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Don’t talk down to younger readers

Don’t think that all children want to hear about is fluffy bunnies, naughty elves and lessons to be learned. Some do, of course, depending on their age, but what matters most is giving them a story they can believe in. And in order to do that, you need to remember what it was like to be young and then create a character who feels real, someone with whom your readers can empathise.

We all know that there’s no such thing as a ‘typical’ child reader, any more than there is a typical adult reader. The age categories are quite arbitrary. So when you are starting out as a writer for young people, don’t worry too much about this. But be aware of the approximate age and experience of your reader, because of its implications for the story’s style, language, content and format. A romance for eight year olds is unlikely to work for obvious reasons. That’s why it’s helpful to think what you were like at that age, what you were interested in, thinking about, experiencing, and talking about. The most important thing is remembering that young people are often experiencing things and thinking philosophically about things for the first time, so above all there needs to be a willingness to engage with that and remember what that was like to be at that stage of your life, on the brink of self-discovery.

Young people are an open, questioning and discerning readership, so don’t ever think that writing for them is an easy option. If your story involves a young lead character then the reader can experience emotions and situations through this character, and is able to see how these problems/situations are resolved. Reading about issues that adolescents can relate to allows them to identify with a particular character, and creates a sense of security when experiencing something that is going on within their lives.

But not everything has to be issue based – it is important to remember that teenagers are no different from anyone else – they enjoy a range of genres and, above all, a good story.

Find a character with whom they can identify and soon you’ll be on your way…

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