I’ve been dipping into other pools lately, and even though I still have no focused direction, I have lots of questions about what kids are reading now a days.
- who reads middle grade?
- who reads YA?
- What do kids want in a story?
- What makes a story compelling?
So, One at a time because I like how these questions have answers that also lead me into a deeper understanding of if this is something I want to do. Who would I be writing for? What is my target audience?
1. Who reads Middle Grade? Word on the street is that 8-13 year olds are reading middle grade. That’s the standard, so to speak. And I imagine they are!! But I also remember reading a lot as a kid. When I pick up a MG book and it is about an 1/8 – 1/4 of an inch thick, I stop imagining it. Avid readers, at this age, are well beyond this story… A 5th grader is 10 or 11, and even my own kids had started in on Harry Potter by then. Okay…
2. Who reads YA? This one is also broad, because we all know the twenty-something who loves YA. But technically, YAers are 14 – 20[ish]. I think the appeal of YA holds the readers into adulthood. [just an opinion, of course…maybe I need to do a poll!] I’ve never quite gotten into YA, so no matter what I discover about this genre, I can’t imagine writing it. However, is there an overlapping spot between MG and YA that I could squeeze a book into?
Overall, I feel like both of the labels are skewed and depend too much on the markets and namecallers to be valid. What do I mean by that? I mean people–kids, teens, young adults, and adults–are never going to be pigeonholed. So, what do we do? We balance between writing what we want to read and writing for the market. Selling the book is important if we want people to read it. And publishers want to know WHO is going to buy your book!!
3. What do kids want in a story? This one is tricky. I know what I want in a story. I know what I wanted when I was in 3rd grade and reading trixie belden mysteries, when I was in 6th grade and reading Agatha Christie…and in 10th grade and reading Michael Phillips. Part of me hopes that kids still want a riveting story, characters who bring depth, and emotions that jump out from the page and make us feel. And something fun. I found a blog post answering the question “Can my middle grade book have politics?” Besides the fact that the answer is YES, I would question, why? I’m bored already and I haven’t even read the book. The matter of a book should be so ingrained in it, we don’t see it until we’re done and we step back and go…wow. For me this is where Christian Fiction goes wrong. There are a few good Christian fiction authors who can put a story on the page without slapping me with the dos and don’ts. [hey, Beth…you’re rambling now!] Ooops.
4. What makes a story compelling? Nothing like asking a question that has a million answers!!! However, I’m going to wrap it up in one word, CONFLICT. Emotional, moral, relationship, external…no matter what you choose to highlight, there better be the idea that something better or worse is out there, waiting to ruin everything.