Friday, 20 November 2015

Why YA is Different From Adult

There are two obvious differences between writing YA and Adult.

1. YA is about teenagers
2. YA is primarily for teenagers.

Obvious, right? Hmm... maybe not. It would be if it was ONLY teenagers who read them. Adults have different expectations and I think that gets in the way for the readers and the writers. 

I may, of course, be talking right out my ass, but from experiences I've recently with reviews and comments, I believe the following to be true.

1 YA is about teenagers.

This means that the characters in the books are teens and not adults. This is important, because it seems to me that many adult readers expect the characters to act like adults, especially if there is romance involved.

These are questions that have arisen recently in reviews/comments etc

  • A seventeen year old was a spoiled brat and behaving immaturely - well d'uh
  • A sixteen year old wouldn't fall in love instantly and forever. Tell that to all the high school kids who swear to be together forever which roughly translates to - until I go to college and fall instantly in love with someone else. This is not always the case but no one is surprised when it is.
  • Would a  seventeen year old constantly think about sex without actually having it?
  • Would a sixteen year old do impulsive, bizarre or completely unexpected things?
  • Would a sixteen year old behave like a child one minute and an adult the next?
  • Would a sensible and stable sixteen year old be selfish and childish sometimes?
  • Would a sixteen year old abandon his home and family pretty much on the spur of the moment to save the life of his best friend
These questions and many more have been been asked or commented on and have frankly surprised me. 

Let's go back to the dog in a wig. That's my dog. It would be quite reasonable to query why an adult character would do such a stupid and bizarre thing, but a teenager...? I suppose you'd better ask my son, who is a few days off 15.

One of the great things about writing YA is that teenagers are unpredictable and break all the rules. They do stupid things on the spur of the moment without a second thought. They climb things, fall off things, break things and make things, build fires, run away from home, and all kinds of crazy things.

For example

Getting excited because his arm fits the window of the new car.

I don't think it's legitimate for adults to expect teenagers to act like adults or think like adults. What do you think?

How far would this go? How far would the explanation...he's a teenager, explain behaviours that would be unacceptable/unbelievable with adults?

Okay, let's move on to

2 YA is primarily for teenagers.

I believe that adults and teenagers want different things from their books. At a very simplistic and basic level :-

Adults want a finely crafted story, with plenty of emotion, good grammar, believable characters, believable plots etc etc.

Teens want action, preferably with explosions. They'll put up with romance if it's done right, but don't want any of the slushy stuff.

Okay, YA should be as well crafted and written as any adult book, and of course teens want depth in the character and story, but do they really want to see inside the character's head? Do they care if the comma's in the wrong place, or if there's head hopping going on when one of the characters is getting possessed by a demon, or fighting for their life in a running battle, or falling out of the sky because they haven't learned how to use their wings yet.

Bottom line. Teen books are written for people who carry their hamster in their pockets

I totally appreciate these are sweeping generalizations but it's something that's coming up time and time again in my writing and I would welcome other perspectives.

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