1. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Best ages for MCs? And other ?s

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by architectus, Sep 25, 2008.

    Here is the problem. My novel is based around actual events, and I wish to stick to them as much as possible. However a lot of the scenes are aimed at adults. The MCs though are 14, 14, 15, and 23.

    Hopefully maia stumbles across this thread.

    Should I make all the MCs adults? I have not read a lot of novels with teenagers as the MCs, and the ones I have read do not have adult themes. So I am thinking it is not a good idea to have my MCs be teenagers because my story has adult themes. But if I make them adults I will have to rethink a lot of the story, and it would be less true to the real events.

    The reason this is important to me, is I plan to try and get it published one day.

    It is a mainly a horror story.

    Would something like the Shinning have ever been published if the MCs had been teenagers instead of adults? Instead of adults going to take care of the Hotel, teenagers get trapped there during the winter, and all the same stuff happens to them. One of the teenage boys starts to go crazy and wants to kill the others.

    The reason I am using the Shinning is because my novel has a lot of whacked out scenes like that novel.

    Also I want to have a sex scene. Nothing erotic or anything. Actually I think I would be less graphic than the small sex scene in the Shinning. But how would a teenage sex scene go over?

    I guess because my intended audience is adults, I should make my MCs adults right?

    For those that have an understanding about getting a novel published, what do publishers think about cuss words in a horror novel? Rather what I mean to ask is how many cuss words do they allow for someone trying to publish their first novel? Do they mind the F word here and there?

    I imagine some publishing houses do not mind a lot of cussing, and others do.
     
  2. Scattercat
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    Scattercat Active Member

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    I don't see why having teenaged main characters is a problem, although I have noticed that books tend to get put in "Young Adult" sections based solely on the age of their protagonists rather than any considerations about content and writing level. (I've read many books that were in the regular Fantasy/Sci-fi section which were very juvenile in outlook and approach, and likewise seen some YA books which were written on a very high level.)

    However, that's a marketing decision more than anything else. If/when you get it published, you'll have to hash out with people how the book will be sold to stores and customers. I have seen youthful protagonists in literature meant for adults, and the fact that one of your characters, at least, is of the age of majority means you have an angle on arguing against the YA label.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Whatever tells the story best.

    Teenagers have been the main characters in many horror stories, partly because they don't always have the credibility in the eyes of adults, so it may be harder for them to get help. That adds to the nightmare quality.

    On th eother hand, adults may have more of a dark past that comes back to haunt them, whaich may also be a means to deepen the tension.

    Whatever choices make the strongest story. And that, more than any demographics, will determine whether the story can be sold to a publisher.
     
  4. Speedy
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    Speedy Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree. Though it does depend on the form of horrir. You could imagine what goes through a scared kid, and maybe understand it more (we have all be their).
     
  5. Scattercat
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    Scattercat Active Member

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    Whenever I'm writing a "scary" story, I do tend to go for younger protagonists. They're more likely to have active imaginations, they have fewer options for dealing with a threat, and they generally know less about everything (which is good for horror, as knowledge kills fear.) It's a lot easier to have a terrified ten-year-old than a terrified fifty-year-old war veteran. :)
     
  6. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I find that one of the main things that separate YA and adult fiction is the age of the characters. YA novels tend to have teen characters, which is your case. Adult novels usually have adult characters.
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think that's entirely true. Although I don't like focusing too much on Stephen King, consider Carrie, Christine, and Firestarter, just to pull three from the top of my head.

    Another, not in the horror genre (really!), is Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones. I would not by any stretch consider this YA fiction, but it is all told from the perspective of a murdered teenage girl.
     
  8. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd suggest you look at publishers that seem to offer the kind of story you're writing. Purchase a few of their top selling books and see how their established writers handle the issue. That will give you an idea what to do with your characters, as well as with your story line, and you'll have a good idea what they are looking for before you submit your query letter.
     
  9. TigerFire
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    TigerFire New Member

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    I don't think that having younger characters in adult oriented story's is a bad thing. Whether we want to beleive it, bad things happen to kids and teens. Just turn on the news and hear about kids being killed walking down the street or being kidnapped and raped at the age of 12. Those are pretty tramautic stories that wouldn't really be classified as young adult if they were told. It's scary. It's frightning. It's real life.

    The author that comes to my mind is John Saul. A lot of his novels have main characters as teens.
     
  10. Becca D
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    Becca D Member

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    In addition to what others have said, ultimately you may write your novel for a target audience and find that it takes root in a completely different audience - look at Orson Scott Card. He wrote his book Ender's Game, intending it to be adult fiction and publishing it as such. However, many adults didn't really find it that interesting (in the words of a dissatisfied reader, "Children don't think like that"), while it struck a chord with a lot of young people.

    What I'm saying is that you should write your novel the way you want it to be - don't change it up for the sole purpose of satisfying your target audience, especially if it means sacrificing some of the spirit you want to convey. If your plot can transition smoothly to adult characters with nothing lost, then great. You would have nothing to lose by changing them, and it's true that it may find greater appeal in adult readers. But if it's going to damage your novel in any way, don't do it.
     
  11. ParanormalWriter
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    ParanormalWriter Contributing Member

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    I once submitted an adult fantasy novel to a publisher and was advised that it'd make a better YA book because the MC was a teenager throughout most of the story. On the other hand, I've read plenty of books for adults where the MC starts out as a kid... I'd say its your call. It depends on the themes of the book and on the tastes of individual editors. Personally, I play it safe these days and give my adult books characters over 18 if I can do that without hurting the story.
     
  12. TheAdlerian
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    TheAdlerian Senior Member

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    I think teens are great for horror because emotions and behavior are much more intense, or innocent, and better for dramatics and tragedy.

    As an older adult, the devil could pop out of the ground and I'd be like "Hi, what's up," and hope to have a discussion. Zombies take over the world, well maybe I'll just go and shoot myself.

    Just kidding, I'd fight them, but I'd probably pretty calm about it.
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    Here is the problem. My novel is based around actual events, and I wish to stick to them as much as possible. However a lot of the scenes are aimed at adults. The MCs though are 14, 14, 15, and 23.

    Hopefully maia stumbles across this thread.

    ...i'm here!...

    Should I make all the MCs adults?

    ...why would you?... if the story needs them to be kids, make them kids!... look at harper lee's classic, 'to kill a mockingbird'... the main mc's were the kids, especially the narrator, lee herself at age 10...

    I have not read a lot of novels with teenagers as the MCs, and the ones I have read do not have adult themes. So I am thinking it is not a good idea to have my MCs be teenagers because my story has adult themes. But if I make them adults I will have to rethink a lot of the story, and it would be less true to the real events.

    ...then it would make no sense to change things, would it?... just write the story and see how it turns out, don't agonize over ages...

    The reason this is important to me, is I plan to try and get it published one day.

    ...whether it ever is, or not, won't depend on the ages of the characters, but only on the quality of the writing and the appeal of the story...

    It is a mainly a horror story.

    Would something like the Shinning have ever been published if the MCs had been teenagers instead of adults? Instead of adults going to take care of the Hotel, teenagers get trapped there during the winter, and all the same stuff happens to them. One of the teenage boys starts to go crazy and wants to kill the others.

    ...i'm sure many books have been published with such a cast, just as have many such movies been produced...

    The reason I am using the Shinning is because my novel has a lot of whacked out scenes like that novel.

    Also I want to have a sex scene. Nothing erotic or anything. Actually I think I would be less graphic than the small sex scene in the Shinning. But how would a teenage sex scene go over?

    ...that depends entirely on how well you wrote it and whether it's really needed, or just tossed in for its prurient 'value'...

    I guess because my intended audience is adults, I should make my MCs adults right?

    ...not necessarily... james patterson's best-selling 'maximum ride' series has a cast entirely made up of teenaged 'mutants'... i like the stories and characters well enough to buy all of the books, and i'm 70!...

    For those that have an understanding about getting a novel published, what do publishers think about cuss words in a horror novel? Rather what I mean to ask is how many cuss words do they allow for someone trying to publish their first novel? Do they mind the F word here and there?

    I imagine some publishing houses do not mind a lot of cussing, and others do.

    ...it has nothing to do with the genre of the novel, or whether it's a writer's 1st or 100th... there are lots of books in all genres on the market with lots of cuss words and lots with nary a one... what matters is if the cussing is needed due to the characters' character and situations... and whether it's written well, or not...

    ...as for which publishers mind and which don't, you'll find that info in their guidelines, or can find out by checking their books on the shelf of your nearest bookstore/library...

    hope this is helpful... love and hugs, maia
     
  14. Etan Isar
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    Etan Isar Contributing Member Contributor

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    As usual, Maia gives some excellent advice. The usual answer to questions in writing is "use what works for the story". I read adult novels when I was younger, and some YA novels. I've read many more adult novels by now. The age of a protagonist has never really meant anything more to me than what it means to the story. The majority of adult fiction in my eyes differs in the sophistication of the writing and the story as compared to YA, not the age of the characters, protagonists or otherwise.
     
  15. BillyxRansom
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    I was going to mention The Talisman. That kid is 12.
     
  16. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Maia, so it not easier to publish a novel written for adults, with adult MCs than it is to publish a novel written for adults with teenage characters?

    Because I don't want to dumb down the writing at all. I want to use all my metaphors, some in which I think will go over teenagers heads. Also there are some complex philosophical ideas that might fly over teenagers heads.

    And OMG, I had no idea you were 70. That is cool.
     
  17. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Oh yeah it is interesting that Cog mentioned Carrie, because that was King's first published novel. The MC is young, and yet there is no doubt the novel is written for adults.
     
  18. TheAdlerian
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    TheAdlerian Senior Member

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    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_Royale

    Has anyone ever read that book?

    I very much enjoyed it and was completely engaged even though the characters were kids. What did it for me was the combo of backstory and emotion put into the characters. There was nothing simple about the characters in spite of their youth.
     
  19. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    No one has mentioned Golding's Lord of the Flies yet either.

    Oops. I just made a liar of myself.
     
  20. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I never read Lord of the Flies, but I did watch the movie. Was it written for adults, or was it written more simplistically like Harry Potter?
     
  21. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It was written for adults, as a social commentary
     
  22. Kratos
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    Kratos Contributing Member

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    I really don't think there's any reason not to right it as you want. I'm 15, and I read adult books. I read Lord of the Rings in 4th grade. You mentioned that you didn't want the metaphors to "go over teenager's heads"; that's rather insulting, as I, a teenager, can read anything adults can read, and probably better than a lot of adults.

    It all just depends on the person.
     
  23. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ditto to that.

    I say, just write the darn thing the way you see the story needs to be written and see what happens.
     
  24. TheAdlerian
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    TheAdlerian Senior Member

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    As a 42 year old, I agree.

    It's likely that smart kids are going to be reading more anyway, so why write crap for them? Meanwhile, children are as smart as a kid as they will be as an adult, the only difference is experience and accumulation of knowledge. Meaning, I'm not smarter than you, it's just that I have 27 years more experience with a host of things.

    It's great to help kids advance themselves by exposing them to intellectually stimulating material.
     
  25. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    right!... the determining factor is not the age of the characters, only the quality of the story and the writing...

    ...then for pete's sake, sit yourself down and write the durn thing!... i, for one, am dying to read it...

    ...i have a hard time believing it myself, honeybunch... don't know about 'cool' but it sure is something... here, on tinian, i'm considered 'ancient' because the locals die in their 50s and 60s... sad, huh?
     

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