Average is an Illusion

Friday, September 23, 2011

The average child can...

The average teen plays...

The average girl wears...

The average boy reads...

We get tons of information in tidbits like this. For those of us who write for people not in our own age group, we rely on it. But the secret is... it's not accurate. I'd never given much thought to this until McNish made a comment on another post, but he's right.

Averages of any kind are heavily reliant on variables that can change from person to person or hour to hour. Just because the sixteen-year-old boy down the street wears baggy jeans and likes to shock the little old lady next door with his four-letter vocabulary, that doesn't mean that the sixteen-year-old boy at the supermarket is the same. Just because your daughter likes perfume and pink doesn't mean someone else's loathes them.

Some kids squeal in delight over the idea of spiders; others run screaming (and have to beat their parents to their hiding spot).

Some kids embrace the giant, costumed cast members at Disney World, others freak out when the character that used to be two inches tall and stuck in their TV is now a foot-and-a-half taller than their dad.

Some teens like gore, others go nearly catatonic inside a G-rated haunted house.

The point is, personality and experience are things you can't plan for when you're trying to hit the right notes with a given pool of people. They might love you or loathe you, and that opinion might change over the course of the day.

Write your characters the way they need to be written, not because you "know" that's how a kid/teen/girl/boy would react, because when it comes to it, you don't know as much as you think you do.

5 Chiming In:

Lisa Aldin said...

LOVE THIS! I agree. I agree. I agree.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

So very true - you have to write it for the story, not reader's expectations. :)

Matthew MacNish said...

Exactly.

Shannon said...

Well said. :)

I haven't been here in a while so I am long overdue in gaining the impressive Suzie Townsend as your agent. Well done!

Suzie F. said...

Whoa. I was just thinking about this yesterday. More on point, thinking about how teens are often portrayed as sarcastic in a lot of YA, and how unsarcastic my near 15 yr old and her friends are.

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