Thursday 18 May 2017

Island of Secrets by Patricia Wilson

Published by Zaffre on May 18, 2017

Tips for Writing Women’s Fiction

Women’s fiction covers a broad spectrum, from historical novels to modern chic-lit, so it is impossible to generalise on what makes good women’s fiction. Gone are the days when we read about cardboard cut-out characters that were dependant on men — ruled by their hearts — and obsessed by nothing more than housekeeping and handbags.

Today, we have female characters with a rich and varied background, and we also have shallow, self-centred women. To bring out these individualisms, we need to understand our females, learn their innermost feelings, appreciate their vulnerabilities and fears. What makes them the way they are? Perhaps their shallowness is deeply rooted in an unstable childhood, or their career obsession based on a secret inferiority complex instigated by a bullying parent. Dig deep, and get personal with each character. No two are the same.

Forget about your reader when writing intimate scenes. Once you start wondering what your mother, daughter, granddaughter might think, you will lose all prospect of exposing your character’s deepest/hottest/weirdest inner self.

What is interesting about writing women’s fiction, is that we can look inside ourselves, analyse our own feelings and draw from personal experiences. Even when we portray unlikable characters, we must find their heart, their vulnerability, and discover their fears.

All these traits are laid bare as we start peeling away layers. The diverse nature of our fictitious women needs to be exposed, or at least hinted at. Ruthlessness sandwiched between caring and humour. Fear between bravery, ambition, and romance. And yes, it’s all right to be girly, or old, or childish, or in love, so long as we’re honest and consistent with the mentality and voice of each, and keep our characters true to their personalities.

Once you ‘know’ your people, the important thing to remember is that the circumstances of your story will alter your women, or at the very least, your protagonist, by the end of the novel.

Know them, expose them, change them.

Island of Secrets is published in paperback today by Bonnier Zaffre.

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