So, recently I got to have dinner with some actual teens to learn more about their tastes in YA books & entertainment. Teen entertainment tastes will have significant bearing on the success of my writing. I only realized in the last few months that my books would be categorized as YA. Therefore, I need to know what teens are currently like.
Teens Like Short-Form Content
Skits, sound-bites, the internet—far more than long form stories. They weren’t watching movies or T.V. programs with episodic plot. Rather, they were watching shows with shorter and more humorous segments.
There are definitely still plenty of teen readers, many of whom even read long books. However, to increase the appeal of my novel to teens it may be necessary to examine my chapter length and do a hook insertion edit. Short, sweet, hooky—I can do that… I think.
Teens don’t Like Unremittingly “Angry” Books
I’d had my suspicions about this.
Common wisdom would be that the new emerging Grimdark genre would be perfect for teens. But, if they really are reading for escape, then wallowing in Grimdark pessimism and bleakness may not be the best fit. The new Noblebright fantasy sub-genre might be good. Or it might be too cheerful.
Honestly, perhaps the best option is a blend that’s been used less often of late—essentially cheery-grim. Works like The Adams Family, Black Butler, and Full Metal Alchemist all pulled off leavening a morbidly dark outlook with substantial injections of humor and interpersonal warmth. I’d had instincts that this might be the best path for my rather grim current book years ago. But I’d never gotten around to a humor and positivity insertion edit. Then, with the emergence and popularity of Grimdark I’d started second guessing my instincts to vary the emotional beats. But now my convictions are reaffirmed—I need to add light notes to my tone.
Humor should also add to the hookiness and the perceived speed of the read, so it should help there, too.
Teens Prefer Writers to be Engaging in Person
Final takeaway—my defense mechanism for speaking in public under my writer persona is going all Hermione and enthusing about writing topics—perhaps to the point of exuding a lecture flavor. This is not a good match for teens. I need to work on my interpersonal skills. Specifically, I need to bootstrap my other takeaways into my in-person interactions with them. Short sound-bites, lots of humor, engaging, hooky, and leave the wall of text about all-things-writing for talking to other writer friends.
Appealing to Teen Entertainment Tastes
I’m going to have to engage with more teens to keep dialing in what I’m writing to the readership I want to appeal to. Still, one evening gave me some very profound, possibly game-changing takeaways. Teen entertainment tastes may continue to morph over time, but I suspect the core principals will remain the same.
I appreciate the time of Jade & Diego, my teen sources. Plus, I want to thank their mother Jaime & aunt Lisa for arranging the get together for all of us so we could eat pizza and talk books.