1. Gammer
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    Gammer Active Member

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    Major Differences Between Adult Fantasy and YA Fantasy

    Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by Gammer, May 31, 2009.

    For a story I've been working on, I got a review that said it would work better as YA Fantasy story. Up until then I haven't really been thinking about a target audience. There's a some sexual and overall dirty and inappropriate humor for little kids in the story so I thought that it wouldn't work, but the reviewer said my simplistic writing style would work better in a YA story. So that got me thinking.

    I've read books from both sections and really can't put my finger on any major differences. Anyone care to help out?
     
  2. A.J.Crowley
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    A.J.Crowley Senior Member

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    The YA / adult boundary is a hard one to pin down, not just in the fantasy genre, but across the board. I wouldn’t be too concerned about sex, language, violence; I’ve read some pretty confronting YA stuff that has tons. The main difference seems to be YA fiction involves young adult protagonists, adult fiction adult ones.
     
  3. Unsavory
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    Unsavory Active Member

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    Interesting post, because I find myself facing a similar question. I'm working on a fantasy novel that I definitely think should be marketed to adult audiences, but the simplicity of the narrative and some of the bizarre creatures and magic powers seem more fit for YA.
     
  4. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    It's very hard to find the boundary (if there's even one at all). Young adults can read at just the same level as adults, so it's my guess that the only things differentiating YA from adult fantasy are things like sex, bad language, etc.
     
  5. Deeples
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    Deeples New Member

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    I'm having difficult with this, too! My own story has young adult characters and quasi-scientific magic, but the narrative is purposefully very dense and layered, and I don't plan on censoring explicit content, should it come up in plot.

    It seems as though most fantasy is slated as young adult fiction from the start - has anyone read Ursula K. Le Guin's essay, "Why Are Americans Afraid of Dragons?" I really enjoyed it, and she talks about how American culture has rejected the fantasy genre as legitimate for adult readers. This was of course, an essay from the 70's, before the upstart from J.K. Rowling, which I'm thinking opened up the fantasy genre to a much larger audience.
     
  6. Northern Phil
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    Northern Phil Active Member

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    I think if your looking to differentiate between YA and Adult Fantasy audiences then you really need to compare two diffrent books that fit into that area. Take for example Northern Lights (or The Golden Compass or His Dark Materials) by Philip Pullman and The Dark Tower series by Stephen King. I've read both and I loved both.

    In Northern Lights it touches on very adult themes such as religion and romance. In respect to the romance side it is kept brief and doesn't go into to much detail. Also people die, but they don't have over elaborate gory deaths, there kept simple.

    In The Dark Tower series things are a lot different. Romance is much more detailed and even includes some steamy encounters. Deaths are much more grusome, if I remember correctly one person even got burned at the stake. And of course like any Stephen King novel there is a fair amount of foul langaugae.

    All I would say is if your aiming this for a particular audience then read whats already out there and you'll get an idea of what is and isn't appropriate.
     
  7. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think there should be much of a difference at all. Because of publishing standards, YA needs to be shorter. But in general, it should have language, characters, and themes that are relevant to teenagers. And keep in mind that language relevant to teens doesn't automatically mean an easier reading level. A simplistic writing style can still be for adults, and it doesn't have to be simplistic when writing for teenagers. It depends on the type of audience you hope to attract. Even if it is at an easy reading level, it has to still be very respectful to the intelligence of the readers.

    Most people don't remember this, but there was a time when there was no YA demographic. They were either children's books or adult books. Teenagers were expected to read at an adult level, and they did. There is no reason not to expect them to still be able to.

    When writing for teenagers, the last thing you should do is censor yourself. If you write books for teenagers that are too censored and don't respect what the audience can handle, they won't buy the books marketed to their age group. They'll read all that stuff anyway, regardless of which age demographic it's published in. My mother once read a novel before a movie adaptation was made, and they didn't want to let her in because she was "too young" and the book goes way farther than the movie.

    Also, Judy Blume's teen novel, Forever, borders on pornographic.
     
  8. Atma
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    Atma Member

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    Off topic, I know. But in my hometown once I was ID'd for buying a novel because of its content (was 15+ I think).

    I've also wondered about the difference between YA and adult fiction. My guess would be how the story relates to people, not the language. Perhaps the main characters age has a tiny bit to say, but not much. I've read books where one of the protags was 35 and the other one was 12 (both male), and it was excellent. I'm still not sure what category I'd place it in though.
     
  9. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Age does play a role in the use of language, especially if it's a first-person narrative. Teenagers are not going to use the same words as adults, and aren't going to describe things in the same way,
     
  10. bumboclaatjones
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    bumboclaatjones Member

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    the YA genre is generally targeted to an audience of 12-15 as a general standard, although the real guideline for those books seems to be that they have children or young kids as protagonists.
     
  11. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not necessarily 12-15. Some are 13-17 or 14+
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The YA genres are defined by their target audience (of whatever age range is specified; as Rei pointed out, YA covers a sliding range). However, it is not defined by the age range of the protagonists.

    Yes, often a similar age range is chosen for the protagonists so the readers identify more closely with the characters, but not always. The YA series I grew up with generally had protagonists in their late teens or early adulthood - young enough to identify with, but certainly older than the readers, role models to aspire to grow into.

    But YA novels can also include main characters who are animals, mythical creatures, or fully adult icons, as long as the themes are relatable to the target audience.

    As for the matter of language and violence, check your publishers' guidelines and the other works they publish, in the YA genre you are writing. If you just go full steam, anything goes, you may end up limiting your choice of publishers.
     
  13. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    Amen! You hit the nail on the head, Rei.

    Not all published material follows those guidelines, though, so you'd want to be careful about what you model your writing after (if you do that).

    The only legitimate difference I can see focusing on would be content based on popular concerns. For example, you write a fantasy novel where one of the characters just happens to be going through a midlife crisis. Including a lot of content like that will quickly get your ms labeled 'Adult', (I think) because an older audience is more likely to appreciate it.
     
  14. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Most stories don't even need the "anything goes" kind of thing you're talking about, Cog, but I still have issues with making an effort to censor yourself. Judy Blume's books, which have been censored far more than many people realize (I just read a book on the subject), would not be the amazing books they are if she had kept them innocent and not faced the realities of what teenagers face.
     

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