Years ago, I was mentoring someone (I’ve mentioned it here before) who thought “Novel” was a length.
Before you go “but novel is a length.” Sure, it is, but it is also a unit of plot of action and hopefully character experience and growth.
If you sat down and wrote 80k words of your character going for walks, having school days, having meals with friends, it wouldn’t be a novel, unless there’s a theme and some sort of …. sequence working itself through it.
Otherwise what you have are a bunch of completely disconnected vignettes, most of them lacking all action.
Here’s the thing: men and women not only write differently, they read differently.
Sure, a lot of us like some of the women here do like tension in their reading. The really weird thing is I need more tension when writing than when reading, to stay engaged. But I know I’m an outlier.
Most women, particularly when stressed, like slow, lazy rules. Maybe sexy, but not particularly heart wrenching.
Of course, the low end or high end of this is fanfic. Particularly things like Jane Austen fanfic. You know the couple will get together. You know everyone, and it’s like a lazy ride through the book.
In fact, many books advertise “low angst.”
I’m not going to throw any stones, since when I’m stressed out of my mind, I only read Austen fanfic. Like, you know, when I didn’t sleep well for the last three weeks.
And a lot of the fanfic sets out to erase all the issues that Austen gave her characters, and smoothing their path. And better/worse they get them married and then…. the novel goes on and on and on, with everyday life only better. the characters go from triumph to triumph, and everything is wonderful and perfect and beautiful. And we never know when the novel will end, and sometimes suspect that they’ll follow the couple to heaven to revel in their eternal joy.
I will confess I have very little patience for those, and find myself skimming around page twenty, then reading the ending and rolling my eyes.
Imagine my horror when I found this creeping into other, mostly intensely feminine subgenres, like cozy mysteries, where we never doubt who the murderer is, and the detective is never at risk, and does all sorts of fun things, before the perp falls into her lap.
Or what I’d call cozy fantasy — which can be romance, mystery or a sort of happy myth type of thing — same thing. There’s never any real doubt and the triumph is never in doubt.
My first reaction was to roll my eyes.
My second reaction was: is this a new thing?
It’s not something I enjoy, but let’s face it, all these books are doing really well, and they serve the needs of very stressed women, which is a lot of us these days.
So, is this a new thing? Or did I stumble, through serendipity of choices, onto the appearance of a trend where there is none?