What Adult Fiction Writers Can Learn From Children’s Writers

Confession time again.  My favorite books are almost all Young Adult fantasy.  I’m talking about Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Series of Unfortunate Events and pretty much anything Tamara Pierce writes.  I love these books, and eagerly waited for each new one.  Honestly, when the last Harry Potter book came out, the book store I frequent had to let me in the door when they opened and open a box to give me a copy.  Then being a grown up took over and I had to go to work and leave it in my bag the whole damn day.

I am not the only adult reading children’s fiction, though.  Hunger Games was a hit that spanned generations, and while I haven’t had a chance to read the Divergent series I have friends pushing thirty like me who have read and loved them.

So, why do we, as grownups, still read young adult fiction?  I think there’s a very good reason, actually.  More than a few, if you want total honesty.  The adult fantasy world’s got a lot to learn from young adult.  Here are just a few things we should learn from these series.

Lavish description

I know just what Becca Cooper from the Blood Hound series looks like.  She’s tall, with a dark braid and wears a black uniform usually covered with cat hair.  I cannot, however, describe what Dani looks like from Game of Thrones.  The character, not the actress.  Why?  Because Becca wasn’t just described, her image was painted with words, using descriptions a girl that age would use about herself.  So, they stuck in my brain.

You know what Diagon Alley looked like if you read that book.  You knew what the bunker in District 13 looked like.  Because the descriptions themselves are entertaining to read.

Animal involvement

Kids love animals that act like companions.  They don’t have to talk, or be anthropomorphic in any other way.  They can just be what pets generally are, companions.

When did we decide that wasn’t something adult books should have?  Don’t we love our pets?  Isn’t it fun to have a character with a pet?  Or did we decide that grownups don’t really like things like an awesome horse who’s a real character all on its own, or a pack of wolves who interact like a family to the main character.  Wait, no, Robert Jordan did that in his Wheel of Time series, and that was sort of popular.  Of course, George Martin did that too, but he managed to mess that up, because he doesn’t believe in happiness.

Tone down the PDA

The DA in general, actually.  I get it, I’m an adult, I can hear about sex.  Great, I don’t need to hear about it in detail.  I don’t mean to bash Martin too much, (actually, I sort of do) but I bought the books to read about dragons and magic, and what’s beyond the wall.  I don’t need a play by play of who’s boinking who, how why when and what it really felt like this time.  I mean, honestly, if I want to read that, I’ll buy 50 Shades.  Tell me about the damn dragons, already!

A fast plot

Young Adult fiction’s always got something going on.  If a lot of information needs to be conveyed, it’s done with something fun happening along the way.  Think about in Harry Potter.  There’s not a lot of talking, there’s a lot of action.  If there is talking, there’s usually fireworks going off, or some tentacled plant in the background that the characters will have to deal with during their conversation.  At the very least, there’s a game of Wizards Chess.

To sum it all up, let me just say this.  I want to read books that deal with adult situations.  I want books steeped in politics, and characters that are dealing with marriage, and having babies, or not being able to have babies, or coming into their own as young leaders, young parents, parents of teens, or any number of things that grownups deal with.  But, I want dragons, and magic, and descriptions of really fantastic candy stores and horses with senses of humor.  I try to write that, and I don’t think I’m alone.  So, do me, you and grownups in general a favor, and steal some tips from young adult fiction.

3 thoughts on “What Adult Fiction Writers Can Learn From Children’s Writers

  1. Nicole, I haven’t read these books, but when you asked the question, I reviewed in my mind what your answers might be. I hit most – not the animals. I read a lot of Christian fiction (at least I used to). My favorites include the suggestions you have mentioned.


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