Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Conference Notes: Alan Gratz on YA vs. MG, part 3: Know Your Audience

This is a continuation of my notes on Alan Gratz's workshop on YA vs. MG. Click the sidebar for part 1 or part 2.

Consider what your audience wants. It's too easy to write the book for you, the writer, but you have to consider what concerns your audience.

Middle Grade
  • Ages 8-12
  • Care about personal loss (loss of parents, home, pets. They see bigger loss, such as 9/11, but are disconnected from the bigger picture beyond their person)
  • Concerned about isolation and being alone
  • Bullying is a big theme
  • School issues is classic
  • Gender issues arise, but it's more along the lines of "girls, ew!" not sexual
Young Adult
  • Ages 12+
  • Body image becomes an issue (Gratz mentioned that he didn't comb his hair until he was 14—before then, it didn't matter)
  • Adulthood is a concern—questions about what comes next
  • Sex is an issue. Before now, the boys felt funny about girls, but by high school, it's not funny any more.
  • Drugs and alcohol do exist in this world. Your character or readers don't necessarily to do them, but they know it's there.
  • Relationships tend to be absolute (OMG! I will never love again!)
  • Religion becomes a question—no longer blind acceptance, but they begin to question their faith.

Now, these are general assumptions, and these issues do cross-over, but the important thing to think about is how the characters fit into these roles.

Gratz gave an example of divorce. A MG character would look at the divorce of his parents in an internal way: who's house will I live at, where will my stuff be, how will it affect me personally. A YA character would consider these issues, too, but he'd also question if there is such a thing as true love, wonder if dad is a bad person because he cheated, wonder if he loves one parent more than another.

As Gratz said, "Your story always needs to be about the kid. Find the child's story."
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