Sunday, June 14, 2015

Juggling Genres & Age Groups by Charles Suddeth

Juggling Genres & Age Groups

Charles Suddeth

The story is all important!

I write anything from picture books and middle grade historical to young adult thrillers and adult mysteries. Many people can’t understand why I write in so many genres and age groups. I worry about writing a good story, and then I worry about genres and age groups.


Genres can be tricky, since they have so many subgenres. But genres aren’t meant to make a writer’s life complicated, they help a reader know where to find your book in a bookstore. Online markets and publishers prefer books that fit into multiple genres so they can list your novel in two or more categories. I recently spoke with an agent about my fantasy manuscript. We discussed: urban fantasy, soft fantasy, magical realism, and heroic fantasy. But these are not important when writing your story. Make the plot one that agents, editors, and readers can’t put down, and then find the closest fit. However, a few genres tend to have rules about their plotlines. For example, in Cozy Mysteries the murder should be introduced in chapter one.


Age Groups can be more complex to deal with. Children prefer a main character their age or a year or two older, but the topic needs to deal with issues appropriate for their age level:

Picture Books: Ages 3 to 7 (Board Books for younger readers and Easy Readers for older readers). Children this age are Searching for Security. Even while playing and having fun, they need to know their parents are there for them with love, protection, and life’s necessities.

Middle Grade: Ages 8 to 13 (Chapter Books with a limited number of illustrations for younger readers and Tween fiction involving dating for older readers). Children in this age are Searching for Identity. They are not certain who they are or what their abilities are. They often do things in groups to obtain peer approval, because they lack self-confidence and self-identity.

Young Adult: Ages 14 to 18 (New Adult for college-age readers). Teenagers are Searching for Independence. They are famous for their rebellion against their parents, sometimes called “attitude.” Psychologists have described this as subconscious psychological efforts to separate themselves from their families, so they can become adults. New Adult is about college-age students dealing with new-found independence.

Adults: Adults are easier to write for; they read in a wide range of ages and topics. Anything that doesn’t fit in the above categories. I once sold a short story about a little boy dealing with his father’s death to a dark fantasy anthology. I didn’t consider marketing it as a children’s book, because it dealt with issues of life and death.


My favorite rule for writing is: Take your reader where they are not expecting to go. This applies to all genres and age groups. I write the story I want to write, and then I consider the above age guidelines as I write the rough draft. I often hear people discussing a writer’s voice. Each genre and age group should have a unique voice or all your works will sound the same. You should find a unique voice for each book, even if you write in the same genre/age group. Since I tend to write books that cross genres, I only consider genres when I’m ready to approach an agent or editor.

Experiment 38 is about Emily who has just graduated from high school. I chose this time in her life because graduation precipitates some drastic changes that lead to kidnapping and her life being in danger. No other time period in her life would have worked for this plot. Since the plot involves Emily dealing with Independence, it is not an Adult topic. Emily graduated before the story began, so my publisher lists it in their New Adult catalog, but bookstores place it in Young Adult.

Experiment 38: YA thriller, paperback, 4RV Publishing. Eighteen-year-old Emily, small for her age, lives alone with her scientist-father and learns too late that he holds a terrible secret, one that might destroy her life. As she and her boyfriend, Nate, try to unravel the mystery behind her father’s secret, they face danger and uncertainty.

ISBN: 978-1-940310-02-2

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About Charles Suddeth

Charles Suddeth was born in Indiana, grew up Michigan, and has spent his adult life in Kentucky. He lives in Louisville with his two cats. He is a graduate of Michigan State University. He belongs to the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, International Thriller Writers, and Green River Writers. He likes to spend his days hiking and writing in nearby Tom Sawyer State Park.

Books: Halloween Kentucky Style, middle readers adventure, 2010. Neanderthal Protocol, adult thriller, 2012. Experiment 38, New Adult thriller, 2015. Eighth Mask, adult mystery, 2015. 4RV Publishing will release Spearfinger, a picture book, in 2015.


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Heather Hatch said...

Thanks for your 'favorite rule' takeaway, Charles. Writing in a state park after hiking sounds heavenly.

Charles said...

Heather, yes that is my favorite rule. Surprise the reader, but make it seem like the plot had to turn that way. Hiking the state park gets the blood to the brain so I end up thinking about that next page or how I want to edit.

Sheila Renfro said...

We live close to the new Silver Springs State Park (it used to be privately owned). I love kayaking the river.

Charles said...

Kayaking? Sounds fun. Tom Sawyer State Park has small lakes & a creek, but I keep my feet on the ground, especially if I'm thinking about a story.

Genetta said...

Thanks for this blog post, Charles! These are great reminders to keep in the back of the brain as we're writing!

Charles said...

Hi Genetta. Good to hear from you. I had to explain why I write so many genres/age groups!

Sandra Cox said...

Great post. Helpful reminders. Thanks;)

Charles said...

Sandra, you are very welcome. It's good to hear from you!