Okay, I’m turning out to be a huge Marvel movie geek. Yes, I’ve seen every Marvel movie in the franchise for the last 150 years. Yes, I’ve had the debate over who makes the best Hulk: Bill Bixby (of TV fame,) Edward Norton, or Mark Ruffalo. Sorry, Hulk Hogan wasn’t even in the running. (By the way, Ruffalo wins with Bixby a close second.) Yes, I DVR’d Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and couldn’t wait to view it.
I have another reason, however, for desiring to watch the most anticipated new fall premier, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I was so hoping it would erase every horrible memory of Heroes, the television series that freaked me out from 2006-2010. No, I didn’t watch all of the episodes. Even so, Zachary Quinto’s character, Sylar, often showed up in my nightmares with his X-Acto knife glare. Those nightmares stopped after he became Spock, much to my relief. I had great hopes that S.H.I.E.L.D would be the show I thought Heroes would be. With quippy lines and perfect puns, tongue-in-cheek references to super heroes and comic book action brought to life.
And it delivered.
Now, seven years after the Heroes debut, someone has listened to my whine. Thank you Joss Whedon, for creating a show for those of us who want to be entertained, not grossed out.
What does this have to do with the craft of writing? As popular as Heroes was, it missed a huge target market—the comic book fans. It created it’s own heroes and villains, and not one of them, in my opinion, were comic book worthy. Save the cheerleader? Seriously? (My apologies to the fans, but I’m sorry, I just didn’t get it.) S.H.I.E.L.D. opened to a 4.6 viewer rating, the highest debut show in nearly four years. True, Heroes opened in 2006 with the much higher rating of 6.09, but it steadily declined with each season, ending season four with a 2.27. I don’t think I was the only one disappointed.
When we write our stories, we must consider our target audience. I have written six sweet, safe romances for Barbour Publishing. I may have pushed against the cellophane wall a time or two, wanting to put a little more edge into my books, but I always knew that the Barbour audience wanted sweet, safe romances. So that’s what I gave them. However, my desire is to include more of life’s questions, hopefully with answers. I’m working on a fun mystery series with hopefully plenty of humor, but I plan to include some deep issues, as well. Hence my tag line, Spiritual Truth With A Giggle. This one will probably not be pitched to Barbour.
The take-away is this: Stay within your genre and know your target audience. Don’t put an abortion in a sweet prairie romance. Likewise, don’t make your edgy sci-fi something your grandmother would read, unless, of course, she’s into that sort of thing. Do your homework, and don’t fight your publisher when they say your story isn’t a good fit for them. They know who their market is.
I have high hopes that S.H.I.E.L.D. will stay tops in the ratings as long as it stays true to its genre. With a tagline of “Not all heroes are super,” I imagine it will highlight those in the support field of the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division (S.H.I.E.L.D.) But if they’re smart, they’ll remember their target audience and give them plenty of Marvel-ous wit, charm, and super heroes.