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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Young POV character in an Adult Story

   
Author Topic: Young POV character in an Adult Story
Crystal Stevens
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I know it's been done. Ender's Game is probably an excellent example, and maybe I'm barking up the wrong tree, but what does it take to tell a story meant for adults through an adolescent POV and not make it sound like young adult fiction instead of on a more mature level? I don't think my story will come through as strong through the eyes of an adult, though I could do it that way. But I'd like this story to be for a more mature audience. And, no, there's nothing X-rated about this story in the way of sex or violence.

Any suggestions?

Also, this is just an idea I'm toying with and will be more of a character story than anything else.

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aspirit
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What do older adults care about? Their responsibilities to their spouses, children, or elderly parents. Work relationships. Health issues tied to getting older. Religion and the understanding that we all will die. Financial security.

Young adults might focus more on establishing independence, uncertain loves, school relationships, the understanding that other people will die, and learning about the value of money.

I think that as long as the issues in your book are relevant to adults, the age of the POV character doesn't matter.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Would you call TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD an adult book or a young adult book, Crystal?
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MAP
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To Kill a Mockingbird is the first story that came into my mind. It is very much told through the eyes of a child, but it touches on themes of racism and prejudice in a very adult way which wouldn't work for children who are the age of the protagonist.

Lord of the Flies is another example. The characters are all preteen boys, but the story deals with dark, mature issues that are very suited for adult adiences.

YA has a feel to it. It is written specifically to appeal to teens. Having a teen main character does not make a story YA, so my guess is that unless you are specifically targeting the YA audience, you are probably not writing YA novel.

The age of the character is not important. It is how the story is written, the voice, the themes, etc.

I say write the novel, and send it out to beta's to see what they think.

Good Luck!

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Wow, MAP, we cross-posted. Great minds, and all that. [Smile]
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genevive42
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quote:
YA has a feel to it. It is written specifically to appeal to teens. Having a teen main character does not make a story YA, so my guess is that unless you are specifically targeting the YA audience, you are probably not writing YA novel.

The age of the character is not important. It is how the story is written, the voice, the themes, etc.

But, if you have a teen character that's not a YA novel, will it be more difficult to market? And I mean both to the agents/editors and the public.

I have a book I'm considering where the character will start out a teenager, but by the time the story ends, and because of time dilation, she'll be in her early twenties. I don't want it to be one of those YA books that feels YA but I feel like I need to categorize it as such and just try to write a really smart YA sf novel. Can anyone come up with some contemporary genre titles where the character is a teenager and it's not considered YA?

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genevive42
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By the way, when I say 'smart YA', I mean something like Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan series. Yes, YA, but not pandering to it.
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MAP
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Genevive, I know a lot of high fantasy has teenage-ish protagonists and are found in the adult Sci-F section.

Just a couple off the top of my head, but I'm not know how recent they are though: The Green Rider series by Kristen Britain. The series starts when the MC is kicked out of school which seems to be equivalent to high school, and The Black Magician series by Trudi Canavan. I believe the MC is in her teens, and attends a magician school during the series. Of course all of these are second world fantasy.

I haven't read it, but doesn't Lovely Bones have a dead teenage protagonist? I believe that one isn't considered YA, is it? And what about My Sister's Keeper? I haven't read that one either, but it sounded like that novel had teenage protagonist, and I think it is shelved in the adult contemporary section.

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Meredith
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Also look at crossovers. Some things may have started YA, but been read extensively by both.
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Crystal Stevens
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Thank you for all the marvelous replies. I never thought about "To Kill a Mockingbird". What a great example... except it really wouldn't work with the story I have in mind. Scout was experiencing something important in TKAM, but she wasn't in the story's core. She was on the outside looking in... an observer to the story's real issues. In my story, the young alien protagonist/POV character IS the story. Big difference. But at least I know it's been done and might possibly work.

BTW: This is a short story and not a book.

Thanks again. You folks have been great!

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MattLeo
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Adult-oriented novels with young protagonists have been quite common, all the way back to *Oliver Twist* and probably earlier. There's *To Kill a Mockingbird* of course, and that one by Henry James I can't quite recall the name of at the moment.

A child or young person is an interesting POV character because he questions what adults accept, yet accepts things adults question. A child doesn't question the justice of his being poor while someone else is rich. An adult wouldn't question why he can't play on the rich guy's property but a child would find it absurd. You can calibrate this difference in point of view by selecting an age; at the right age a teenager questions *everything*.

I think separates child-reader fiction from adult-reader fiction with child protagonists it would be making use of the difference between children and adults as to what they accept without question. By the time you are an adult you are conditioned to act as if applying the labels "poor" or "private property" to something or someone actually changes things, which makes a young protagonist the ideal vehicle for calling those labels into question. *Huckleberry Finn* examines the question of whether a person can be private property. Huck accepts that Jim is a slave, but he hasn't papered over the inconsistencies between how you're supposed to treat other people and how you're supposed to treat other people's property. He's at the mid-point between two difference forms of age-related moral incompetence: being too young to understand and being too old to disobey authority.

A book for young people used to have nothing but salubrious moral lessons and reassuring messages about the state of the world. If a book was disturbing or raised serious doubts about the state of the world, it was not for kids. In *Ender's Game*, Ender, er, ends up as damaged goods. If you could definitively rule out *Ender's Game* as child literature, that would be the reason why (apart from violence). In *To Kill a Mockingbird*, Jem and Scout get a hard lesson about adult hypocrisy, along with reassuring lessons about tolerating people who are different from them, but that admixture of cynicism about the adult world makes it an adult novel.

Maybe.

It's not so simple these days, because of *The Hunger Games* and the subsequent fashion for "edgy", dystopic YA novels. I can't point to anything that definitively puts *The Hunger Games* in "YA, Dystopia" rather than "Science Fiction" that wouldn't apply equally to *Ender's Game*, although it has been many years since I've read *Ender's Game*.

Anyhow, IIRC the market segment for YA novels extends to twenty year olds and a bit. That means that any kind of "bright line" test for YA is bound to fail.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
Originally posted by MAP:
I haven't read it, but doesn't Lovely Bones have a dead teenage protagonist? I believe that one isn't considered YA, is it? And what about My Sister's Keeper? I haven't read that one either, but it sounded like that novel had teenage protagonist, and I think it is shelved in the adult contemporary section.

I've read both of these books, and I think they could both be considered suitable for older teenagers (AP English students, at least), but not for your typical YA readers.

MattLeo, were you thinking of James' TURN OF THE SCREW? Protagonist in that was the governess, not the children.

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Crystal Stevens
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I've pretty much given up on this idea... and not because of anything said here. It's become one of those stories that start out fairly well and ends up going nowhere. I'll just have to file it away until I come up with a better idea as to where I'm going with it.

But don't let this stop the discussion. Lot's of good advice and learning to be done from what I've seen so far. So fire away. I'm getting quite an education on this subject, and I bet others are too [Smile] .

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