Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Fifth Graders and Fairies

For a dog that drives me crazy, he's pretty photogenic. But don't let the photo fool you - he is ALL terrier! And terriers like to dig, and yap at the birds, and do all sorts of annoying things. But he's my daughter's dog and so we love him. Luke. My husband named him.

So, I went outside on this cold and blustery April afternoon to take a picture of my daughters' fairy house. Last summer they fell in love with this book called Fairy Island with real photos of fairy houses. So they wanted to make their own fairy house to attract fairies to our garden. Now it has become a spring ritual to set it up and make it nice for the fairies (who migrate by the way) for their spring return. But the wind blew it into a messy pile. So I will have to photograph it another time.

The reason for that photo still exists in my mind though and I would like to share that with you anyway, sans the photo... As writers it is important we know our target audience - and what they think, believe, aspire to, etc. As adults we kind of lose some of our imagination, but as writers, we need to engage it, hold on to it, and connect with our market as much as we possibly can.

My 5th grader says she doesn't believe in fairies, but I know she still wants to believe they are real. Whereas my 3rd grader will out right tell you fairies exist. So if I was writing to a 3rd grader, I would need to keep that in mind. This age group might not need proof or convincing. But, if I was writing to a 5th grade crowd, I would need to be very convincing in my story that this could be true and present it in such a way that a 5th grader would believe me. And once on board, that 5th grader might even believe me more than a 3rd grader.

So who is your audience? And how do you stay in touch with their beliefs, values, struggles, interests... Let's share...


PJ Hoover said...

Hey Sheri! Whenever I think of target audience, the best example that comes to mind is Jar Jar Biggs (did I even come close to spelling that right). Remember the overly annoying alien from Star Wars 1: The Phantom Menace? Adults could not stand him, but my kids love him! Kids across the world love him. And who's buying the toys and watching the movies over and over? Yep.

Sheri said...

How true PJ. And that's exactly what I mean. WE are adults, but we are writing for children. There are definite generational gaps, but as writers, we need to get in touch with not only the kids inside of us, but who kids are today. Often that is a whole different ball game from when we were that age...

LEEZY said...

That's really interesting Sheri. As a picture book creator, I have two audiences to think about, sometimes three.

There is the young visual PB reader, too young to read actual words, but eager to look at pictures, and listen to a story being read to them.

Then there is the slightly older PB reader, who can read but still wants to engage the pictures and maybe sit with an adult to discuss the story.

Then there is the adult, who essentially buys the book and reads it aloud to the child. Often, the adult buys a book that has a sentimental meaning from when they were young, or conveys a particular 'moral' message — whatever the reason, more often than not, I need to be aware of these two massively different-in-age audiences in order to appeal and make the book a dual success.

However, I will happily admit that I prefer to just write a story for the child, which I think might be fun to hear out loud or look at and make a child smile. I like to write silly stories without worrying or strategically planting a 'message' — instead letting the reader engage and draw their own personal meaning if they so choose.

Basically, every time I write, I think back to the books I loved and still love, that were filled with nonsense words, humor and multiple avenues for me to explore my imagination.

Sheri said...

I couldn't agree with you more, Leeza. A picture book writer has a very broad audience. Everyone loves a good picture book. Even my 3rd and 5th grader will, from time to time, visit their old favorite.

I know I read a lot of middle grade novels myself. Although I think as a MG novelist I do have to focus more on my child audience then the rare adult who reads a children's novel.

Your comment reminds me how when we take our kids to movies, there are definite inside jokes written with the parents in mind, that go right over the kids' heads, because they truly are meant to engage the adult who has to attend the movie with their children.

When I focused more on writing screenplays, I wrote animations, and I definitely kept both audiences in mind.

Good point, Leeza!

ChrisEldin said...

Sheri, Like you, I write MGs. And you're right about that age where kids still want to believe!

My current project is for 7-10 year olds. I'm having so much fun with it. Really letting humor take over. I read part of it to my skeptical 10 year old, who thinks I'm the world's biggest geek. He cracked up even though he didn't want to. That was nice.


Sheri said...

Oh that's great Chris! Even though they say not to read our books to our own kids, I DO! I love to see my daughters' reactions. And how relieving is it, when they laugh, or gasp, in all the right places!

“Personal limitation exists only in our ideas of who we are. Give up all notions of who you are and your limitations will vanish.”

- Anonymous