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."


Keri Mikulski said...

Another interesting post. I like the way the speaker categorized both MG and YA. It makes the distinction really clear. Thanks again for sharing. :)

Unknown said...

No prob! It was really fascinating, and I'm happy to share :)