Commercial Fiction Continuing Trends

I'm still thinking about trends so I thought I'd give you my list of trends in popular fiction that started about 10 years ago and are still present. I didn't even have to consult the muse about it though she stands ready should I require her assistance.

Sexy Books

This isn't just romance novels. All books seem to have sexed-up. This is good if the author is good at writing sexy copy, and the resulting writing is organic. If the author, with a grimace of distaste, is doing it because his/her editor/agent said to up the sexuality, it's bad, and the writing suffers. Some authors increase the sexuality by having secondary characters doing "it" or by having sexually explicit details about a crime or a character.

If a woman is your main character, you want her comfortable with her sexuality. Sure, many women aren't, but your heroine needs to be, and that doesn't mean she has to be a slut. It just means that she's aware of all the ramifications of sex and makes smart decisions. Unless her emotional conflict makes her choose a dumb move, and you darn well better have it believable when a smart woman does a dumb thing. And that brings me to....

Capable Heroines

Your heroine learns from her mistakes and moves on. No matter what genre, readers are looking for real women - someone competent and confident - not a nervous Nelly. When a woman is the main character, you want her to be strong, smart, and responsible for herself and her choices. She's somebody who makes things happen; she doesn't have things happen to her.


You must write a book that moves. A novel is characterized by forward motion, and, in this century, that motion is fast-paced. You want the reader turning pages, following the story and the characters.


Like I said, a novel is motion. Motion demands action. Active verbs, not passive. Active characters doing things not just sitting around contemplating their navels and thinking about what needs to be done. They do it. They act.

Unintrusive Backstory

If you could eliminate only one thing from your writing world view, it be the idea that you have to lay out all the background before you can get a story moving. The story begins at the moment of change.

Once I read a contest entry that took 9 pages to tell the reader that the heroine had just got divorced and had a car accident that changed everything. You only need a few sentences to set that scene. Here's a rough example: Molly, feeling incredibly free now that the judge had signed her divorce decree, flew down the courthouse steps. From behind her, she heard her lawyer call her name. Without stopping, she looked over her shoulder. Next thing she knew, she was tumbling head over heels down the marble steps until she slammed into an unsuspecting man at the bottom.

That's about 60 words. Sure, I didn't tell about her miserable childhood and how she married the first jerk who looked her way just so she could escape. I didn't detail how he hadn't been able to keep it zipped nor his descent into the bottle. I didn't go into her long lonely struggle to get an education and a decent job while she had to support her alcoholic husband.

All that stuff is something you reveal as you go along. Sprinkle it in like chopped red peppers in spicy dishes - a little here, a little there. You don't just dump it all in at once.

Takeaway Truth

Every era has its own literature. You must be a part of the time in which you live.


  1. Great article, thank you. It's often nice to have someone make a list and coherently break it down. :D

  2. I love the hot red peppers. When I give advice about back story, I use the IV drip analogy. I might borrow the peppers and use it as well.

  3. Since I'm not medically inclined, the IV drip never occurred to me. That's a good one too.