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This blog was featured on 05/02/2019
How to Write Books About Women for Women
Contributor
Written by
She Writes
April 2019
Contributor
Written by
She Writes
April 2019

This guest post is by bestselling author Ashley Farley. Her novel, Only One Life is available now. 

I receive emails from readers nearly every day. Hearing how much women enjoy my novels is the motivation I need to keep writing. Most are versions of the same message. Your characters are relatable and your plots realistic. Because these are the types of books I like to read, these are the books I set out to write. I’m a passionate person, but while I struggle to verbally express my feelings, through writing, I’m able to pour my emotions into my characters. Hence, women’s fiction from my heart.

Empathy

I believe the good Lord gave me a double dose of empathy for a reason. In real life, it can sometimes be a curse. In fiction writing, I consider it a blessing. This capacity to truly understand human motivations enables me to create genuine characters readers relate to. Reading Ashley’s novels is like having coffee with longtime friends and catching up on old times. Establishing that special connectivity between reader and characters is a process that incorporates many elements of fiction writing—characterization being the most important.

Character

Ashley Farley has such a wonderful talent for creating characters that seem like women I know. Because they are women we know. My characters are extensions of me. During the conception phase, when I’m just beginning to contemplate a plot, I have a general idea of the types of individuals I want to star in the major roles. I focus on learning their likes and dislikes. I have questionnaires I fill out for each character. I know their favorite colors, music preferences, and whether they prefer coffee over tea. If they’re a pack rat or a neat freak. If they sleep in flannel pajamas or sexy lingerie. All of these small details help to develop their personality, which ensures authenticity.

Throughout the duration of a project, I spend a lot of time in my character’s heads. We shop, exercise, and prepare meals together. And they love to keep me awake at night whispering to me their secrets. I give life to my characters and let them show me the way. My characters’ motivations usually change from first to final drafts of a novel. During the development of a manuscript, as we grow together, the paths I initially had in mind for my characters may be leading them in the wrong direction. I love these ah-ha moments when my characters prove me wrong.

Plot and Theme

Entertainment, but to me her books go so much deeper. Plot and theme go hand in hand. In order for my protagonists to be believable, not only must they be flawed (perfect is boring, right?) they must also be facing a significant, life-altering challenge. Because readers can more readily identify with characters who are experiencing similar crises as them, I write about real-life challenges common for maturing women like aging parents, empty nests, addiction, divorce, death of a spouse, and declining health. It is human nature to want to help others. We can better associate with others if we can relate to their problems and feel their pain.

POV

Ashley’s books always seem to come back to the importance of being surrounded by family—families related by love or just simply by caring for one another. Most of my books are written from points of view of multiple characters, either sisters or friends. This gives readers a multifaceted, in-depth understanding of the characters and their situations. It also offers a sense of companionship and belonging. Many of us are fortunate to have family and friends who are the focal points of our lives, but many of us are alone and lonely. Readers are comforted by the love my characters share and the support they give one another.

Setting

The descriptive locale has me ready to pack my bags and head for the Lowcountry! While I’ve lived in Virginia for most of my adult life, part of my heart still resides on the South Carolina coast where I grew up. Every day when I settle in at my computer, I visit the Lowcountry in my head. My love of salty marshes, moss-draped trees, and sweet tea is evident in my work. For my novels, setting is a character in and of itself, a steadfast presence that has special healing powers. The Lowcountry is a romantic place. I find myself picturing the grand houses, hearing the charm of the southern voices, and feeling the southern heat. Setting helps ground characters in their plots. There is something magical about the Lowcountry. I make certain my characters experience it in every aspect of their lives.

Tone

 Ashley’s stories are always full of love and kindness, even as her characters go through their trials and tribulations. I work hard to keep the underlying tone uplifting regardless of the drama taking place in any given scene. Putting a positive spin on the death of a loved one isn’t always easy, but it’s so very important. I’ve received more emails from readers about Sweet Tea Tuesdays than any of my other novels. Because women relate to the sad ending. It’s real-life in fiction, equal parts heartbreaking and heartwarming. I am still crying as I write this review. This book took me to Charleston, SC and I did not want to leave. What a great show of friendship, family and unconditional love. Every single character is relatable

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