I read young adult fiction, almost exclusively. I write young adult fiction, occasionally. I write gay erotica, slightly more often. And I write adult fiction when I have to.
We have become a society of people with short attention spans. The Internet, social media and news tickers feeding constant streams of information into our brains are most-likely the culprit. Because of this, we do not have the same patience, or feeling of time available, to sit and read long, drawn out books that build worlds so completely we know their laws and politics better than our own. Young adult fiction elevates the pressure of finding time to read a well-written, well-told story.
Young adult fiction might sound off-putting. Young adult is the sneaky way publishers categorize their books about teens these days. So I understand if you have adverse reactions. Being a teen is something you left behind long ago, and you really do not want to relive those days again. Shudder. Welcome to the new and improved Young Adult genre.
You might think that teen novels are all about finding your one true love or being asked to choose between two true loves or having your true love break your heart. Do not mistake the overhyped Twilight stigma for every young adult book ever written. Even well past the teen years we are still trying to figure out who we really are. You might know who you are as your career marker: banker, doctor, lawyer, barista. But do you know how you fit into this world beyond that? That is what most YA books on shelves these days give us. A look at a person trying to find their footing in a world they do not understand. In the books I read, finding yourself comes in the form of supernatural beings, post-apocalyptic dystopia or on far off planets. The difference between adult stories in these same categories is that the points the books are trying to make are succinct and fed to you in a way that neither insults your intelligence or wastes your time. That is not a knock against any adult books, or your ability to spend the time reading them.
My writing reflects this same attitude, sometimes even when I am writing for adults. This can be problematic. Especially when I am writing erotica. I try to write for a broad audience even when I know that a broad audience is not going to read what I am writing. So when I am talking about a couple of guys who meet and fall in love, I will describe their meeting, their encounters both sexual and not, and their environment, but I will not describe the people specifically. Most times I do not even tell you their age. I want you to be able to put yourself in the place of those who I am writing about. So who am I to tell you what you think is good-looking, or aged to your tastes? Some find this difficult, they want to know what they guys look like, how they smell, if they’re tall, short, dark, light…but if I said that my main character was blonde haired, blue-eyed, 6’1 and muscular and you like brunettes who have a little pudge on them, I’ve just alienated you in a way I didn’t intend on. So I stay generic, so that you can insert your own fantasy man into that scenario and have it still work, I hope.
The other problem with that is, all my stories come out looking more like short stories or novellas rather than long form novels. That is why my 50,000 word NaNoWriMo challenge is so, challenging. Nobody cares that the sky was blue, the grass was green and the trees were blowing in the wind. What happened there? Demons broke out of hell. How? Wards preventing them from entering our world were destroyed. What else do you need to know? The consequences, the reasons, yes. I got that. Do you really need to know how they smell? (Yeah I get it, the smell, feel, visceral experience makes it more real, but I don’t have time for that! What happened and how is our hero going to stop it?!).
Those are the things that the NaNoWrimo exercises are meant to help me work on. Forcing me to write 1,667 words a day gives me the chance to say more than demons bad, gates broken, world falling apart. But I still do not want to tell you how old my protagonist is, what he looks like, what he smells like. Reading is supposed to be a way of transporting yourself into a story. If you tell me that Joe Smith tastes like vanilla when the main character is kissing him, and I don’t like vanilla, I have just been told he tastes gross. The person kissing him might like vanilla just fine, but I am supposed to be in their shoes and if I don’t like vanilla..and then I am trying to predict what everyone likes and doesn’t like. So I vague it up. That way I am not taking you out of anything and I am not trying to put myself in anything. Right?