Genre Guide for Beginners: Chapter 12: Women’s Fiction

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Do you know what some of the most commonly asked questions are? Genre questions. Either asking us what genre a certain book or series is in, or what exactly is that genre. After spending so much time immersed in the world of romance, it has become second nature to instantly catergorise books into their respective genre, or sub-genre. Just a glance at the blurb, or even just the cover then I can tell you what genre it will be. Of course, not everything is black and white and not every book is so easy to label, but a majority are.

We have previously done a very concise guide about genres giving an overview of each, but we decided to take each genre and do a more general and indepth guide. In this, we will tell you the definition of the genre, what types of characters you may expect to see, popular troupes within a genre, some of our favourite authors and series within this genre. And anything else we can think of! By the end of the guide you should be able to tell what book is what and have a few recommendations to pick up.

The ninth chapter in this guide is *drum roll please*

Definition

I am not a fan of the label ‘women’s fiction’, but there can be no doubt that it is short hand for a certain genre or type of book. When you pick up something defined as women’s fiction, it normally means that you’re about to go on a journey, it’s not necessarily a physical move, but an emotional one. Quite often a women’s fiction will centre on one or two characters and how their life and their experiences unfold and,if this is centred on more than one person how their lives entwine. I realise that’s a very broad spectrum of books, but the focus of a women’s fiction novel is the growth and emotional development of the character(s) and the road they travel on along the way.

The Basics

Essential characteristic of women’s fiction:

  • It will have a contemporary setting, if this isn’t the case, it may be historical fiction
  • There will be no paranormal elements.
  • The main characters will be adults – although it could have a reflections or sections with memories or thoughts from childhood.

A women’s fiction novel must have the above characteristics.

Women’s fiction is genre that is fulled self discovery and the development and exploration of different types of relationships from the familial to the romantic.

However a romantic relationship is purposefully absent on the list of requirements for a women’s fiction novel. Although romance can often be found in a women’s fiction, it may even be a large part of the story, a HEA isn’t required. The story isn’t about whether the couple get together by the last page, instead it’s about the main characters journey along the way. The chances are, that if the book you are reading is very focused on the romance between the characters and there is a HEA, then this is a contemporary romance.

Women’s Fiction vs Chick Lit

Women’s fiction and chick lit are often used interchangeably, whether this is correct or not is fairly subjective and I am not going to dictate what term you prefer using. However, I will share with you how I differentiate chick lit from women’s fiction.

I confess I don’t read a vast amount of either of these types of books, so the subtleties of each genre are not very well known to me. However, for me a chick lit novel is something that is much lighter in tone then women’s fiction. The definition is virtually the same: a story about a character on a journey of self-discovery where romance is not a necessary part of the story. However, in a chick lit the tone veers more towards comedy and touches on much lighter subjects. Authors like Jane Green, Sophie Kinsella (I am thinking of the Shopaholic series for example) and Jill Mansell I class as chick lit, whereas Chanel Cleeton and Taylor Jenkins Reed (I have The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo in mind) I define as women’s fiction.

Is this correct? I don’t know. But if you see I have shelved something as chick lit as opposed to women’s fiction, now you know how I made that choice.

UTC Required Reading List

What are your favourite women’s fiction books?

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Elizabeth

I agree with your distinction between women’s fiction and chick lit.

Timitra

I don’t much in this genre but I read two (The MacAvoy Sisters Book of Secrets by Molly Fader and The Key To Happily Ever After by Tif Marcelo) of them this year and enjoyed them.

Sophia Rose

I never used to read women’s fic or chick lit, but I do a little now. I like your distinction between the two.

Amy R

Thanks for the post, I don’t read much in this genre.