*I use Grammarly's plagiarism checker because ‘imitation is the best form of flattery’ is not always true! Don’t be a copycat!*
Someone recently mentioned to me that they noticed I’ve written books for young adults, new adults, and adults, and asked how I decide which age range to write for.
It wasn’t easy to come up with an answer, because I don’t really choose the characters’ ages - they kind of tell me how old they are, and I just go with it.
When I wrote my debut novel, Blue Sky Days, it was adult romance. The characters were in their twenties, and it seemed right at the time. When I dug the book out years later and decided to publish it, I’d recently become a book blogger and had discovered the amazing world of young adult books, so when I was rewriting Blue Sky Days, I changed the characters’ ages to make them in their late teens and early twenties. I considered it YA because Emma, my main character, is 19. New adult hadn’t become the phenomenon it is now, so I categorized it as ‘upper YA’.
When I wrote my second novel, The Game Changer, the subject matter worked better with older characters, so I made my main character, Melody, the same age I was at the time I wrote it - 28. After writing Blue Sky Days, I thought I’d stick with young adult for the rest of my career, but then I realized part of the beauty of being self-published is that I can write whatever I want, so when the idea for The Game Changer came to me I ran with it. Even though I consider it women’s fiction, I’ve seen a lot of reviewers categorize it as new adult, which I suppose it could be since Melody is going through huge changes in her life and learning a lot about herself, which is one of the greatest things about new adult books, in my opinion.
For my third novel, Waiting for the Storm, I knew Charlotte, my main character, would be a teenager. She came into my mind fully-formed as a seventeen-year-old girl who had just finished high school. It’s another book that falls somewhere in between YA and NA with reviewers, because Charlotte’s a teen, but she’s finished high school and is trying to figure out what to do with her life. I couldn’t have imagined her any other age, though, and I don’t think the story would have worked if she’d been younger or older.
And finally, for my upcoming holiday novella, The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, my main character, Ginny, is twenty. Why? To a non-writer it probably sounds ridiculous for me to say ‘because she told me so’ but that’s basically how it went. I knew she’d been seventeen when her Grama died and that was three years ago, so that made her twenty at the time of the story. This one falls into the category of new adult, but I think it will appeal to fans of YA and women’s fiction, too. Ginny’s had to grow up fast in the last three years to get ready to take over her Grama’s business, but over the course of the story she learns to have fun in a way she hasn’t since her Grama died, and I think - and hope - that will appeal to people of all ages, especially when you throw in the magical Christmastime feeling that permeates the whole book.
If you're a writer, how do you decide on your characters’ ages? As a reader, do you only read about certain age groups?