Happy Canada Day!

30 Jun

               I’ll be at work for it (as per the norm, LOL) but I will be heading to Battle for Canada at the Goldeye’s Stadium for Saurday and Sunday.

               Witchslayer’s Scion is now available in print. My niece has the only print copy of Witchslayer’s Scion in the province I am aware of, but more are ordered. I hope they don’t take as long as my DoM copies but I will let everyone know when I have them in my paws.

Reflections of Writing for an Audience Part 2

               A few years ago, I read a short story by Ron who was entering it a contest and it was for a high school audience. His story featured the casual use of alcohol. I pointed out that there was nothing wrong with that, but he ought to remove it. Why? Students in High School drink alcohol all the time.

               It’s not the audience, it’s the librarians and parents.

               Most parents aren’t naive and think their Precious Junior would NEVER – but there’s a difference between acknowledging reality and condoning a behavior. Removing the use of alcohol in the scene changed nothing (I believe the characters wanted hot chocolate, with a little extra kick or something). There’s plenty of stories for young readers that deal with adult issues, and that’s a good thing – but ultimately I think the majority of parents can have justified concerns. I was ready for Star Wars at eight, but other kids might not be ready until they’re closer to ten, and it may not be a violence issue so much as a sensory issue. Letting people know, being aware of concerns, it allows for the writer to have a general framework for what is acceptable for that target audience. It’s not censorship so much as understanding what the audience demands are.

               A lot of the stories I grew up enjoying weren’t age appropriate, and I’ll be honest – when I write, I often enjoy it when I don’t have to go the route of having the hero punch his way through the plot. There’s a time and a place for Conan the Barbarian, but there’s also a time and a place for stories where heroes use their wits as well as their brawn. When I’m done TA I’m going to be tweaking my MG steampunk mysteries, and they are similar to the tone of Ducktales and The Adventures of Tintin. There’s a lot that wouldn’t fly today – I’m not talking old fashioned depictions of race or gender stereotypes, so much as Tintin getting knocked unconscious and kidnapped a lot and there’s an awful lot of firearms.

               In general, I think because kids develop at different levels, it’s important to know not everyone’s ready for the same stuff at the same time, and just because I’m more advanced in my language or math, doesn’t mean I’m emotionally ready for some more complex ideas. That’s when sensitivity readers have their place when you want to talk about these complicated issues. I’m not saying they’re always right, but it certainly helps to have different perspectives.

               With kids stories, I like an invisible contract with the reader: Your hero may get in trouble, but we’ll get back to the problem we started with. That was honestly my reason for making Lorelei such a soft villain in TMatU. In that story, Daphne and friends encounter a lot worse characters than the sea witch responsible for beaching Daphne on land. They want different things, but there’s an unspoken promise to the reader – hey, we need to get back to Lorelei. I know things look bad, but we’ll get through the current obstacle. I asked my niece when she was younger how she felt about the Puppeteers and, if it was too scary and we could skip it. It was her favourite part of the book, and the puppeteers is the current WIP. Another kid, or even an adult, might find that part incredibly squeamish (kind of like how Neil Gaiman’s Coraline gets creepier as an adult then as a kid), but it’s good to know that when she was on the younger range of age appropriate, she adored that sequence so I know I’m not an outlier in the audience.

               This is where knowing your audience is super important. For instance, let’s pretend I retire in Pinawa with my parents and start my own Kayaking/Adventure Tour companies. I offer breakneck boating, death marches into remote locations, all the stuff that should be attracting hard core athletes.

               Then I find out the Red Hat Lady’s society would like to book me so they can go bird watching and have a pleasant hike (that needs to be accessible for everyone). Also, there’s another group who wants a pleasant pontoon around the lake and, another group is also interested but they’ve got small kids, so please no walkie into bear territory. If business is booming, I may refer them to someone else who does that or, I could recognize a need and tweak my business accordingly. There will be people who want EXTREME and I get to take them kayaking, but there’s going to be people who just want the boats and to go (they’ll be fine) and the people who have never done it before and need some lessons and a guide.

               That’s how I feel about changing a story. It’s not really censorship, so much as knowing what an audience would like and trying your best to accommodate, if accommodation is the goal. Not everyone is going to agree, because there would be people in the Red Hat Society who would have loved a more robust hike, but when they’re with their group, they probably know that while they’re with their group, this is the sort of activity that’s appropriate.

               For marketing purposes, people generally like to see an idealized version of themselves using the products they do. So when I’m writing a book for an audience who is twelve years old, they want to see themselves as older and more capable as opposed to average or more child-like. Not quite the opposite happens as we age – most people don’t want to be younger, but be mistaken for being younger because we associate youth with health, fertility, beauty, etc.

               When i was a kid I basically thought 16 was an adult. A very young adult, but a 16 year old could do everything I deemed important (have a boyfriend, drive, stay out late, have a job, they looked more like an adult than a kid) whereas when I was sixteen I was starting at myself and my friends, and as someone who hit puberty early, the only thing I got on my sixteenth birthday was my abs. The driver’s license came like, three weeks later (first try!) but I was still living under my parent’s roof and, I learned even as an adult, if I don’t tell my mother what I’m up to for extended lengths of time she gets stressed out. Shoot, even as an adult living on my own I have to text her in bad weather when she knows I’m on truck.

               I don’t think there’s anything wrong with sticking to your vision for your product, but I like to think of it as a framework when writing. Needs beat the hierarchy as opposed to wants, so if I were to approach this as a low language, high interest project, the needs are different than that of a child. What that means is that the prospective audience has low literary, but they don’t want to read books written for children. They need familiar language, but they want to be engaged – just as everyone else. So you as the writer have to make a decision – not so much as the story, but as a product as a whole. I love me some thick bricks – and the niece commented on that when she picked up Witchslayer’s Scion, and I told her that was the size I used to like to write when I was getting started, and it sits at around 135k. Usurper is still sitting around 160k, and my goal is to chop it down and send it to Champagne Books this year. I hated Ron’s suggestions that I cut it up into multiple books, but I also have to look at feasibility. Other authors get to put out 200k bricks, but while I’m capable of writing that length, I’m realistic when I’m looking at the POD prices. I can sell The Mermaid and the Unicorn and Dreams of Mariposa cheaper at events because they’re not super thick, and we don’t have the budget to mass print 600-800 page novels.


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