Genres: Romance, Erotica, and Women’s Fiction
What they share and how they’re different.
April 25, 2018
BC Marine, CAO, Authors 4 Authors Publishing
A few weeks ago, we looked at what genres are and the definitions we at Authors 4 Authors Publishing use. This week, it’s an overview of genres that are traditionally made for women.
What They Have in Common
It’s not uncommon to find writers who produce both women’s fiction and romance or romance and erotica. Many works also combine the genres, such as the subgenre of erotic romance. It’s easy to see why.
Romance, erotica, and women’s fiction tend to be marketed to and written by women—by which I mean the vast majority of it. In most of the writing world, female writers often hide behind masculine or neutral pen names, but in these genres, you’re more likely to see the male writers choosing feminine pseudonyms.
In the writing itself, the protagonists’ feelings are forefront, more so than usual. And, much like their readers and writers, the protagonists are typically female as well.
They also boast some of the most voracious readers. Romance and erotica together make more more money than crime, mystery and speculative fiction (fantasy, science fiction, and horror) combined.
How They’re Different
While they’re often grouped together and frequently mistaken for each other, romance, erotica, and women’s fiction are distinct genres. And though they can have overlapping audiences, in general, they fulfill different roles for their readers. Here is a quick overview of all three:
According to the Romance Writers of America: “Two basic elements comprise every romance novel: a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.”
Contrary to popular belief, romance novels aren’t about sex, though they can include it. The focus is on the relationship of the couple and their emotional journey, and they must get their happily-ever-after. The requirements are simple, but both must be met.
From the Encyclopaedia Britannica: “The word erotica typically applies to works in which the sexual element is regarded as part of the larger aesthetic aspect.”
Where romance is about the emotional journey, erotica is about a sexual journey. The characters may fall in love or not, and a happily-ever-after is not required. Unlike romance, which can be completely chaste and still have a plot, an erotic story is built upon sexual exploits and cannot exist without them.
According to Writer's Digest: “Women’s fiction focuses on a woman’s journey, wherever that may take her and whatever that may encompass. Though usually emotionally satisfying, a happy ending is not an expectation.”
Like romance, women’s fiction focuses on relationship to drive the plot, but unlike romance, those relationships can be with the heroine’s friends and family rather than a lover. When romantic love does feature, it doesn’t require a happily-ever-after. The protagonist is on a journey of self-discovery, which means that family, friends, or even solitude may chosen in the end.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll delve deeper into each of these genres. Look for next week’s post on romance. Have a favorite to read? Let us know on Facebook which of these three you want to see more of!