Ages of main characters in YA novels

The writing process, writing advice, and updates on your work in progress
User avatar
Posts: 37
Joined: June 13th, 2011, 8:03 pm
Location: Ontario, Canada

Re: Ages of main characters in YA novels

Post by GKJeyasingham » June 14th, 2011, 9:21 pm

Thanks polymath & maybegenius! Makes sense. And my protagonist does have foster parents, so I guess I'm not as off-track as I thought I was. :P

Posts: 76
Joined: April 5th, 2011, 7:22 pm

Re: Ages of main characters in YA novels

Post by Chantelle.S. » June 14th, 2011, 10:29 pm

saraflower wrote:Maybe this will sound silly. I was wondering, does the main character need to be under 18 for a book to be YA? I always thought so, but I was wondering if there is some kind of guideline on what would make the story YA. For example, the content could be written for teens, but some of the characters might be slightly older than them (i.e. Early 20`s). Would it work?
I think it would. Mainstream YA authors stick to the under 18's because their target audience will be able to empathise and connect with the main characters better. I don't think it's set in stone, though. I wrote a short story featuring main characters above the age of 30. The feedback I got was that it smacked of a typical young adult fantasy story. The reader obviously wasn't very impressed and meant it as 'negative' feedback, but since I was specifically writing with YA in mind, I hit the bulls-eye right on.
It can be done and it can work, if you want to break away from the stereotype YA books. With that said, it still brings around a new set of challenges, like keeping the adult main characters within the bounds of YA borders.
"Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s." -Stephen King

Louise Curtis
Posts: 88
Joined: September 24th, 2010, 7:48 pm
Location: Canberra, Australia

Re: Ages of main characters in YA novels

Post by Louise Curtis » June 15th, 2011, 6:38 pm

There *IS* an abundantly clear rule for any books targeted at non-adults: the main character's age should be a couple of years older than the target audience.

Pick a random number between one and twenty - 12? Okay.

To a 12-year old, 14-year old activities are aspirational. 11-year old activities are dumb. Therefore, the 12-year old wants to read about a 14-year old, but will likely shun an 11-year old main character.

Find someone who you think is the perfect age for your book, and test it on them: "Would you rather read about a X-year old hero or a Y-year old hero?" Kids and YA are ALL ABOUT growing up and getting just a little bit more independence.

So sure, you can break the rule if you like - but this is one rule that really makes sense.

Rules ARE for breaking, but only by either morons (who don't know better) or experts (who know how).
Louise Curtis
Twitter Tales @Louise_Curtis_
Writing Tips, Steampunk, Baby Talk, and Daily Awesomeness

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 4 guests