Monday, December 13, 2010

"Who's Your Audience?" A guest post by Lester Milton

I know you'll enjoy today's guest post by Lester Milton. I met Les a while back at a mutual friend's kid's birthday party. He's a real hoot to talk to. Funny and hecka smart. So smart, he probably never uses the word "hecka." He wrote a science fiction novel called The Accidental Adventures of Dogget Mann. Info on that after the main show. But first, I'll let Les get on with his guest post! :)


“Who’s Your Audience?”

It seems like a simple question. Like, “What’s it all about, Alfie?” and, “Who put the bomp in the bomp bah bomp bah bomp?” But I don’t think it’s simple at all. Maybe because I over-think a lot. Maybe because I spent two thirds of my twenties in a state of altered consciousness. Who knows? Who cares? Probably not you. But bear with me.

I wrote what would be described as an “all ages” science fiction novel. Of course, that label is ridiculous on the face of it. Most novels don’t appeal to your average two-year-old, and most people over one hundred hate all modern literature. But when I wrote it, I was trying to make something that someone as young as ten could enjoy, while keeping someone as old as ninety clinging to life if only to find out what happens next.

Too often, “all ages” entertainment is geared towards the youngest readers. Simple characters in magical situations solving mysteries in their pajamas as they drink lemonade and sing songs of a simpler time. Okay, I’ve never seen anything like that either, but boy, does it sound awful or what?

Imagined literary nightmare aside, I was hoping to avoid writing something that would appeal mostly to kids. I think it’s important to challenge kids. It keeps them striving to understand more and reminds them that they hardly know anything at all.

I was told that most ten year olds wouldn’t understand the ideas of quantum uncertainty and multiple universes in my book. But that was fine with me. I didn’t understand a lot of the “scientific” gobbledegook peppered in the old Star Trek reruns when I was a kid. I just knew that there was trouble. In space. And that Captain Kirk could have any woman he wanted.

I was also told that the tragedies experienced by my protagonist were too frequent and intense to create an enjoyable reading experience. I accepted that it might be true for some, but I also think that if something happens, it happens. And if it’s feasible in a story and you think it should happen, then it ought to happen. That’s very self-indulgent, of course. But self-indulgence doesn’t just make for boorish entertainment with limited appeal, though it can do that. Self-indulgence is the force behind some of the greatest artistic achievements in history. Also, the movie, “Ishtar,” which I, along with its director, Elaine May, quite enjoyed.

Some would say that writing for oneself and one’s audience is a razor’s edge to walk, which sounds painful, because it’s a razor. But I look at it more like a sidewalk, which, unlike a razor, is made for walking on. So I just write for myself. What I think I would enjoy as a kid and as an adult is what I write. Sometimes that works. Sometimes, not so much (which may well be clear to you as you read this).

So, I guess the answer really is simple, after all. This might make you ask, what’s your point, Les? To which I say, Merry Christmas, everybody! I’m going to Disneyland tomorrow!

If you’d like to check out my science fiction comic tragedy/tragic comedy for the whole family, you can order it here:

If you’d like to read the first chapter and/or order an ebook version, please go here:

The Accidental Adventures of Dogget Mann summary:

Accidental adventures may be exciting, but they're also a real pain in the butt.

Dogget Mann would never have run away from his group home if he'd known what it would lead to. Sure, he's interested in science and adventure more than your average eleven year old boy, but that doesn't mean he's eager to be mysteriously transported two thousand years into the future with little to no chance of returning home. And even though he lost his mom and dad two years earlier, he's not quite ready for a floating ball of a robot and a one hundred and sixty nine year old scientist/inventor to become his surrogate parents. Look, is anyone fully prepared to be chased around the solar system by a bunch of genetically engineered thugs and high-tech security forces?

He's just a kid, for crying out loud!

In some other universe they found a cylinder on the moon. Inside it was the story of a boy who just wants to be in the right place at the right time.


Lydia K said...

In the end, we write something we want to read, for sure. The book sounds great! Thanks to both of you for the guest post!

Amanda Borenstadt said...

So true. And thank you for dropping by, Lydia! :)

Joanne said...

Interesting thoughts here. I think when we write what's in our heart, it becomes clear who the audience as the words take shape. There's a certain honesty in the process this way.

Victoria Dixon said...

Book sounds fun - I enjoyed the jacket blurb there at the end. ;D And yes, you have to write for yourself because if you don't enjoy it, hecka chance anyone else will. LOL

lbdiamond said...

You know, I've been thinking my MC goes through TOO much. This post helped change my mind...time to up the ante, mwahahahaha!!!

Ahem, what I meant to say was: Nice post!!

Amanda Borenstadt said...

Thank you all for stopping by. I hope this encourages Les to start his own blog. :)

Joanne~ I think you're right. It does just have to flow. Although, I had a hard time recognizing in my own writing that I'm probably a YA writer. I kept thinking it was for adults.

Victoria~ That's a super point! Reminds me I need to gut out a particularly boring scene in my WIP.

Diamond~ LOL Oh yeah, pour on the pain! Oh, wow, I just had an AH-HA! I should be heaping more pain onto my protag. And your post on Teen Guilt points me in the right direction for something that'll work perfectly.

Hannah Kincade said...

great guest post! I write most assuredly for adults. No question about that one.

Amanda Borenstadt said...

Thanks, Hannah. :)

Hmm, I guess you're more mature than I am. LOL

karabu said...

Interesting. I don't usually write with an audience in mind. I never could decide if that was good or not. I evaluated the story when it was done to decide if it was a kid story or a grown-up one.

Amanda Borenstadt said...

Kara, that might be a good approach. It sure takes the pressure off. :)

For some reason I get people all the time telling me I should write kids stories. But I think these are people who don't actually read what I write. I write stories with sarcastic characters whose heads get chopped off. I'd have to write a kids story on purpose if I was going to do that without scaring the poor little things.

Amie Kaufman said...

I love it! Trouble in space, and Captain Kirk's the man to be. What else did you really need to know as a kid? I think I was the same--reading a whole lot of stuff I thought I understood, only to work out years later that I missed most of it!

I write for the eleven year old in my head, most of the time--I think it's really important to have your reader in mind.

Amanda Borenstadt said...

Oh, for sure, Amie! I guess that's one reason why we enjoy going back and watching the same things again.
Thanks for dropping by! :D

Les said...

Hi, everyone. It's strange. I can't picture Aldous Huxley's publisher telling him that "Brave New World" is a YA title because it would be read by high school students for generations.

Is "Tom Sawyer" an all-ages book? "Treasure Island?" Mary Shelly's "Frankenstein" and the original "Dracula" are usually found in the "Literature" section of popular bookstores. How would they be classified if they were written recently?

The School Library Journal classifies "The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane" as for grades 3-6, while Booklist says grades 2-4. But no kid could possibly enjoy that book more than this middle-aged man did.

This kind of arbitrary and ultimately meaningless kind of classification is typical for those who run the business side of the arts. I think we should always be careful not let their kind of thinking limit the content of our own creativity.

Amanda Borenstadt said...

Good points, Les.

When I went to the bookstore for the midnight release of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows there were people of all ages and that series was marketed for kids at first.

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