Why Men Don’t Read Paranormal Romance
Right now, Stephanie Meyer is sitting alone in a dark room, clutching a half-empty glass of red wine and wondering why men don’t read her stories. It haunts her, makes her lie awake at night. She just can’t figure it out. It doesn’t make any sense, she thinks. This has vampires, werewolves, the supernatural, and a good-looking leading lady, so why won’t they read it?
I’ll admit that I’ve never read Twilight. In fact, I’m pretty sure the book would burn my hand if I ever tried to touch it. For guys like me, who not only read but read young adult, the whole series is just naturally repellent. That’s not because of the story. Heck, it’s not even because it’s a romance. Here’s the reason most guys could never put into words: everything about Bella that makes the story attractive to women makes it unattractive to men.
It all does come down to the heroine and her personality. To figure out if men will respond to a female protagonist, you have to know the answer to this question: what do men find attractive in a woman? Can you answer it? A woman is sexy if she’s confident, motivated, talented, and independent. We want someone who is in control of herself, who can make decisions, who goes out and gets what she wants. Now, does Bella possess these qualities? I’m sure she has her moments, but for the most part she seems timid, shy, confused, and introverted. While that certainly speaks to women’s very human vulnerabilities, it is not the sort of thing that reaches out and catches a guy’s interest.
I hope you’re not taking this as an attack on Twilight. There are surely enough people out there doing that. Rather, this extends to all books in the young-adult and paranormal genres. Weak female characters are not going to get the attention of male readers. If you want to know what makes a strong female character, check out this hilarious flowchart. It turns out men will flock to paranormal romances as long as it has a powerful heroine. If you’re in any doubt about this, I’ll give you one example: The Hunger Games.
But you might say, The Hunger Games isn’t a paranormal romance! Taking a step back after completing the series, it’s pretty clear that it is. It turns out the entire political half of the story, which ended in a muted whimper, was really just there to keep the love triangle spinning. That leaves us with Katniss Everdeen, who for two books was mesmerizing and courageous. She was focused and outspoken, and it made The Hunger Games one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. A strong-willed girl like that makes me believe there were two guys chasing after her.
In my YA fantasy series, called Powerless, I’ve tried to create a heroine who is both intelligent and determined, though of course it takes some time for her to grow into it. It’s as if Hermoine were the star of Harry Potter, as one reviewer put it. In the story, Mira Ipswich has been hidden by her parents because she’s the only one without a unique, magical power. When she convinces them to release her, she has to overcome her limitation and find a way to reunite her family. I should make it clear that this is a fantasy adventure story and not a romance. It’s not until the forthcoming third book that innocent flirting and subtle feelings blossom into fledgling romances, which then keep a stranglehold on the story through its last two books. But I hope Mira proves to be an admirable character for both men and women alike. That certainly would be a great accomplishment.
So to the young-adult and paranormal authors out there who are racking their brains trying to figure out how to get guys to look at their stories, my advice is to toughen up your heroines. She doesn’t have to be a rampaging, murderous machine, but she should have some fight in her, a goal that is more than simply to find a man. Guys don’t want a girl who follows. We’d much rather someone who stands equal by our side.
I’d like to close with a huge thank you to Lisa for giving me this space! I’m very pleased to make an appearance and hold a giveaway on “A Life Bound by Books” (great alliterative blog name!), and I’m very grateful for her support. Thank you all very much for reading!
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Title: Powerless Book 3: The Stasis
Released on December 1st, 2010
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