Friday, May 14, 2010

What (Teen) Readers Want

Since my writing efforts are focused in the Young Adult area, I'm lucky to have ready access to my target audience.  In fact, I think I spend more hours conversing with teens than adults.  Some will read anything you put in front of them.  Others will tell you over and over how much they hate reading, but once in a while a book engrosses them to the "can't-put-it-down-even-for-my-favorite-class" level.

I've had a few conversations with my students lately about books we'd all read, and what they did or didn't like about them.  After that, I asked them to describe what makes a book "good."  Some interesting responses so far, and I'll add more as I collect them.

From a sophomore girl:
DETAILS!  [And after further prompting...] Of characters and settings.
I love that she wants details from authors, but is reluctant to give many herself.

From a junior girl:
I am tired of the dumb chick, the unexplained dude.  I think it should cover all types - romance, action, funny, and scary - in some way.  I also think it should always keep me guessing!
 I had an entire lunchtime conversation with that girl about the "dumb chick" issue - or Stupid-Girl Syndrome.  She could have gone on, and so could I, but I'll refrain for now.

From another sophomore girl, an aspiring writer (can you tell?):
I don't really know how to answer, but in my opinion, a good book must have a conflict, complex characters, and a well organized plot.  Characters can't not have a personality; readers have to be drawn in by their personalities, good or bad.  A well organized plot is necessary - you don't want to confuse people. If you don't have a conflict, it will be a never-ending story, droning on and on.  The idea has to be original, too - who wants to read a story that has already been told before?
I'll be sure to tell her Composition teacher she's been paying attention in class. *grin*

More to come, especially some guy perspectives.  Anyone else out there have info on what teens are looking for in a good read?


Marion said...

Good post. As usual the kids are way ahead of the adults and know what they want. The publishers should listen.

R.C. Lewis said...

Agreed. I've tried to explain to my students the complexity and difficulty of getting published. The conversation always makes me laugh:

Student: "No, you WILL get published, I know it."

Me: "Why?"

Student: "Because it's different, something new, not like other books."

(Yes, my book is vampire-less. And werewolf-less. And angel-less.)

We'll see if they're right. If no one bites, I'm not afraid to self-publish.

Marion said...

I would also think that you're book would have a built in market -- deaf and hard hearing teens (and their siblings). It may not be enormous, but it's bigger than some books. In your shoes, if I were going to self market, I'd go directly to English teachers at deaf schools. If not for a class, certainly for classroom libraries for independent reading. (But you are probably on top of that and mentioning the angle in your queries.

Gail Jackson said...

Interesting to hear what the target audience has to say. No vamps, werewolves or angels in mine either, thought there are other varieties of nasty things!