Yes, I’m back to the subject of categorizing fiction. I’ve been told the key to knowing how to label your book’s category is to picture where it would be shelved in a book store. That advice works for those who write in mystery, sci-fi, horror, YA, and other clearly defined genres, but I don’t. I see my novel shelved in that vast section with the helpful title “Fiction, alphabetical by author.”
Two of my favorite authors are Anne Tyler and Sheri Reynolds. What I write is similar to their stories, and, somewhere, I saw them both listed under “women’s fiction.” Okay, so that’s my category. But wait! Many people (readers and agents alike) hear women’s fiction and think Chick Lit or Romance, neither of which describes my novel.
Another term, used mostly by the publishing industry, is “upmarket,” which denotes more than usual attention paid to character development and language use for the genre. I’ve used either “upmarket women’s fiction” or “literary women’s fiction” in my query letters. But yesterday, I read Lydia Sharp’s definition of women’s fiction and felt like an idiot.
In short, Lydia said, in women’s fiction “the main theme always revolves around some aspect of the female experience.” Uh oh. My themes of love, loss, and redemption are universal, but my main character is a man. There are two female co-main characters, with parts written from their pov, but overall, it’s Jalal’s story. It can’t be women’s fiction.
But wait! That’s not what Jessica Faust said on her blog when she responded to a question almost describing my novel. In her opinion, women’s fiction can have a male protagonist. Hmmm. Was Lydia wrong or had I misunderstood her?
I hope you didn’t waste more than a second on that no-brainer. I asked Lydia to clarify and she did, even citing the same Jessica Faust response I’ve held dear. Whew! So I haven’t been an idiot. Well, at least not for describing my novel as women’s fiction.
Are any of you writing WF with a male protagonist? Have you read one? Would you?
With a goat?
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31 thoughts on “What’s a male protagonist doing in my women’s fiction?”
Because some of the people who come up with all these different terms have nothing better do to with their time.