Friday, April 22, 2016

Same character, different audience ages

A writing student asked me if it's possible to write a publishable story about a character at a young age, for young readers, and then write about the same character at an older phase of life for older readers. Several years ago, I would have said probably not, but by now I've seen a few examples--and of course, now self-publishing is a more viable option than it used to be.

I've heard it argued that the Harry Potter books advance from middle-grade through young-adult. Author Brent Hartinger has taken his YA character, Russel Middlebrook (of Geography Club and its three sequels) into some new-adult books featuring the character in early adulthood (The Thing I Didn't Know I Didn't Know and its sequels). Hartinger refers to the new-adult phase of the character's life as the "Futon Years." (For other characters, this phase of life might be referred to as the Dorm Years, the Studio Apartment Years, the Living with Roommates Years, or the Sleeping on Someone's Couch Years.)

Recently, thanks to a post on the Read is the New Black site, I was reminded of my affection for Marilyn Sachs's books, and I discovered she has a sequel to an old favorite of mine, A Pocket Full of Seeds. That book took its main character from early childhood through the age of thirteen, and the sequel takes her from age thirteen to seventeen. Even though the books are billed as being for the same age reader (grades 5 through 8), I suspect that the sequel, Lost in America, would appeal to somewhat older readers. I plan to check it out.

Anyway, the point is that the rigidity of expectations about audience and branding, and how older people won't read books for younger people and so on, is fading. You may know of even more examples than the ones I've been able to find. Even though it still might be unusual to take a character into different audience age ranges, it's not unthinkable. And the conventions that traditional publishing houses and booksellers still follow don't have to apply to anyone who self-publishes.


  1. Thanks for the shout out, Jenn!

    Recently, I have been seeing talk of new TV shows that once featured a cast of adolescents, and the new shows are about the kids' adult lives. I like the concept but I don't think these things are a guaranteed sell. Even if the shows are well written and well acted, I think a lot of the show's success depends on how the audience members' tastes have changed since the original stories appeared. There are certainly differences between how literary stories and TV stories upgraded for adults are done and I think it's nice that this option is even being considered now, when years ago, I too would've felt that this sort of thing wouldn't have even been spoken of.

  2. Changed or stayed the same...I meant to say.