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The Foolproof Formula for Writing Chick-Lit

Updated on May 20, 2017

Chick-lit or women's literature is one of the fastest growing genres of writing. Chick-lit is female oriented, usually with a female main character in her twenties or thirties and contains a story of growth or a life lesson. These modern day parables are often lighthearted looks at modern life and stretch beyond the Fabio cover, bodice-rippers and straddle many genres like romance, suspense, and supernatural.

Writing this genre can be rewarding and doesn't have to be difficult if it holds the right elements.

The tone

As you plan a story, you need to choose a tone. Will it be a light and frothy romp through the mall with a pair of girlfriends or a serious examination of a woman's struggle with her divorce? Will your character's sidekick be a flamboyant gay man with a fetish for Louis Vouitton or a therapist who does nothing but listen? While you never want to send your reader into a sugar high from too much sweetness or a deep spiraling depression, you want to be consistent with the mood. If you are writing a comedy, keep it light with hints of drama, and a soul-searching drama should be serious with occasional hints of lightness.

The objective

Like any story, the main character must have an objective. This is your plot. The objective can be a problem she is facing, a journey that she is on, or a goal that she has. While she can have more than one struggle, the main obstacle should be explained clearly and come to a resolution.

Ex: I held my mother's hand as we waited for the doctor to deliver the news.
When he finally looked up from the reports he had been reading from the manila folder, he cleared his throat, glanced at my mother, and then leveled his full, blue eyed gaze at me. "Your mother has stage three breast cancer that has spread to her lymph nodes."
A fist of emotion slammed into my gut. "What does that mean?"
"The extent of the cancer is inoperable. She has about two months left to live. I am going to prescribe some powerful painkillers, but due to her Alzheimer's, the dosage is going to need to be monitored at all times."
I looked at my mother, who was still smiling, unaware of what the doctor was saying. The emotions that ran through me eclipsed everything else. I was losing my mother, the woman who had raised me and loved me. She was now a shell of the strong woman she had been, but she was still my mother, and I would be there for her.

The best friend

As your main character is going through her journey, she needs someone to help her through her trials, someone to lift her when she gets low, and someone for her to bounce ideas off of. This friend offers nuggets of wisdom and truth and helps propel the main character to her main goal.

Ex: Jessica and I sat at her kitchen table drinking tea.
"I don't know what to do about my mother. Her cancer has progressed to a stage that is inoperable, and her Alzheimer's makes it so hard to communicate with her. She doesn't even know what is going on half of the time!"
Jessica put a calming hand on my shoulder. "The important thing is to make her happy. Didn't you say she used to like going to the museum? Why don't you take her to the new exhibit that opened this week? You can get her out of the house and enjoy what time you have with her."
I stared at my cup, the steam fading as it cooled. "You're right. I've been holding off on doing things like that because I've been scared." I looked up from my tea. "When death is around the corner, you've got nothing left to be scared of."

The setting

One of the biggest parts of a good story is the setting. In some stories, it is like another character. Whether the setting is a big city like New York, the inside of a car while on a road trip, or the characters living room, details should be peppered liberally throughout to bring the story to life.

Ex: The white porcelain urn sat on the dark wood mantle of the fireplace. A small fire burned in the fireplace, but the heat did nothing for the numbness I felt.
I watched as people walked across my mother's plush white carpet. She never would have let anyone walk on her floors without taking off their shoes.
I pulled my eyes away from the crowd of people and fixated on a spot on the wall. The peach roses of the wallpaper twisted together forming lines that marched up the walls.

What is your favorite "Chick-Lit?"

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© 2012 Liz Woodward


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