Writing for teens

Of all the ages to write for, I think teens would be my least favorite, and I have no desire to try it.

Module nine of my writing course focused on books for teens, and it solidified my mindset that I would not make a good teen writer. It’s not because I’m afraid of the challenge of writing something to capture the angsty, hormonal mind, it’s that reading even just the synopses of the books chosen as examples, I know how most of them end, never having read a single one. Teen books are glorified Hallmark stories– predictable, fitting neatly into a box. Things have to end right. At least with children, you have the imagination factor, they will go with you on a journey that is unreal. For teens, though, you have to curb the extravagance and still end the story the way they would want it to.

This module spent a lot of time talking about various genres in teen books: horror, romance, adventure and mysteries. It didn’t include much of anything new, just the same old tips; don’t use specifics for technology or music and thereby date your story, be aware of how the target audience perceives the world so you can write convincingly from their viewpoint, don’t stray from the standard rules and accepted norms of how things are (i.e., vampires have fangs and drink blood, ghosts cause a chill in the room, werewolves turn on the full moon).

The authors of the course make it seem that teens, even more, perhaps, than children, want books that end in a way the expect and want. And for me, that’s no fun to read, much less write. And the last few teen books I’ve read (few and far between, I’ll admit) suggest that this isn’t just my perception, this is how the market really is. Not that everything is predictable, but much of it is, or in the least appears to be, which is a turnoff.

For me, I’m not sure I could write a convincing piece, at least not something I would be pleased with. But I’m OK with that, because teens were not my target to begin with. I like the flexibility and freedom of imagination, and, let’s be honest, most teens are going through the phase where they aren’t in to imagination. They want to seem grown up and mature, and our culture suggests that maturity is synonymous with unimaginative (unless you’re problem solving in the professional world, then maybe it’s OK). But, perhaps that is something to change, a challenge to tackle, showing that getting lost in a good story, no matter how unrealistic, isn’t childish or something to be ashamed of. It’s an escape, just like so many other things we do. And sometimes it’s fun to try something new.

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