March 25, 2015
Since I just wrote the post on the completion of Kings or Pawns last week, I thought today I would talk about audience (not for KoP, but for all writers in general). The topic came up recently on reddit when we were discussing what readers dislike in books and I thought I would expand on this topic (as it is one of the ones I feel most strongly about).
I would LOVE your thoughts on this matter as well, so feel free to tweet me or facebook me!
Anyways, to the matter at hand:
You have probably seen it often enough: the book with characters or content that was edited so as to not offend someone in the audience. Most often, this is done in the YA genre. (And it is one reason why I generally avoid YA novels.)
Unfortunately, what I am saying should be straightforward: and yet I see authors doing this anyways:
When the story could/should be adult but it's sugar-coated to make it readable by YA, the author is choosing the audience before the story. IF this is being done--adult content forced into YA content, DO NOT tell the parties interested in reading your novel "any age!" Know your audience. I cannot lament enough how many times I have asked a fellow writer, "What's the age of your audience?" and they reply "All ages!" No. That's not true. Your audience is either adult or it is YA. Some adults may choose to read your YA and like it, but you clearly wrote for YA. And if you wrote adult, some YA may still read your novel and like it, but you wrote for adults.
Example: Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimaeus series. This is a FANTASTIC series that YA and adult people can love (my father is almost 60 and it’s his favorite book of all time), but the audience of the novel is YA.
The story should be written first--the audience will reveal itself to you when the story is complete: and you should understand who that audience is: do not hide your audience in order to make a sale.
I recently met an author whose content was clearly capable of being adult in some places and then horrendously dumbed down to make it YA appropriate in others--clearly an attempt to please too many parties. Sometimes, the content you WANT to write in a novel will not allow you make the novel for a certain audience. You must accept this or change the story: do not force the story a direction it really should not go. Otherwise, rather than achieving your “excellent story that [X] audience can enjoy,” you will have written a mismatched mess that any well-read reader or literary critic will pick up and burn.
And if they’re burning your book, we can’t recycle that waste of paper. No pressure, right?
One last thought: on to those aspiring writers who aren't sure if they want to allow their book to get into adult content:
That's not what you should be asking. Ask yourself: what is the story? Who are the characters?
They will tell you if the content is YA appropriate or adult.
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