Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Let me say this first. Character likability has nothing to do with appealing to a wide audience. (Yes, you should have likable characters. That's a must in order to have any audience. But that's not how you appeal to a wide audience.) Why? Because the likable qualities are universal and already appeal to everyone. So what does have to do with appealing to a wide audience?
Primarily the genres of children, young adult, adult, and feminist.
Did you notice how all of those are either an age group or a sex? Yes? Good.
That's because the way to attract a wide audience is to appeal to a wide number of age groups. If your writing fantasy, its going to be nearly impossible for you to get a horror reader to read your book. But you can get all of the young, middle, and older fantasy readers to read it. That's a huge chunk of the market.
As well, the YA genre is very broad, so even a fantasy book, like Harry Potter, can attract all of the YA readers in the world.
So how do we make our book appeal to a variety of age groups?
Simple. We have a variety of characters who are in these different age groups.
If you have a little girl as a character, a teenage guy, a twenty five year old father, and an old grandmother as characters, you will cover all of the age groups and the feminist aspect.
Remember that not all of these characters need to have a POV (point of view). They can be secondary protagonists to your story and still bring the audience. Also, the actual age of the character isn't too important. The way they act is. If you have a fifteen year old woman as your protagonist who had to grow up fast because her parents died, she could be treated as an adult as opposed to a YA.
So how we write about these different characters?
We do so by focusing on a few different things that the different genres focus on.
They focus on learning. They don't know how to do everything and are sometimes scared of trying. They like it when they have their parents or someone else help them. So a child asks himself questions like. How do I do this? What if I can't?
A child's life is one of mystery. They are both fascinated and scared by the unknown.
They focus on finding their identity. Unlike children they think they can already do everything, yet they are often restricted by parents. This makes them conflicted. Teens ask themselves, who am I? Where do I belong?
A teens life is one of inner discovery. They seek to be unique, but also to be a part of something. They seek acceptance.
They focus on responsibility. It is their job to make sure the teens and children don't end up ruining their lives. So an adult focuses on doing things, yet their questions relate to how they do them. They ask thing such as, Am I doing the right thing?
An adult seeks to fix the mistakes of the past: The mistakes of others, perhaps their own parents. They do not always succeed.
Seniors focus on their legacy. They have already gone through most of their life. Now they want to fix any regrets. Or do things they failed to do in their youth. Often a senior is trying to help out an adult character, but the adult who doesn't have to listen is often stubborn. Seniors ask things like, how can I fix this? How can I make them listen to me?
A senior seeks to fix the mistakes of his own past. He has already tried to rewrite the wrongs of others in his life and has, at times, failed.
Feminist focuses on a girl's/woman's perspective. They look at the world similar in the ways that teens do, and question how the role of a woman is different. They ask things like, what should I be doing? Are my goals more important than my responsibilities?
Obviously, not all woman think like this. (I'm not aiming to stereotype.) However, the feminist character specifically looks at the role of woman in order to appease a certain group of readers that none of the other genres focus on: The readers who question woman's role in society.
In conclusion, if you can write a book that appeals to all of these genres and age groups, or one that appeals to even two of them, you will be reaching out to a wider audience.