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Men's Fiction

If there's one thing that I find annoying as a writer, it's the use of the term "women's fiction", a phrase that has crept into general use recently. I notice that, in the agents' entries in the Yearbook, "women's fiction" is often mentioned as a genre, but never "men's fiction".  Why not?  Why the distinction?  

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Replies (58)
    • The term "women's fiction" is not recent at all, it has been around for decades. There are even some publishers that exclusively publish women's fiction, like Virago. If you do a google search "What is women's fiction?" you'll find an array of information on the topic. The basic definition is: women's fiction is fiction written by / for / about women.

      I don't have a problem with the expression "women's fiction". I like the idea that women produce a lot more fiction than men and in a genre that suits women and is for women. Men should catch up... 

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      • Do you think so? I would have thought that there are plenty of men writing about the lives and men and being read by men. I’m not sure whether the substantive difference this all implies really exists. Or whether it should do. Nor am I uninterested in reading about men, just as would like to think there are men who find books written about women worth reading. Why separate them this way? I do understand the historical need, but I’m not convinced it is still helpful.

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        • Agree to disagree. Women's fiction is fiction about women's life experience and an emotional journey.

          So by definition men's fiction: Edward St-Aubyn's The Patrick Melrose series, Ian McEwan's Enduring Love, The Cement Garden, Patrick Gale's Take Nothing with You, Nick Hornby's High Fidelity, Fever Pitch, etc...

          There are plenty of fiction written by men about men's life experience, it's just called contemporary fiction.

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          • I must frequent different bookstores than you, D.M. I must disagree with you.

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          • I imagine Men's fiction would focus on car chases, guns, fast paced action, wars and with a male hero, who either gets the girl or is broken by her, but gets another one PDQ. Hello, seems like quite a lot of fiction we already have.

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            • The series James Bond by Ian Fleming comes to mind: the male hero always gets the best jobs, the best toys, and plenty of beautiful women falling at his feet to choose from... Not very different from some women's fiction, plotwise.

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            • I shop at a second hand book store, and yes it has irked me that it has an entirely women’s fiction section, that is bigger than the rest of the shop. I sound prejudiced, but the only answer, is women must read more than men, or more prolifically. Am I being biased?

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              • Hi Catherine. Just found James Forinton's comment and your explanation. However, I'm none the wiser. How did I get involved? I've not added anything to this post though I have posted elsewhere on several occasions.

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                • Nothing to do with you, it’s just a bug in the system when a user deletes their accounts. Each of us sees the replies as being directed to us.

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                  • Thanks, Catherine. I've got my head around it now.

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                  • The terms ‘women’s fiction’ annoys me because it implies that women’s issues and experience are only of interest and important to women, but there is no terms ‘men’s fiction’ because when men write about those things and men’s issues, it’s suddenly an universal truth to be read by all.

                    For example, a man write about a middle-age men struggling with a midlife crisis and his place in society and it’s a defining contemporary novel about the universal truth of our inner struggle. The woman does the same and it’s women’s fiction.

                    But that’s just me. 

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                    • Spot on, Rick.

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                      • A disservice to men and other genders too, I think. Creating categories to slot readers/writers into may make life easier for agents, publishers, marketers, retailers  etc. but they are subconsciously (or consciously?) steering and limiting readers' wider experiences.  

                        There's a dire need for changing attitudes and redefining how we perceive people and their tastes. Even in the supposedly free world of self-publishing, categories have to be adhered to, to attract the right readers with the right mindset, which has possibly been shaped by the overarching attitudes to what is male or female or other fiction.

                        Just my personal observation. I'm not sure I know what the answer is. 

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                        • If I could like your comment more than once, L, I would! This is exactly my problem with the term. 

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                        • I've often wondered too why fiction mostly about men isn't called men's fiction. I don't want it to be called men's fiction -- I'm not keen on categories. I don't want assumptions to be made about me as a reader even though I realise the book industry needs to categorise at some level or in some way. 

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                          • I cut myself off in my prime! I think I'd prefer novels to be categorised by type of story rather than by type of reader. War stories, dystopian stories, love stories, etc. 

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                            • I cut myself off in my prime! I think I'd prefer novels to be categorised by type of story rather than by type of reader. War stories, dystopian stories, love stories, etc. 

                              I totally agree with you, Libby. I would prefer to browse a book shop with subject categories in mind (though it make hard work for the bookseller especially with cross genre novels). One of my most favourite books ever is a war story written by a man. If it had been in a 'Men's' section, I might have walked straight past and missed out on a brilliant book. Perversely, even though my novel would, according to agents, fit into the 'women's fiction' category, I would probably walk past that section too.

                               But I guess we are stuck with what we have - it makes life easier for publishers/self publishers to market to the 'right' readers (whoever they maybe). 

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                              • Novels are alredy categorised by story type… sometimes. Othertimes, they are categorised by setting. And still other times, by target audience. And then there are those further extraneous categorisations (literary, reading group, etc).

                                And every book fits somewhere – probably manywheres – in each of those categorisation axes.

                                And becuse there are (so many) people who want to reduce everything down to a my-preferred-bucket boolean, certain spots within each categorisation get named genres, and never may they overlap (from a marketing perspective).

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                              • I feel much as L. does.  The very expression "women's fiction" sounds  dismissive and implies that only women should read it whereas, because there is no corresponding expression for men, everyone should read it.  As far as I'm concerned, there's no men's or women's fiction; only fiction.

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                                • If there was say a bill in parliament, passed by women to have men’s fiction named as such, there would be no issue left, besides men, and women need to have something to complain about. It is as if men are on a grand journey to slay a dragon and save the princess in the tower, whom is secretly a damsel in distress. What distress? The very distress that there is, men. I am not wrong in saying that some men can, “Bite off more than they can chew,” but men are generally only good at one thing, insults, and in my experience, that irks women, who only pretend that men are in control, thus women’s fiction, being celebrated, not condoned.

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                                  • This is a bug in the forum software, which really seems to be causing some concern! When a user deletes their account, existing posts from that account are labelled as posted by 'unknown'.

                                    However, confusingly, replies to those posts appear as if replying to posts by the user name of the person that's reading them.

                                    So you will see replies to those posts by the deleted user (in this case 'soon-cat', I believe, AKA 'eyebrowfetish', and several other user-names)  as if they're replies to you. I'll see them as replies to me. And, I assume,  everyone else is seeing them as replies to them!

                                    It's very bizarre, but no cause for concern or worry. No-one other than you is seeing those replies as being made to posts 'from you' (that you didn't make)!

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                                    • Thank you Jon, I was wondering how I happened to post something without knowing the existence of the comment!

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                                      • Thanks for the explanation, Jon. I was beginning to wonder if I was posting in my sleep!

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                                      • image_transcoder.php?o=bx_froala_image&h=492&dpx=2&t=1624968495It's a bit late to try to change a description that has been around for decades. Bloomsbury has a book that explains it all: Women's Fiction: From 1945 to Today by Deborah Philips

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                                        • I’m another who dislikes the term, for the reasons as Laure and others have given. I suppose historically it arises from the fact that for a long time most writing was by men and largely from a male point of view (with female authors often feeling obliged to disguise their identity). Out of this background, having a focus on and encouragement of writing by and about women makes some sort of sense. However now that in writing and publishing at least this has changed, the separation of women’s fiction seems more harmful than helpful, by suggesting these books are less universal than anything written by a man.

                                          As I said in the upmarket/literary/commercial discussion I find it slightly ridiculous that the combined wordsmithery of the writing and publishing worlds can’t come up with some better terms with which to classify our writing. Let’s find some that don’t denigrate writers of other sorts of fiction. Can we do that?

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                                          • Twilight is YA not women's fiction. I haven't heard of Dark Hunter so no idea. 

                                            Women's fiction is fiction written by women that focuses on women's life experience, on a woman's journey and often involve some kind of emotional transformation. Women's fiction is different than fiction written by women.

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                                            • I assumed it was a blanket term for romance, so no romance then?

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                                              • Romance is a different genre. 

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                                              • It can include romance but doesn't have to. And if the story includes a love affair, the main plot of the book can be about something else. 

                                                I see 'Romance' as a genre with a capital R coming under the wider category of women's fiction. I'm sure, though, there must be exceptions. If you've got romances like Jane Eyre under general or classic fiction you've got classification anomalies and confusion can set in. 

                                                So, yes, generally better to think of it all as contemporary fiction or, in the case of Jane Eyre, not-contemporary fiction.

                                                Rick rightly mentions marketing. Cover designers need to know the market the book is aimed at. If we got rid of categories would cover design, for example, do categorisation in some kind of better way? I don't know, and I'm getting far out of my knowledge zone here 🙂

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                                                • There can be crossover and women’s fiction can include a romantic element, however I don’t see romance as a sub-section of women’s fiction.

                                                  First women’s fiction is supposed to be written by women and plenty of romance are written by men. Also women’s fiction are about women’s experience but again plenty of romance nowadays are dual POV’s so as much about the man’s experience as the women. And there are also romance where both main protagonists are men so no women’s experience there. 

                                                  I also think that lumping romance under women’s fiction runs the risk of reinforcing gender stereotypes that romance is for women and by default thriller and action are for men, which of course isn’t true.

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                                                • Men's fiction is porn....I'll get my coat.

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                                                  • Interesting discussion, and one I battled with writing my first book, it's labelled as a contemporary romantic mystery now, but it's basically a love story between two men (only woman in it is a secondary character). It was labelled as LGBTQ on one course I did (not JW), but had no interest at all. despite several agents asking for 'diverse' stories. There is a crime and mystery element in there too, so not a typical romance novel.  I try to go on the story, rather than category when choosing what to read.  As L has mentioned above re men's fiction, all of those authors have definitely influenced my writing, though I am not a man.  I hate all the categories and genres myself, it's confusing and mostly undefinable. 

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                                                    • Hi everyone, just a reminder to be mindful of others when participating in these discussions. Whilst these discussions are often very fruitful and considerate, it's important to remember we are a community full of diverse people, genders, genres and experiences and we want to make sure everyone feels welcome.

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                                                      • Hello, everyone. I would like to report a worrying discovery. I just discovered this discussion, and saw, to my amazement, that D. M. Costa and Libby have posted replies to posts from a "Paul-Dominique," notably on 27June. Can there possibly be two Paul-Dominiques at the Townhouse? Or perhaps there's a bug somewhere?

                                                        Just want to make it clear that THIS Paul-Dominique has never made a post to this discussion. 

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                                                        • Paul-Dominique... what you're seeing, I think, is a bug that occurs when a user deletes their account.

                                                          For some reason, existing posts from that account appear as posted by 'unknown'. More confusingly, replies to those posts appear to be posted as replies to the account of the person that's reading them! So I'm seeing those very same replies to the posts you mention as replies to 'my' posts. And, I assume everyone else is seeing them as replies to 'theirs'.

                                                          So no need to worry. You neither have a doppelganger, nor is anyone else seeing replies to posts from you that you didn't make!

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                                                          • As bugs go, that's pretty damed neat. (Thank **** Townhouse is due to migrate off this unfit-for-purpose platform.)

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                                                            • Jon, thank you for solving that mystery! It's a huge relief to know it's only a bug.

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                                                            • Same here - people seem to be replying to a post I have never made.

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                                                              • A worry, Glyn, but great if you have no friends.😈 

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                                                                • Hi Glyn,

                                                                  Nothing to worry about. See my reply to Paul-Dominique above; it's a bug in the system that substitutes the viewer's user name for that of a deleted account on replies to that account's previous posts.

                                                                  So everyone is seeing their own name on those reply posts where you're seeing yours.

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                                                                • I have no friends Robert.  I still don't like it 😂 . (I definitely did not make the romance comment) but thanks Jon, I feel a bit better now that no one thinks I did.

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                                                                  • The departed user was 'soon-cat', I think (AKA 'eyebrowfetish', and several other user-names since they seemed to like to change their user name regularly!) and it's replies to their original posts (now displayed as from 'unknown') that we're all seeing labelled as replies to 'our' posts.

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                                                                  Not logged in users can't 'Comments Post'.