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  1. Millamber

    Millamber Senior Member

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    Oldest age for protag in YA book

    Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by Millamber, Jul 30, 2019.

    Hi All,

    Just after some opinions really...

    I started having ideas (Finally) whilst I walked home daily about a story that i started to chew over, and whilst I am for once wanting to sit down and start writing, I've come up with an obstacle.

    Now, the format/style of story to me, seems very much YA, however before i realised this, i was doing my planning over a character that was 20-22 years of age.

    Now, I having not written any YA before, I believe they're normally coming of age type stories, and so 20-22 could be seen as too old.

    What is the maximum age you would find plausible/usable in a YA story?

    Thanks :)
     
  2. Rzero

    Rzero Senior Member

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    I would say it depends entirely on the story. At its core, YA is most often about wish fulfillment for the reader. This is doubly true in the choice of protagonist. Yes, teens want to read about teens, but they also want to read about the hero/heroine they want to be. In plenty of teen-targeted adventure sci-fi, for instance, the heroes, and indeed entire ensembles are well past their teens (often with one younger character still in the mix in a non-lead role.) Look at the Star Wars novels, The Flix series, etc. Many of them fit the criteria for YA categorization with a main cast over the age of twenty. I imagine this is probably true in some of the romance and mystery titles as well, but I'm less familiar. One would hope not to find too many twenty-somethings in the young teen romance stuff, obviously, but otherwise, I think 20-22 is fine, again, depending on the story.

    A staple in YA literature, is that the main protagonist is faced with and handles situations beyond the capabilities of average peers and contemporaries, the sort of thing a teen or twenty-year-old would normally bring to an "adult." Whether they go it on their own and face the conflict themselves though duty, stubbornness or a lack of viable alternative options is up to the writer, but it's a staple for good reason. When the readers imagine themselves as the main character, they want to indulge in the fantasy of being special, the "chosen one," the one who rises to the occasion in harrowing circumstance. Again, it's all about wish fulfillment. Would a teen reader want to put him/herself in the part of the lead? If so, you're golden.

    Remember, a good coming of age story can take place at any time in a character's life. Most of Nick Hornby's books (High Fidelity, About a Boy) are coming of age stories about adults, usually, but not always, coming to conclusions they ought to have made earlier in life. If they had, their life wouldn't be the mess it is at the beginning of the story. Those are definitely not YA novels, but you get the picture. "Coming of age" often means coming to the realization that it's not too late to change. A twenty-one-year-old who took some bad turns after or even during high school would fit the bill, and often does in literature from all sorts of genres, YA included, I would think.
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2019
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  3. Millamber

    Millamber Senior Member

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    Thank you so much for a detailed and v.helpful reply! This has definitely given me something to think about!
     
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  4. DarkPen14

    DarkPen14 Senior Member

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    As @Rzero said, it depends on the story. Hell, a character could be old as hell as long as it still appeals to to the target audience.

    Not sure if this counts, but one of my MC's is then pseudo-immortal descendant of the Monkey King. She's about 276, but because of how her species works, that's very young.

    If you're looking for a teenage protagonist, don't be afraid to shift numbers around or come up with a reason that they're still "young", perhaps going into a coma as a teenager and not waking up for years?
     
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  5. AndieBoDandy

    AndieBoDandy Member

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    Hi. With children's literature there are usually very specific guidelines when it comes to the age of your story's protagonist. YA usually has a MC between the ages
    of 14 - 18 years old. Think high school. There have of course, been exceptions. What you may be writing is NA, or new adult. NA is written for people aged 18 - 25. It still has a lot of the themes of YA, coming of age stories, getting your footing in a new job/school... living as an adult for the first time... It's a bridge between teen and adult.
     
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  6. MissBadWolf

    MissBadWolf Member

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    I think age is relatively relative. My MC is an immortal who looks like he is in his twenties. The current story I should be working on is actually about the MC and how he influenced others. Most of the characters are either in their twenties or thirties. I am actually 36 but due to various life circumstances I still feel like a new adult and I feel like young adult/New adult reading and writing is for me.
     
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  7. suddenly BANSHEES

    suddenly BANSHEES Senior Member

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    20-22 sounds reasonable enough for a YA story, though I wouldn't suggest going much older. Unless we're dealing with immortal/supernatural characters who are actually much older, but appear or are posing as someone in around the same age group. It isn't just the age, but where the character is in their life plays a big role.

    As a teen, I remembered being able to relate to, or at least visualize, some of the issues of slightly older characters. An early-20s character who was, for example, kind of listless, or unsure of where their life was going, or working some dead-end job was relatable to me at 16-18. But if it was a story about, say, a 27-year-old university grad in a high-end job with a spouse and kids or something, that lifestyle was a little harder for me to grasp, and some of the challenges they faced wouldn't have interested me quite as much.

    A 20-22 year old can still go through some life events that are on par with your typical "coming of age" kind of stories. Sure, they've got a better grasp on who they are than when they were, say, 18, but people tend to change a lot through their late teens and early 20s. It's a big adjustment period between the realization "oh dang, I'm an Adult now" and actually figuring out how to be an adult. I don't mean that as an infantilizing thing and calling 18-22 year olds some kinda proto-adult, but that's just the age when people tend to still be getting their bearings.
     
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  8. hyacinthe

    hyacinthe Member

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    There are strict guidelines about this. if your character is not between the ages of 14 and 17, you are not writing YA.
     
  9. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    This happens well after the age of 22. I'm sure there will be moments in my 40's where I'm absolutely taken aback that I'm considered an adult and realizing that I have no idea what I'm doing.

    But, yes, industry says YA is early to late teens. 18 at the very latest. NA was supposed to take the college aged protagonists, but I haven't heard much about it lately.
     
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  10. hyacinthe

    hyacinthe Member

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    publishing doesn't believe in NA.

    which makes me kind of sad.
     

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