Monday, 3 June 2019

Exploring Genre | Christine Dillon Introduces Women's Fiction

We're continuing our series of joint posts with Christian Writers Downunder. Today, author and missionary Christine Dillon is discussing Women's Fiction (which, despite the name, isn't just for women).

Introducing Women's Fiction

According to Wikipedia, Women's Fiction includes layered stories about one or several characters, often multi-generational that tackles an adult character's struggle with world issues resulting in emotional growth. It may include elements of mystery, fantasy, romance or other subgenres, but is not driven by these elements.

The Women's Fiction Writers Association says:

the driving force of women's fiction is the protagonist's journey toward a more fulfilled self.

When I started writing fiction I hadn’t yet heard of women’s fiction. I called my books ‘contemporary inspirational’ or ‘issues-based Christian fiction’ (a label I invented).

At the same time I was reading a lot of Christian fiction and getting frustrated at the huge number of romance stories out there which just weren’t my thing (with a few exceptions). I started asking around, saying, “You know, books like Francine Rivers writes, tackling an issue like abortion or divorce. Issues that people face in their daily lives.”

“Oh, you’re looking for women’s fiction,” I was told.

My thoughts on Women’s Fiction

My initial response was lukewarm to having my books labelled ‘women’s’ fiction because I hoped men would read them too. There doesn’t appear to be an equivalent genre for men.

When people ask me about my books I still use my own definition of ‘contemporary Australian Christian fiction that tackles issues that Christian’s face in their daily lives.’

Women’s Fiction tends to be contemporary but some historical stories have women’s fiction elements. Think Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers, or biblical fiction—Pearl in the Sand or Land of Silence by Tessa Afshar.

Elements Found in Women’s Fiction

  • A crisis issue like abortion, divorce, spouse having an affair, accident, or unemployment, that triggers emotion and eventually life change.
  • A focus on the emotional and thought-life of the character. It is a spiritual (if it is Christian fiction) and emotional journey for the lead character(s).
  • Nil or minimal romance. If there is romance, it is not the focus of the story. After all, it is pretty hard to avoid any romance if you’re writing about real people.
  • Women’s fiction doesn’t need a ‘happily ever after’ ending, which is something romance readers seem to expect.
  • Character-driven stories rather than action driven.
  • The main characters are often women, but in my opinion don’t have to be. Otherwise my third and fourth books in my ‘Grace’ series are not going to be the same genre as the others.
  • Readers can often say, ‘I’ve experienced that’ or ‘I wonder what I would do in that situation?’ These stories often prompt discussion.
  • The book often ends with a reflection from the main character about what they’ve experienced and how their life will change.

Women’s (Christian) Fiction I’ve enjoyed:

  • Deborah Raney - she specialises in putting people in situations
  • Ginny Yttrup - especially Words
  • Brenda S Anderson
  • Catherine West
  • Francine Rivers - I especially like And the Shofar Blew
  • Ann Tatlock

Here's a question for men:

Have you read books that are labelled ‘women’s fiction’ - what did you think? What did you like or not like?

So which stories have you enjoyed that could possibly fit into this genre?

P.S. Christine has been delighted that many men love her books and she even has younger teen boys who can’t wait for the next.

About Christine Dillon

Christine never intended to become an author. She started with non-fiction but is currently publishing a series of contemporary, Australian Christian novels. In daily life she is a Bible storyteller and trainer working mostly in Asia and Australia. Besides reading, Christine loves the great outdoors especially hiking and cycling. You can find Christine at


  1. Hi Christine, thanks for the great and comprehensive wrap-up. I agree with you, that the name always seemed limiting. I can think of several guys who have totally enjoyed books from this category, not knowing it's called 'Women's Fiction' haha. These stories help us process so many things in our own lives.

  2. I loved Francine River's Redeeming Love - it made me rethink the way I understood the book of Hosea. This showed me how fiction can deepen understanding of Scripture in a way that is different to Bible Study. Before reading your post I didn't know that Women's Fiction was a genre (like Women's Health - the younger feminist version of myself asked - what about Men's Health?). Thank you Christine for enlightening me about this genre and I look forward to reading more Women's Fiction.

  3. Thanks for a sharing the characteristics of woman's fiction.

    I wonder if Jodie Picoult's books fit in this category - though not a Christian, her books relate to specific issues and, while she looks at it from a range of point of views, she does show the emotional journey particularly of the main characters. Lisa Genova (Still Alice, Left Neglected) is another mainstream author (with some faith elements) I've loved reading. I do agree that 'Women's Fiction' seems a restrictive title for books that delve into life experiences that affect all of us.