Romance or Women’s Fiction: What’s the Difference?

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Both of these genres sound similar, right? Wrong – well, only partially. What I’d actually argue is that Romance can sometimes be a subset of Women’s Fiction, but they are far from the same thing. Women’s Fiction is often a much more broad category that can span anything from memoirs, coming of age, generational struggles, and drama.  The biggest difference between these sister categories, in my opinion, is where the emphasis and focus is placed. After a brief look at the general industry understanding of them both, I’ve narrowed their differences down to these five elements. Read on for all that and more, so that when you decide to tackle a story of a similar nature, you’ll know exactly what your readers are expecting of you.

Broad vs. Specific

The first element I think of in regards to these two genres is their connotations. When I think of Women’s Fiction, flashes of family and aging come to mind, with perhaps a romantic subtext that isn’t necessarily central to the plot. This is only one example, of course – and as stated above, Women’s Fiction can vary quite a bit. Its scope is pretty broad, while romance is always centered on, well, the romance between two main characters. 

Relaxed vs. Tense

From what I gather, Women’s Fiction thrives more on calm reflections and thoughtful risk-taking. In contrast, Romance is hot, intense, and at least a little bit wild. If it doesn’t make you gasp at least a little, then you’re doing it wrong. In turn, these differences in tone produce very different narrative effects.

Cliff Hangers vs. Guaranteed Happy Endings

Women’s Fiction doesn’t owe you any guarantees – the dog could die, the love interest could die. Literally anyone could die. Or, maybe the whole thing was a delirious fever-dream. Opportunities for the ending are endless, while Romance relies more heavily on formulaic narratives. If you crack open a Romance novel, you are pretty much guaranteed a happy ending. This stark difference in story expectations paints very clear pictures of what each kind of book should read like. 

Older vs. Younger Audience

While women closer to middle-aged and older may enjoy reading the more subtle nuances of Women’s Fiction, the younger crowd will gravitate towards the romance. To cater to two starkly different demographics, the stories must be told in different styles. Memoirs and more relaxed plot lines of the former act as an old reliable comfort food for more distinguished readers. On the flip side, the younger, more virile audience will expect to feel everything all at once – and to close the book breathless. I’m not talking about full-on erotica here, but romance books can (and should) still sizzle without all the explicit details. For more help with romantic scenes, read this recent article all about it HERE.

Loose vs. Densely-Packed Narratives

Where Women’s Fiction shines a spotlight on the main character, letting everything else fade more or less into the distance, romance packs a lot more in its punch. There could easily be sub-plot romances, extensive world building, and even multiple genres happening within it. Sure, the ending may be formulaic, but the setting and context is anything but. That’s not to say that Women’s Fiction can’t also be enthralling in its own way; it’s just executed much differently. It also may focus a lot more on internal dialogue than romance necessarily will.

All these points are, of course, still largely subjective, and will vary by author and reader. But I do hope that they help you carve out your own place within the ever-growing library of infinite potential. Whichever direction you choose, go for it with all the confidence you can muster and a good dose of girl power!

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