Tuesday, September 18, 2012
What Do Romance Readers Want And Why?
I recently asked readers in my circle, a group of church-going women and more than a few professed agnostics, their thoughts on Christian fiction, romance, and where you draw the line. I've also been reading opinions, post, and blogs to discover once and for all ... what do romance readers really want? It's been a fascinating revelation.
I found that although a few enjoy the "Calgon-take-me-away-moments" in fluffy, funny, happily-every-after novels, the majority demand the guts and glory of the story to show them something they've never seen, learn something they didn't know, take them somewhere they've never been. It's a daunting task for the writer.
At the end of my three-week research, I got a clear picture from the mostly 35+ women I spoke to. They have to see the stakes raised on every page to keep them immersed in the pages.
I've been told most publishers believe women who read romance don't want to be challenged, inspired, or enlightened. That women don't want to think. They want to feel. I don't know about you, but that's insulting to me. (Okay, Okay. With one exception: if I'm relaxing in a bubble bath with a few lit candles on the tub and glass of Merlot within arm's reach, I need something soothing and well written. I don't need to read anything that'll cause me to drop my Kindle in the soap suds.)
But with that said, more than 50 % of the women don't want graphic material or sex kitten fantasy: They want reality-based fiction. No matter what they're reading.
I questioned two women who poke their noes in a romance novel only on occasion. They find them silly, trite, predictable. However, when I asked them if they've read the, oh, so popular 50 Shades of Grey, one told me she honestly felt embarrassed for the author. Her words, not mine. The other's face reddened and said, "I had to. I wanted to see what the fuss was about. But I threw the book away when I finished it. I didn't want my daughters to find it."
Other readers I spoke to and heard from want to be transported to the point they have to look up from the pages to remember where they are. They need to feel the raw emotion as tears on their faces. Listen up romance writers, readers are wanting more. Are we prepared to give it to them?
They want to see their hero and heroine fight against insurmountable obstacles to be together, even if they don't end up together in the end. Readers don't care about unrealistic expectations. We all have them; our lives are plagued with them, so why shouldn't the character's lives be full of unattainable goals The readers told me they still, indeed, rooted for them.
I've been told by those in the industry that truth is stranger than fiction because it can be. That fiction has to make sense. It can be as fantastic as you care to make it, but it must have an inherent logic to it at all times.
My question is -- logic to whom? What is logical to me is not logical to someone else. What is plausibility? To whom must it be plausible? The readers I spoke to agreed with me, the whole issue with logic and plausibility lies in the lap of the reader.
So go for it, writer.
But no more Barbie and Ken characters. Readers want a flawed protagonist. Inside and out. She may have gorgeous blond tresses and wear stilettos to work, but she's a recovering drug addict. He's a firefighter with chiseled cheeks and a hard body, but he's fighting an incurable disease. Readers don't buy perfection. Not anymore.
I'll write more about Christian fiction tomorrow ... you wouldn't believe what they're asking for.
Blessings to you and yours.