February is the month for romance, so we will be featuring articles about romance writing and interviews with romance authors all month.
There has been much discussion lately around the difference between romance and women’s fiction. In fact, the line has often been blurred and most people don’t give it much thought. However it is important for us, as authors, to know the differences. Let’s begin by discussing the two genres separately.
A successful romance requires a thoughtful strategy to make the reader fall in love and tell her friends about it. A satisfying romance must follow the tried and true formula: boy meets girl; boy loses girl; boy gets girl. Most romance readers will demand that your story follows this formula. In romance the relationship is the central focus of the story. We want to see the two characters come together through whatever adventures they may encounter. Romance can be written in a variety of sub-genres (paranormal, historical, suspense or even mystery) but the relationship must remain the central focus.
The second element to romance is that there must be a happy ending. The goal of romance is to show a growing and developing relationship. While the real world may have pain and hardship, readers want to escape to that better world where they know there will be a happily-ever-after ending. There can be tears, anger and pain along the way, but they want to feel assured that when they close the book, the characters will go on with their lives, happy and content.
Women’s fiction may contain some of these same characteristics, but it is about something much more complex. The goal and intent of this genre is for the reader to be able to relate to the character and better understand her own life. It defines the female journey. Authors want the world to know what it is to be a woman – to understand the female psyche. Like romance, this can occur in any time period. It can be multicultural, contemporary or historical as long as the heroine is the central focus of the story.
These are the stories that women will sit around and talk about. They are the stories that allow women to say, “I’ve been there. I’ve experienced that.” Readers learn that they are not alone, and hopefully, through the story, they learn new ways to cope with the struggles in life that may appear daunting at the present time.
In both cases, writers begin with one big advantage. They already know who their reader is: it’s a woman. To be more specific, it’s probably a middle class, middle aged woman who is a seasoned reader. She is smart, discerning and not easily impressed. Writers are probably not going to surprise them with the plot, but they can provide interesting characters that readers will care about and new worlds they may have never experienced. Knowing their audience will help to create a heroine that reflects their average reader. They should share some common characteristics.
Motivation is the reason why a character acts as he or she does. Characters can often fall flat if there is not a clear driving force behind their actions. It can be something they believe about the other person, or something they want to happen or not to happen. Motives are usually revealed in the backstory and are based on something thing that occurred before the story begins. While it is critical for the writer to clearly understand the character’s motivation at all times, it may be revealed to the reader gradually as the story unfolds. Sometimes, in a bid to push the character toward a happy ending or satisfying conclusion, writers may ignore the motivation.
As a final note, all literature must have a strong story line with enough risks and dangers to threaten and produce suspense. It needs characters that readers care about who have the power to drive the story forward in exciting directions. Of course, there is no such thing as a perfect writer. I often feel as if I need to completely rewrite my work, even after it has been published.
As indie authors, we may not always have the capacity to solicit informed opinions about our craft. Reader reviews may not always provide the useful feedback necessary to move us forward, and can often misdirect and confuse promising novice writers. There is more to editing that checking for the mechanics of writing. If you have not engaged a trusted literary adviser, I encourage you to do so. The feedback is invaluable.
Wanda DeHaven Pyle is the author of Windborne and The Legacy Trilogy. Her work is available on Amazon and Kindle at http://amazon.com/author/wandapyle. If you would like to be featured on this page, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.