Daily Archives: September 9, 2010

What comes first the MC’s age or the Genre?

Lately, I’ve been discussing age with a lot of my writing buddies.  Not theirs or mine.  Heaven knows we don’t want to start a wrinkle comparison or a gray hair contest.  Rather, the question of matching an MC’s age to his/her genre has been a hot topic with a huge question mark at the end.

Writers want to know who is reading what about whom.  It seems like the answer should be obvious, but it’s really convoluted and nuanced when you get right down to it.

One of my writer buddies wrote an entire ADULT novel only to learn that it really was middle grade.  Another penned a fun and spunky picture book–that really needed to be a chapter book. 

Stories like this are not isolated events.  When a beginning novelist sets out to writer their first major manuscript, we know NOTHING about the biz.  We simply write the story we hear in our heads with the characters who are clamoring to get out of our heads.  We pay little attention to how these masterpieces will actually fit on the bookshelf.

Yet, genre is one of the most important aspects of marketing our wares.  Agents want a neat little package they can sell to publishers who can then pimp our fiction to book stores across the country.  All this means is that our manuscripts must ultimately fit on the bookshelf in a place where our audience can find them.

When we try to pawn off our chapter book to adult only agents, the answer will invariably be the splosh of our manuscript hitting the bottom of the wastebasket.

Think middle graders want to read about bunnies having a fight with their mommies?  Think again.  Middle school students rarely read middle grade, let alone picture books.

Nope, these ‘tweens are more concerned about what’s happening in the hallways of your make believe world.  Their thoughts are to the future–jock talk and pep fests,  not warm squishy comforts of  yesterday.

How do you determine the age of your MC and the type of book you will write?  Have you ever written your MC into the wrong manuscript?  If so, how do you remedy the problem: by pumping up your MC’s age or by toning down your story line and language?

Have you ever written a book where the MC’s age cannot be changed without ruining the entire storyline?  Did you trash it or try to salvage something from the wreckage?

Age-muddled minds want to know!