Friday, November 2, 2007

On the Defensive

Somebody yesterday, asked me what type of novel I'm (attempting) to write, and my heart sank. She's a bookish type, but thinks romance novels are a literary oddity. I don't much like the term Chick-Lit, as it tends to be used in a demeaning way, though I suppose I should look at it as a marketing term, like 'thriller' or 'blockbuster'. Personally, I perfer 'women's fiction' or 'feel-good', but when I said that she immediately came over all smug and said 'Oh, you mean Chick-Lit?' in a dismissive way. AAAARRRGGGHHH!
It reminded me of an article I wrote on this subject a couple of years ago, and I wish I'd remembered enough of it to quote it to her.

"Mention the words 'Chick-Lit' and people immediately imagine rows of brightly covered covers, charting the lives of singletons counting calories and looking for love, in the style of Bridget Jones. Despite the fact that Helen Fielding's heroine was written about in an original and witty way, there's no doubt that plenty of subsequent authors have jumped on the bandwagon, with less successful results. There are many insubstantial efforts languishing on bookshelves, but it's unfair that the whole genre has been tarred with the same brush. Chick-Lit fiction is deemed to be something you should be ashamed of reading, never mind writing, yet popular fiction is defined as being 'suited to the understanding of ordinary people', and what's wrong with that? Not all books need to be literary affairs, featuring drab characters battling inner demons; neither do they need to be judged on the way they reflect the cultural identity of the author. Popular fiction is just as capable of saying something about society and there's no shame in doing that in an entertaining, or even light-hearted, way, by speaking to the reader as if they were a friend. Half the population is struggling with inner demons; maybe they want to be taken away from all that and be transported by a story they can't put down and be left with a sense that somebody understands how liberating laughter is, especially when it's at ourselves and our quirks.
Admittedly, years ago, there was quite a sizeable division between literary and 'popular' fiction, but these days popular fiction has become increasingly intelligent, while literary work is more accessible. Maybe it's time to drop the labels altogether."

Right, I'll get off my high horse now! Back to the 'feel-good' book...

3 comments:

Maddie Moon said...

I know exactly what you mean about those dismissive reactions, but don't let the so and so's get you down! It's the same response I sometimes get when I tell people I've written stories for the women's magazines. Some people seem to think that because they're easy to read they must be easy to write, but it ain't necessarily so!
Good luck with the novel - are you very far in? I'm writing one too in the same genre - women's fiction, but I'm finding it a hard slog.

KAREN CLARKE said...

What a wonderful name!
I did write a whole novel a couple of years ago and loved the process, and I received some positive feedback from a couple of agents but apparently elements of the story were a bit 'tired'. (I know the feeling!) Anyway, since then I've been re-writing and changing everything and leaving it and starting again, to the point where I'm definitely trying too hard. I've approached one or two women's magazines with short stories, but haven't had any luck so far. It is bloomin' hard work, but I can't seem to make myself give up!

Emerging Writer said...

They think it's easy to write just because it's easy to read!

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