My main audience is children and young adults, at least they have been for the last three or so novels I’ve written. I like writing about children and teenagers going on radical adventures, having to grow up through extraordinary circumstances.
In these stories, sometimes even the rottenest youngster can be redeemed, because they have not yet reached that moment in their development where they cannot be swayed from the side of the heroes to that of the villains, or vice versa. This also makes an author’s job easier when giving a child motivation, they are naive and innocent, also readers tend to sympathize with the characters even more greatly and that allows us to invest in the character’s journey.
Plus, within a novel meant for younger readers, an author can get away with so much more when world building. Younger readers are able to suspend belief easier than adults. They don’t ask why or how a dragon can breathe fire. Dragons breath fire, it’s what dragons do and so they don’t question the ability the large lizards have. Gods can walk on the streets in the contemporary world. Animals can talk and be guides in a dangerous and confusing world. Children are the heroes, accomplishing tasks most adults lack the courage and conviction to take on, growing up among the toughest of circumstances. Don’t get me wrong, elements have to make sense and tie together. That cannot be forgotten. There seems to be less restrictions on the imagination when writing these stories because a child and/or teen has no problem letting go of the real world for a little while. Complexity can remain, though convoluted elements are avoid.
Most aspects of the novel are simplified to highlight the characters and plot. Authors writing to this specific audience don’t try to trick the readers, though of course there are plenty of twists and turns, double means, and genuine surprises in store. All of which make for fantastic fan debates on forums and in classrooms. However, the story is easy to follow and the characters are relatable, true and likable.
To be honest, these novels are like candy, easy to gobble up. Some adult fiction is becoming like that as well (though epic fantasy remains large and complex in scale and execution). While theme and style are subverted in favor of the elements I just mentioned, they are by no means absent.
Above all, young adult fiction and children fiction tell stories focused on growing up and the struggles of children and teens during those tentative years. The trials and tribulations. The discovery and heartache of learning and becoming men and women. That age group relates to those stories, they deal with those issues and problems, just not in a fantasy/fictional world. Those of us old dinosaurs (and no, I’m not old per say but I’m not a kid anymore either) remember those experiences, what it was like growing up and wanting to live those adventures but not realizing how true the affairs related to our lives outside the pages. Reading the stories is like taking a dunk in the fortune of youth, with each page flip we adults become a little younger.
Orson Scott Card wrote something profound: “Unlike Pokemon or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Harry Potter movement is reader-driven. Kids who thought they hated to read because they had hated everything anybody tried to make them read in school suddenly became avid readers of big thick books that were extraordinarily demanding, not just in vocabulary and syntax and culture, but in moral reasoning and character development.
Harry Potter is making a generation of children smarter and better.”
He went on to say: “…one can make a good case for the idea that children are often the guardians of the truly great literature of the world, for in their love of story and unconcern for stylistic fads and literary tricks, children unerringly gravitate toward truth and power.
That’s why great literature often “trickles down” to children where it becomes beloved and endures. One thinks of Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, J.R.R. Tolkien, Margaret Mitchell, Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert, and many other writers whose books were written for adults but have become the favorites ofgenerations of younger readers.”
I read as well as write young adult and children fiction. Not because I want to know what other authors in my genre are writing, though that is one reason. No, because I enjoy reading these books as much as I enjoy “Song of Ice and Fire”, “The Dresden Files”, “The Kingkiller Chonicles”, “The Mistborn Series”, just to name some more popular examples out in stores today. I love the stories and the characters. They are fun to read and have some of the best, most honest characters. When I write these characters, I feel a little of my childhood and adolescence remembered in vivid detail, except with less magic and space ships thrown in (of course).
Give young adult and children’s literature a shot.
If you want to read more of Orson Scott Card’s thoughts, and I would recommend doing so, the man knows his stuff and is legit, visit Uncle Orson’s site by clicking here.
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