In the midst of other fiction genres—thrillers, mysteries, romances, and whatnot—it seems contemporary fiction oftentimes gets overlooked or left out.
“Contemporary fiction? Oh, you mean general fiction.”
Well, yes. But also, no. Contemporary fiction isn’t merely a general or nonspecific classification, and it certainly isn’t a throwaway category.
Granted, if I had to pick a favorite genre, historical fiction would likely be mine. As I think about the many historical novels I’ve read over the years, not all of them have been about an actual historical figure or event. A good number of the stories have been about purely fictional characters experiencing various facets of life during time periods in the past. Experiencing life in a historical setting doesn’t necessarily mean the characters are investigating a crime, or searching for true love, or discovering magical gates to lead them into different realms.
You can think of contemporary fiction as a bookend to historical fiction, if you like. Not every contemporary plot is about investigating crimes, searching for true love, discovering magical gates that lead to different realms, or other scenarios that reflect genres folks may identify more readily. Many contemporary stories are about fictional characters experiencing various facets of life in contemporary times. And life is nothing to sneeze at.
You may find a story about a brother estranged from his siblings, navigating the winding path to reconciliation. Or a woman tackling the challenges of opening a shelter for survivors of abuse. Or a man whose best friend is diagnosed with a terminal disease, so the two of them interrupt their regularly scheduled schedules to go and snap all the pictures they can on a road trip they’ve been putting off for years. No telling how many contemporary scenarios I could come up with.
And as for women’s fiction—
“Women’s fiction? Oh, you mean romance.”
Nope. I mean women’s fiction.
The romance genre is its own thing, and its rules are specific. The development of a romantic relationship must be the main focus of the plot, the story must have an HEA (Happily Ever After) ending for the couple, and other rules that adhere to the romance genre formula. Sell a “romance” novel where the hero and heroine shake hands, say goodbye, and go their separate ways in the end, or where nothing romantic happens until late in the story because the hero and heroine are busy with other matters and only just meet each other halfway through the book, and you’re gonna have a lot of miffed romance readers on your hands.
But that’s beside the point. Finding someone to date or to stand at the altar with isn’t the only thing that happens in women’s lives, folks. 😀 Women’s fiction encompasses much more than that, with women’s growth and experiences as the focus. Their health. Their careers. Their rights. Their relationships with friends and family. The list goes on. And, yes, a women’s fiction novel can include a romantic storyline, but it isn’t necessary.
Of course, this isn’t to say that women’s fiction is restricted to the contemporary category. You can find historical women’s fiction. Fantasy women’s fiction. Again, the list goes on. But women’s fiction is indeed a big component of contemporary fiction, where characters experience so many of the ins and outs of modern life.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ll enjoy a good present-day mystery, or a present-day suspense story, or a present-day romance, or a present-day sci-fi adventure. But just because a present-day story may not be from one of those genres doesn’t mean the story is ambiguous or genre-less.
Contemporary fiction is a real genre.