elements of women’s fiction. While not following a set protocol for romance, women’s fiction can be infused with passion, surprise, and even a trip to the altar, but it’s not the romance that’s the knot to be untangled, but some other issue. And there doesn’t have to be a romance at all to be women’s fiction.
- Secrets – becoming privy to a previously unknown secret, harboring a personal secret, having to reveal a secret that has rippling consequences.
- Humorous situations – any story can be infused with humor, and in dealing with tough subjects, this is a welcome relief to the reader. Protagonists who take their situations seriously but not themselves are often endearing and evoke reader empathy.
Deb Raney, veteran Women’s Fiction writer with more than twenty titles, summed it up well. “Women's fiction is any story that centers around the relationships in women's lives. Sometimes that includes their romantic relationships, but also relationships with their siblings, parents, best friends, children. Often women's fiction explores social issues. I write what I like to read. I've always been fascinated by psychology and the interactions women have with the people in their lives. Fiction is such a wonderful vehicle for exploring the ways women work out problems and challenges in their lives.”
Willingness to change, ability to perform heroic deeds beyond their own strength, and embracing new ideas are often hallmarks of women’s fiction. These are women we admire and would like to emulate. Their problems are real-world problems that we can relate to, things that we have thought about and dreaded happening to us personally, or things that we are currently experiencing in our own lives. Spiritual themes may be subtle or the entire novel may revolve around a particular spiritual point – it all depends on the story. Women’s fiction can empower, comfort, challenge, and bring us new perspectives.
Whether you have a literary style, a spunky, humorous bent, or just love to tell a good story, you might try your hand at Women’s Fiction. One thing they all have in common – a powerful emotional experience.
Debut author of Mother of Pearl, Kellie Gilbert, nailed it with this observation: “…a story about a woman (or women) that tells more about her inner journey than her outer experiences, where relationships are key and the journey evokes a lot of emotion.”
And when all is said and done, that’s what every good story is, isn’t it?
Happy writing . . . and reading!
BIO: Carla Stewart’s writing reflects her passion for times gone by. She is the award-winning author of three novels and an alumna of the Guideposts Writers Workshop. As well as being an avid reader and coffee lover, Carla and her husband enjoy weekend getaways and the adventures of their six grandchildren. Stardust is her latest release. www.carlastewart.com
Carla is generously giving away a copy of Stardust her latest release from FaithWords to one Seekerville commenter today. So let's start talking. Do you read Women's Fiction? Do you write it? What appeals to you about the genre?
Shortly after burying her unfaithful husband, Georgia Payton inherits the derelict Stardust Tourist Court from a distant relative. Faced with opposition from the aunt who raised her and others in the town, Georgia breathes new life into the cottages.
The guests who arrive, though, aren’t what Georgia expects: her gin-loving mother-in-law; her dead husband's mistress; an attractive drifter who's tired of the endless road; and an aging Vaudeville entertainer with a disturbing link to Georgia's past. Dreams of a new life are crippled amid the havoc.
Georgia's only hope is that she can find the courage to forgive those who've betrayed her, the grace to shelter those who need her, and the moxie to face the future. One thing is certain: under the flickering neon of the Stardust, none of their lives will ever be the same.
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