Guest Post: Smart Chick Lit
I’ve been asked in the past why I read chick lit, as if it isn’t “real” fiction. I get that it isn’t the genre for everyone, but I like it. But, why do I like it? Why do any of us read what we read? I thought about it, and polled friends who read chick lit to see what they thought.
What makes you like it, I asked them? Overwhelmingly, we all said it is the heroine that draws us to the genre. When we read women’s fiction, we want to feel like we’re having coffee with a girl friend. More than that, we want someone who isn’t perfect, because we know we certainly are not perfect. But we don’t want our heroine to be an idiot. As my friend Katherine said “You like a heroine who has faults, but you don’t want one who makes the same mistakes over and over again.”
We want a heroine with gumption, who can find the happy ending but who can also get through things without relying on her man. We want clever, witty heroines who may get themselves into a mess, but also have the ability to also get themselves out of it, preferably with an appropriately acerbic comeback. We want a heroine who lives in the real world. My friend Lisa, a working mother of three, said “One of my biggest pet peeves in books is when the heroine has kids and she’s out every night, never the mention of having to get a babysitter or fix dinner – makes me think what the heck am I doing wrong?”
I like heroines who struggle with the same mundane things my girl friends and I all talk about, like wanting to lose weight, wondering if that perfect guy really exists, fearing we’re not quite a good enough mother/wife/daughter/sister/friend/employee. I look for complex characters, perhaps who are facing fallout from their unpopular or unconventional choices. Mostly, I want to root for my heroine, that whatever her happiness is, she is able to find it.
We like heroines who aren’t a cliche. Unique heroines are so much more interesting and believable. In fact, it is when we recognize so much of ourselves in our heroines that we are completely drawn in to a novel. It is what brings us to laughter or tears, what really makes us cheer for her. After all, when we like our heroine that much, we feel like we’re cheering for ourselves, too.
So who writes the heroines we like the most? Jennifer Weiner is brilliant at writing a real, identifiable character, placing her in realistic situations, and providing the right amount of drama and humor as the heroine figures out her life. Emily Giffin gives us very well drawn, complex heroines who may take an unconventional path, but still have us rooting for them. Meg Cabot and Jane Green write heroines we like to read. I also love Marian Keyes. Ireland, and Irish heroines are at the heart of most of her novels, but I adore them. The heroines are quirky yet endearing, and Keyes is great at slipping in an unexpected plot twist.
Smart Chick Lit, that’s what I think most of us are looking for, and the plucky, clever heroines written by these fabulous authors keep us coming back for more.
Guest Post by Ashley Williams from My Book Fetish. Visit her webiste here!