Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wicked Wednesday - adult vs. young adult

I write paranormal romances for adults. I sometimes read YA books, but most of the time, I don't relate to the teen voices. I didn't relate to them even when I was a teen. I just have a different mindset. There have been YA books that I've loved. Yet there have also been adult books I've read that should have been YA with the immaturity of the protagonist.

It's vital to know your audience. YA books are geared toward 12 to 18 year olds, and the protagonists in the books are typically between 16 and 24. Just because you're writing about someone in their early twenties doesn't automatically make the book an adult one. Sometimes adult books have young protagonists too, but the difference between the two is important to recognize.

Both YA and adult paranormal romances:
Supernatural elements. (Obvious!)
A conflict that might require the protagonist to save the world or a piece of it.
Growth in character. (The protagonist has to learn from her mistakes and become better for it.)
A romance central to the plot.

YA paranormal romances:
They're typically written in first person. (Teen readers like to get inside the protagonist's head. The world of a teen is all-consuming for them. They are the central characters.)
Though the central conflict might be to save the world, the secondary conflicts revolve around school, popularity/fitting in, pop culture, friends, and family. (Typical teen day-to-day dramas.)
They usually involve the "coming of age" story. (The protagonist doesn't have a solid identity at the beginning of the book and learns who she is. Most of the conflicts are internal.)
Romance is most often awkward and embarrassing as they fumble through the motions, and just a kiss can be a major event. (YA romance does not need to end in sexual gratification and typically does not.)

Adult paranormal romances:
They're typically written in the third person. (Adult readers tend to like a wider view of the world.)
The secondary conflicts revolve around work, finances, politics, friends, relationships, and stuff from the past coming back to haunt them. (The protagonists have a better idea of who they are and thus their identities are more inflexible. More of the conflicts are external.)
Romance covers all types. (The protagonists can be inexperienced or very experienced. Yet usually her love interest is experienced. Adult romance does not have to end in sexual gratification, but it typically does.)

What other elements are key to YA paranormal romances? To adult paranormal romances?

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25 comments:

  1. Well, first I'd say that if you really want solid YA, your protag usually won't be older than 17. Really. I've been doing revisions for one of my books and the editor was concerned that the male MC had "just turned nineteen." Every once in awhile, you see a book or series that defies that--particularly with the male MC (Vampire Academy, for example), but not with the female MC who is the POV character. If you write characters in their early 20s, that's definitely not YA.

    I definitely agree about those differences between adult and YA romances! I guess I'd add one more, in that adult romances almost always include both the male and female pov, not just one of them. There are exceptions (the Night Huntress series, for example), but most skip back and forth between both. Some YA books do that as well, but it's usually between two first person povs, as you mentioned. Great post!

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    1. I like your addition about the male and female POV's for adult romances. I've been noticing a lot more of them lately.

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  2. I never understood the designation of YA for The Hunger Games.
    The young voice isn't there for me.

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    1. I think that's one of the reasons I loved The Hunger Games so much. Katniss' voice wasn't the stereotypical YA voice. I adored her!

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  3. Young adults are funny creatures (says the woman who teaches 9- to 14-year-olds in the summer). They like to think a big spotlight is shining on them all the time. And half the time they want that, and half the time they hate it. But, as you point out, that's a reason why their books are typically first person. It's that sense of being the central character in their own life's movie.

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    1. I don't think I'll ever understand the typical teenager. I don't want to even imagine what it's going to be like when my son hits that age! And to think, you'll have three teens in your house in a decade or so.

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  4. This post was very helpful to me! I double checked all the bullet points to make sure I was writing a YA, and I think I am. Phew! :)

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    1. I'm glad it was helpful. Oh, I'm almost done Tundra 37. This is my favorite story you've written yet!

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  5. I agree with Sarah that you're pushing YA if your protag is out of high school. Most seem to like protags between 15-17, I've found. Then you reach that murky "new adult" category that they're trying to create. Of course, a "teen" voice really does help with YA, even if the characters are a little bit older, as well as the coming of age storyline.

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    1. Ah yes, that new adult category. I think sometimes the new genre designations can get confusing for some people!

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  6. Ah, nice explanations. Now I see why I can't write a YA. Somehow, no matter the age of the characters, it always reads like adult fiction.

    Romances also need a HEA or HFN. At least, so says the publishers, it's not enough for romance to be the plot, there must be a happy ending.

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    1. Thank you. I've tried to write teens, but they sound like adults too. Oh yes, the HEA or HFN point is important. I think the HFN fits more for YA as you don't expect to find your one true love in high school. The HEA rule is more strict with adult.

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  7. Aha, first person always struck me as a Young Adult thing, now I know that it is. ;) I also mostly tend to stick with adult, and I prefer writing in third person so it's awesome to know it's right for my market. Very interesting to see the two genres compared point by point - thanks!

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    1. You're welcome. I prefer third person myself. As you said, it lets us know we're in the right market!

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    1. Thanks! Eek! I've been tagged and I thought I was running so fast.

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  9. I don't read or write in that genre, so can't offer a real opinion. I do know I prefer third person.

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    1. In any genre, I prefer the third person. Usually third person single POV.

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  10. Pretty good analysis... agree with all of it:)

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  11. I've been struggling with this question for some time now, Christine! My MC begins the series at 18. It is a coming of age, but will span several years. It's third person, multiple POVs and will most certainly involve sexual gratification... if I have anything to do with it. *g*

    So, I guess I now know where I stand. Or at least am lurking! Thanks!

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