In Defense of Fluff

March 9, 2015 | By | 33 Replies More

“Anyway, it’s not a bad book. I just felt like it was more fluff than anything else.”

That is a direct quote from a Goodreads review for one of my books and it doesn’t bother me at all.  Yes, you read that correctly — it does not bother me at all that  someone thinks a story I wrote is fluffy.

Here’s why: I didn’t intend it to be particularly heavy.

Author PictureThere are so many books that tackle abuse and alcoholism and loss and all the myriad ways in which our spirits can be broken into a thousand tiny pieces. And the authors who tell these stories do so in gut-wrenching, soul-expanding ways. We read the stories and are affected. We ugly-cry. We share them with our friends so that we can talk through the experience with someone else. We are changed somehow. These are important stories that need to be told and I am grateful to the authors that give them voice.

But I also feel like there are those times when life is heavy enough on its own and the last thing we want to pick up is a reminder of the weight. Right out of college, I worked at a shelter for the homeless for a few months and then transitioned into a 7 year career as a social worker. To be honest, the last thing I wanted to read before bed at the end of a long day was a book about sadness. I probably missed a lot of really, really deep and powerful books in those years, but I craved hope– without a side of despair. I wanted the happy endings that I knew first-hand didn’t exist for so many of the people that sat across the desk from me.

delayed cover - new themeAnd when I started writing, I wanted to write the books I loved to read: light romantic comedies with hopeful endings. Call them escapist, call them unrealistic, call them fluff — it doesn’t hurt my feelings. Sure I strive to write multi-dimensional characters. Yes, I want my heroines to stand on their own two feet and not need to be rescued by their love interests.

I most certainly strive to write a compelling plot and would love to be known for sharp, witty dialogue. These are the things I am constantly honing as a writer, but if my stories turn out a little more light and airy than others, I don’t see this as an area for improvement. I’ve hit exactly the mark I meant to.

My book was “more fluff than anything else.” Excellent. Sometimes you need a little marshmallow nougat to balance out that deep dark chocolate. There is plenty of room in the that sampler box of candy for all of us, and I’m convinced that every piece is exactly the thing someone is craving right now.

Mary Chris Escobar writes women’s fiction. Her second novel, How to Be Alive was published in summer 2014. She lives in Richmond, Virginia in a renovated parking garage with her husband. You can read her “fluffy” novella, Delayed for free (available in e-book format at all major online retailers). While she doesn’t actually like marshmallow nougat candies you can find her just about anywhere with good coffee or craft beer and also at, and on Twitter @marychris_e


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Category: Contemporary Women Writers, On Writing

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  1. Thanks. Enjoyed your post very much. No one should underestimate the difficulty of writing cheerful books . I tend to start off quite jolly and then the gloom gathers. My forthcoming novel Timed Out is a case in point. I have managed a happy end in one or two short stories, and will keep trying!

    • Thank you, Barbara! And yes, please do keep trying for those happy endings, the world could always use a few more of them. However, you can’t fight off the stories as they come to you and it’s certainly important to write the story of your heart – so keep going with the not-as-cheerful ones too. As many have commented here, it’s nice to have all types.

  2. Pamela Hart says:

    Hope is so important! I write for both children and adults, and my kids books (under the name Pamela Freeman) all have hope at the centre of them. It seems to me that the theft of hope is an evil act, no matter how old we get.

    As for ‘fluff’ – it’s the meringue of writing, and just as light and delicious!

  3. Lynn says:

    I love the pride in your choices. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Densie Webb says:

    As an author of so-called “fluff” myself. I say, “Hear, hear!” Yes, I read the heavy stuff that makes my heart sad for days after, and I marvel at the author’s writing chops, but I also love a good love story. I prefer a little heartache in the mix, but we all want to hope that somewhere things are better, happier, lighter. Yes, “fluffier.” I’m with you all the way.

  5. I totally agree with you! My novels are pure escapism, all magic and passion and supernatural creatures. They are easy reads, so I’ve been told. And that is absolutely fine. I personally like to read a really heavy, emotional, realistic book, and then follow it up with something fluffy and fun. We have to, otherwise we would forever live in a bubble of despair and fear about the big bad world around us. Keep up the good work, Mary!

    • Yes! Easy read is the highest compliment – when that’s what you’re going for!

      I also love your idea of alternating reads, sounds like a great strategy. There is plenty of darkness in the world, nothing wrong with adding in a little “escapism, magic and passion” every now and then.

      You keep up the good work as well, Catherine!

  6. I admire you for taking the stuff of fluff and turning into a smart post. It’s easy enough, as a writer, to get a little defensive when reviews don’t really say anything substantial about a book, or, as the case may be, the reviewer doesn’t ‘get’ what the book is about. Your bio, btw, is an absolute delight and pretty much says it all.

    • Haha! Thank you, Deborah! You know, I find bios are the hardest thing to write- so I really appreciate the positive feedback.

      And yes, so frequently a negative review is really just the fact that your book isn’t in a style or genre that a reader prefers (happens even more with free books I’ve found). It always helps to keep this in mind.

  7. Alexis Anne says:

    Thank you for writing this! I feel like I’m constantly “defending” anything that isn’t hard literature. The human experience involves so many levels, events, and emotions and we need stories that reflect all of it! We also need different types of stories at different times. I personally prefer “fluff” on a regular day because I see too much “real”. I need to escape. I need to believe in hope and goodness. I guess that’s is one of the many reasons I’ve fallen in love with each of your books. They are always exactly what I’m looking for. Keep on writing, I am waiting for my next installment!

    • Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting, Alexis! So well said, about the human experience. There are so many stories to be told and no one right way to tell them.

      Also, thanks for the compliment about my books! Furiously working away on the next one (sort of, as soon as I’m fully back from vacation).

  8. I love that part, when Mary Chris wrote: “the last thing I wanted to read before bed at the end of a long day was a book about sadness. I probably missed a lot of really, really deep and powerful books in those years, but I craved hope– without a side of despair. I wanted the happy endings that I knew first-hand didn’t exist for so many of the people that sat across the desk from me.”

    Yes, this is one of the very important motivating factors why I wrote my books in an inspirational way and not to focus on the heavy moments in an abusive marriage and racial discrimination I had experienced many times in some foreign countries. Like many other authors/writers, I love to read books of various genre and when it matches my mood, I read either light or heavy reads with their unique plots, pacing and with a literary touch too.

  9. Wendy R. says:

    Beautifully said. I go through phases where all I want to read is fluff. But i only want to read “good” fluff, with well created dialogue and an interesting plot. And others where I want intense emotion and detail. Still others where my attention span is so drained by my life at that moment that I read very little, but watch TV more. Sometimes, I’ll want to read a range of material at once. We (and our audiences) all are multidimensional people. There’s room for all kinds of books (and every other kind of diversion).

    • Indeed, there is room for it all! Thank you so much, Wendy!

      Speaking of TV, I don’t watch much, but just binge watched some on an International flight. There is some really smart, light writing out there right now! I was impressed with The Mjndy Project and Jane the Virgin.

  10. We need variety in all things. I love dark chocolate but I wouldn’t eat it all day, every day. Like Amalie said, light does not mean simple. A pleasant story where nothing awful happens is just what I need some days. Other days, I want to read the dark stuff. Life would be boring without variety.

  11. Just had this conversation with a friend yesterday. There’s clearly a place for both fluffy/commercial and heavy/literary books. We can be snobbish and say the heavy books are “better” . . .but . . .
    Since fluff often out-sells literary seems more accurate to acknowledge they are just different, not better or worse. Readers clearly want and need them both. So good to read that you see your value as a writer when you fill that need

    • Carol, thank you for your comment! The last part about “seeing my value” as a writer made my day. I truly do think it is valuable to provide fun stories. And agreed, not “better” just different.

      • You have value and I agree with all you write – ’cause I write romantic fluff too! (Paranormal romance is what Amazon is calling it!) I can’t wait to read all your books, Mary. We seem to have a lot in common. Good luck with sales, and keep on giving us something that makes life a little lighter 🙂

  12. I really needed to read this right now. I am surrounded by “hard” things in life and most of what I read is heavy so I’m enjoying writing something that’s lighter. At first I felt like I might be letting down people who expect something more serious from me but I’m beginning to think that’s their problem, not mine. I’m putting in the same amount of work as something more serious but I’m having a lot more fun with it.

    • I’m so glad this resonated with you right now, Stephanie. Sometimes writing the hard stuff down is therapeutic, as Amalie mentioned in her comment below, but as you mention sometimes writing the opposite is equally powerful,

      The world needs all sorts of stories and the one that is on your heart and flying off your fingers right now is the one you need to tell. Keep on writing!

  13. Kat Black says:

    Thanks for this. What a delightful piece! I agree with everything – except maybe the title. ‘In Celebration of Fluff’ would be a nice fit (or is that too fluffy?)

  14. Jess Alter says:

    Thank you, Mary Chris, for defending fun reads. I appreciate that the deep and heartbreaking and socially poignant read has its place. After a rough day, I want a rollicking snarky tale with a happy ending, so I can have at least one laugh or a feel-good moment to make me smile.

    And as for sharp, witty dialogue and a compelling plot? I find it more often in supposedly “fluff” works than I do in those somber and melodramatic works.

    People like hummingbirds more than vultures, even if they say different out loud.

    Kudos and keep knocking out those fun reads!

    • Thanks, Jess! Always nice to hear from a fellow “fluff” fan! I so agree that there is a lot of really nice writing in fun books.

      And you know, sometimes the vultures can be interesting to watch just like the hummingbirds– but we certainly need both!

  15. What a refreshing post! I myself love to read a bit of fluff now and again. It’s a great little pick-me-up after a hard day. I myself don’t write much (if any) fluff, but that’s because I don’t get catharsis out of it. I get catharsis out of writing the heartwrenching/dark stuff, so that’s what I write. I really hate how people seem to think “light” is the same as “easy” or “simple,” when that’s absolutely not true.

    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!

    • Thank you, Amalie! You also bring up a good point about catharsis – I do think writing down those darker stories can be a great way to work through things. Just more proof that we need all types.

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