A fog of hot breath hangs over a forest of abs and lustfully gazing heroines. The calls of squeeing fangirls echo in the gloaming like the sounds of primates on the hunt. There, in the darkness just beyond the bustle, a pair of gleaming and curious eyes survey the landscape.
He's a creature of myth, barely more than a shadow himself. He'd surely never be bold enough to step into that world. What could he contribute? What would others think? Emboldened by his bravery, would more come forth as well?
He contemplates slipping away unnoticed ... but it sure looks like they're having a hell of a lot of fun out there.
Okay, so that might be a slight dramatization of what it felt like when I first got into New Adult. But I did feel a little like Bigfoot at prom––wearing stilettos, crawly underwear, and a strapless dress.
Which is to say it was a touch awkward for me.
NA still has a reputation of being a very sex-driven, female-centered category of fiction. Multiply that by ten and you'll get the idea of what it was like nearly three years ago. Things have definitely diversified for the better.
And I don't say "for the better" because I don't like to read about sex, or that I can't enjoy stories geared toward (and written by) women.
How many other guys do you know who've read The Mermaid Chair and all of the Twilight books (even Bella's half-a-book-long boyfriend depression) with a mostly straight face?
In fact, many male readers I know don't mind a little love and heat in their fiction, and a lot of us find the female POV refreshing. (And dare I say, educational.) However, nobody likes a one-trick pony unless it's your pony.
I'm a cheerleader of New Adult first, a selective reader second. As such, I'm willing to overlook my preferred genres if it means having variety in my favorite category. Diversity in content, theme, readers, and authors is what's going to give NA its staying power.
(Sorry, dudes, we can't rely on those little blue pills in this realm.)
Today, I'm here to verify that not only do male readers (and authors) exist in New Adult, but there are more of us out here than you might think. I'm also willing to wager a good deal more are watching, and simply waiting for the right book, genre, or author to come along before they jump in.
Why wouldn't men want to read stories about discovering and embracing adulthood? We do it, too. (Most of us anyway... yes, there are lapses. But hey, we all regress from time to time, right?)
I went to college (insert Napoleon Dynamite joke about my mother here) and those were some of the best years of my life. More than a few of those great memories make their way into my New Adult stories.
When I read a New Adult book, and a character makes a bad decision involving alcohol or meets the person who forever changes their life, I smile and nod because I did those things at their age, too.
Young Adult (YA) fiction is fun for me in a similar way, but the older I get, the less I relate to some of those things. At 37, few of the experiences and choices I made in high school still have a direct impact on my life.
My New Adult/college years, on the other hand––well, let's just say I wake up next to her most days and I'm an independent adult because of the things I did then.
All of which is to say, NA matters to guys, too. Lots. Moreover, a few of us are stepping up to say so.
We recently did a New Adult Lit Chat guys night where we visited with four male authors who write and read NA. (Michael Simko, DA Botta, Chris Fox, and me––hosted by LK Lewis.) It was a fun, informative, and mostly on-color discussion about what we like, what we relate to, and what we think about male orgasm descriptions in romance novels. (That last one might have been my fault...)
You can listen to the conversation here:
So what are we to make of this? Is NA going to be a boys club in five years? Not likely. Similar to our YA cousin, so long as NA is primarily focused on navigating a tricky life stage and handling all the emotions that come with, getting males to buy in won't be an easy task.
However, also like YA, we've got lots of room to grow and plenty of reasons to do so. (See my comments about diversity above.)
In closing, I wanted to share a few quick ways to write a story, in any genre, that will keep the male reader's attention:
- Write your male characters with male readers in mind––even if you don't anticipate them being your primary audience. What would your husband, boyfriend, or brother think about your male characters? Would they be friends with them? Would they speak like them?
- Enlist male beta readers and specifically ask them to give you feedback on the men in your stories.
- Men tend to be action/activity-minded in general, so have your male characters physically doing something in a scene whenever possible. Unless it's plot-crucial, save long exposition, conversations, and descriptions for when the boys are off-scene.
- Don't be afraid to raise a little hell and have a little fun. No, most guys do not speak in single syllable words. Even when we're playing with other men and the ladies aren't around, we can be fairly articulate and colorful. However, most guys I know DO enjoy getting silly and rowdy on occasion.
(In spite of what romance novel and TV ratios tell us, the fun-loving guy to brooding/jerk guy ratio in real life is about 1k/1.)
So at the very least, have your heroine find him passed out in the yard in his underwear after bowling night, or still playing video games with his friends online at 4 AM. :-)
- Lastly, always consider context. Just like the ladies, guys are not identical. We do not all speak and act alike no matter what your firsthand experiences might lead you to believe. If your leading dude works construction, he's going to have a very different vocabulary and life perspective than if he were an english lit major at an Ivy League school. Variety is the spice of good fiction, use it liberally when it comes to guys, too.
What about you? Do you have male readers? Gotten any feedback from guys who've read your stuff? Have you noticed more guys getting into YA and NA fiction?
Let me know in the comments!