Thursday, March 10, 2005

Writing For Young Adults Versus Adults

By Laura Ruby
Reproduced from an online message board with permission.

Word count, language choice, or age of protagonist is what separates YA from adult (and of course there's some blurring — The Curious Incident of the Dog in Nighttime, Like the Red Panda, A Northern Light, even Ann Brashares' books to a certain extent).

What separates an adult novel from a YA is perspective. Teens, even smart, sophisticated teens, have that weird teen tunnel vision. Everything is new to them. Impulse control is faulty. They can't reason out probable consequences to their actions. They might love their parents but don't like to think of themselves as being "parented."

Because of these things, fiction written with a teen audience in mind is often more immediate. Adults are usually relegated to the background, and even if they're not, they're almost never given a POV of their own; everything is filtered through the teens' limited perspective.

In adult fiction, even if it has a child or a teen narrator, usually employs a retrospective voice, a sense that the story is being told after the fact. (This is easier if you're using past tense or 3rd person, but it can be done with present tense 1st person as well). Or, as in the case of Curious Incident, the troubled teen narrator himself can't put all the pieces of the story together, but the characters around him do that for the reader, giving us a larger picture of the world than the narrator is able to.

And then there's the adults. In YA fiction, they sort of pop in and out, dancing around the edges of the story. In adult fiction, you can give them more room. What they have to say is more interesting.

Note: Laura Ruby writes for children, teenagers, and adults. She is the author of Lily's Ghost (Harper, 2003), a 2004 Edgar Award Nominee, 2003 Parent's Choice silver medalist, and one of the Chicago Public Library's Best of the Best. She also has several additional projects under contract.

Cynsational Links

Teacher's Guides and Activities for Children's Books from author Hope Vestergaard. Top-notch guides to books by such authors as Lisa Wheeler, Shutta Crum, Carolyn Crimi, and more! Highly recommended to teachers, parents, reading groups, and authors/publishers looking for someone to design a guide for them!

Publishers Release U.S. and British Cover Art for Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince from Wizard News. Compare and contrast the American edition by Mary GrandPre, the British children's edition by Jason Cockcroft, and the British adult edition, which featuers a photograph by Michael Wildsmith. Learn about plans for the $60 Scholastic special edition. Note: Mary also illustrated The Sea Chest by Toni Buzzeo (Dial, 2002).

Young Writer Tips: What Goes Into A Young Writer's Idea File? from author Marianne Mitchell. Marianne is the author of several books for young readers, including Firebug, a middle grade mystery set in Sedona (see teacher guide); Finding Zola, another one set near Tucson (see teacher guide), and, for younger readers, Gullywasher Gulch (see teacher guide), among others. Her publishers include Boyds Mills and Henry Holt.

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