I was reading reviews of a friend’s book the other day when I came across the phrase “It was so predictable”. Are readers looking for books in women’s fiction (I know, I wish there was a better term) where characters behave differently than the norm? Like outrageously different?
In any situation, easy or challenging, humans have choices as to how to respond. There are usually a finite number of reasonable choices. And for the most part, women’s fiction is about ordinary men and women, and how we get through life; specifically, how we navigate the difficult situations we are presented with.
If a character loses her job, her choices go something like this: she finds a new job, or she goes on unemployment and postpones finding a job, or maybe she even falls into a state of depression, moves in with her elderly aunt and never works again. Any of those responses are predictable because they fall within the realm of characteristically human responses. It would be unpredictable if her response to losing her job was to became a serial killer and murder 200 men who looked like her old boss and bury them in her elderly aunt’s turnip patch. But that response would not be believable. (I’m not talking about the art of suspending disbelief in fiction. Another day.) As a reader, I’d be unhappy with that storyline unless the writer had a really good explanation for it. If the woman snapped, fine. If she already made previous crazy decisions, fine. But if it’s totally out of character, and there’s no explanation, I’d say “that would never happen” or worse, “that doesn’t work”.
We all love when the sweet next door neighbor in the suspense novels turn out to be the one burying people in his elderly aunt’s turnip patch- that’s a time and place for unpredictability. But in any good women’s fiction book, I would say what happened was predictable. For me, that “predictability” makes the characters relatable, and in some way, real.
What do you all think about predictably in books? Is “unpredictable” a negative review that’s easy to throw around due to the finite number of stories to be told? Or is there more room for plot twists in this type of story?