Note to Readers: I’m fast approaching my 100th post, and searching for something special to mark the occasion. If anyone has anything they’d like to see me do, let me know in comments. And no, I will not dress up like a bumblebee and sing the Lumberjack Song on video, nor do you want to see me naked.
Why do we read certain things? What draws us to the type of material we read or write?
Stephen King, in the foreword to his story collection Night Shift, said that our brains have filters in them, and what catches in his filter might not be what gets hung up in that of another writer. He used the example of standing at the edge of a pond with a famous Western writer and both are struck with an idea. The Western writer’s might be about water rights in a dry season, while his would probably involve a creature in the pond carrying off animals and finally people.
I think this is true of readers too. Certain genres attract some and repel others. I enjoy horror fiction, but I know people who won’t touch it. And one of my friends in college was an avid romance reader. I’ve read maybe eight; I would reread three. Just not my thing.
Perhaps one of the most puzzling genres is crime fiction. I remember being flabbergasted several years ago to find out that it’s read by mostly women. And the more violent the better. Why is that? We know men like action, car chases and kicking ass in movies. Why do mostly women read crime fiction?
First, more women than men read, especially fiction. Why? The linked article by Eric Weiner gives some reasons, like girls being more verbal than boys, more in tune with emotions, etc. More nonfiction is read by men.
Then there’s me; I’m a horror fan who likes David Morrell, Michael Palmer and Preston/Child also. I read a ton of nonfiction. And yes, I was born (and happily remain) female.
I never liked the armchair cozy detective stories, the Jessica Fletcher amateur sleuth secret unraveling books. Films, television—same thing. I prefer the dark side. Good thing I’m not a Jedi, isn’t it? My first novel is a police procedural with high levels of sex and violence. I like this type of fiction because it’s escapist yet edgy. It’s as fun to write as it is to read. I don’t always like the happy ending.
Men are the primary perpetrators of violent crime, especially against women. I think female readers are drawn to these books because it’s a subject we think about. The perpetrator is caught, the CSI wraps things up nicely—not always the case in real life. As potential victims, it’s something we live with every day.
We’re also interested in people. My criminology classes in college had a large proportion of women in them. And women are pretty tough about gross things. We have to be; we’re the ones who clean up the poo, the blood and the puke at home, and break up the fights. Stands to reason that we can handle a little grue or violence from time to time.
Crime novels are also entertaining. Vicarious badness? Perhaps. I know in writing my book, I enjoyed thinking like a bank robber, how I would conceal myself and avoid getting caught. It was FUN.
Someone who reads romances is often stereotyped as a lonely spinster. The truth is most readers of this genre are in relationships. Are they happy ones? I don’t know. I like to think so; those with an open heart should be loved as they deserve. A romantic soul isn’t necessarily a bad thing to have.
Note: Men, if your lady is like that, you’re lucky. She’ll always look for the hero in you. Best appreciate that, or someone else will. Ladies, don’t dismiss his efforts, even if they’re clumsy. A regular guy trying to be romantic is better than a chiseled Fabio staring aloof into the distance. A man who will hold your head while you puke and still think you’re sexy (though not maybe at that particular moment) is worth his weight in platinum.
Regardless of your tastes, you should read or write what appeals to you. I wrote a book I wanted to write, the way I wanted to write it. If it never gets published, fine. Perhaps the next one will. If my Detective Pierce becomes a series character, maybe I can make him do things we all want to do to the bad people of the world. Or I can enjoy being them for a while.
What kind of books most appeal to you? Which ones bore you to tears? Please share in the comments.