Know What Influences Your Audience
I recently attended the NYC Teen Author Festival at the New York Public Library where new and established YA authors talked about their genre. One of the topics was understanding what influences teens. If you know that, then you can create believable characters, conflicts and settings that teen readers will care about. Books for young adults are my main interest, but regardless, one of my mantras in How to Publish Your Children’s Book and my own speaking engagements is that you have to know your audience. That means that no matter what age group you write for, you must be able to tap into their worries, hopes and influences in order to help your reader identify with your characters.
For instance, for teens, parents are a main influence. Parents define their lives, either by being supportive, long lost, dead, checked out or even falling off their pedestal. Another influence is friends, of course, and these include close friends and friends on the periphery. Among friends there can be painful breakups and changes when boyfriends enter the picture. Then there are boyfriends and girlfriends that fall into various patterns: love-hate, fall-for-the-best friend, soul mates and even the underdog (as in the unpopular kid gets the girl/guy). There are outside influences that we need to be aware of too, like technology and the economy.
Again, no matter what age group you choose to write for, the influences described above will probably resonate in some way. It’s your task to tap into how they impact your character.