Why Write Fiction for Adults?

When my second child was born, I stopped writing for awhile; with two kids under two and the sleep deprivation that comes with it, I just couldn’t focus. Since I was on a YA-writing hiatus, I decided to take a YA-reading break, too, and branch out into the adult section of the library to see what was there. It was a little disappointing, I must admit. While the selection was huge, I couldn’t find any of the books that I liked to read. So I quickly skedaddled back to the familiarity and comfort of the teen section. 

This lack of “my kind of books” in the grown-up section of the bookstore has always kind of bugged me. So I’m very excited to welcome T.L. Bodine, who’s going to talk today about why it’s important to write for adults.

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Growing up, I read a lot of books.  That’s not a particularly shocking revelation for an author, but it’s true all the same.  We traveled a lot for my father’s job, and I was home-schooled, so libraries were always the first thing we sought out in a new city.  I spent my allowance on new books.  I asked for books for all my birthdays and Christmases.

So it’s kind of an understatement to say that books played an important role in my life.  They were like friends that I could carry around with me — wise, strong friends who knew all sorts of wonderful secrets.  Books taught me about the world.  They showed me what love and friendship should look like.  They taught me how to overcome adversity.  And they gave me a way to understand and codify my experiences.

But once I got a little older, I started to run into a snag.  It got harder to find books that reflected my life and gave me the guidance I’d always sought.  To be sure,  I’d still run into books and authors that really seemed to “get” me, but it wasn’t the same as it had been as a kid.  Time and again, the books I’d find would ring hollow.

The best MG and YA books are full of wonder.  They hold secrets and teach you new things, and they reach out to hold your hand as you make the transition into adulthood.  They’ve been designed that way, and with the ever-growing popularity of YA literature over the past couple decades, they’re getting better and better at doing it.  YA books are becoming increasingly sophisticated.  The teens growing up today are lucky to be ushered into adulthood with the help of so many talented authors and amazing books.

But once you cross through that threshold — once you pass through the arches and emerge into adulthood on the other side — who’s waiting there to receive you?

In my experience, no one.

Becoming an adult is fraught with confusion and false starts.  There’s a lot of questioning: Am I really a grown-up now?  Is this when I stop being interested in childhood things? When do I learn how to be responsible? When do I stop feeling like a kid in a grownup costume?  How do I relate to my parents as an adult?  What do adult friendships even look like?  What do I do about marriage, divorce, having babies, not having babies, buying houses, switching careers?  What happens after the curtains close on the “happily ever after” and life goes back to normal?

I’ve always been a firm believer that you should write the kind of books you wish you had read.  I’m also aware of the therapeutic role that fiction plays in life — the way we writers turn to the written word as a way to delve deeper into our own psyches.  So when I sit down to tell stories, it’s not really surprising that the stories that come out deal with these same anxieties and questions.

For a long time, I struggled with this, because the books I was interested in writing (and, for that matter, in reading) didn’t seem to be the books that were selling.  As I finished up my dark fantasy novel Tagestraum and set out on the path in search of agents and publishers, I found that my options were limited.

Once I filtered it as non-YA and non-romance, my selection was pretty narrow, and no one seemed to be looking for what I was offering.  I joined contests and made friends, but my peers all seemed to be writing different books than I was.  At one point, I started thinking of ways I could make Tagestraum into a YA novel just to make it easier to market.  The changes required would have dramatically altered the story — not just the plot and characters, but its very heart and themes.

That realization was the first thing that made me turn toward self-publishing, which turned out to be the right choice for me.  Curiously, once I’d committed to following that path, the “New Adult” genre started to gain some traction and popularity; I’m taking that as a sure sign that I’m definitely not alone in my hunger for stories about growing up past the limits of YA stories.  It’s pretty clear proof that there’s other people in their 20s wondering where to go from here.

And if I had to guess, I’d be willing to bet that somewhere out there, there are people in their 30s, 40s, even their 80s, looking for books that will hold their hands and guide them toward the next stage in life.  I can only hope that there are writers out there asking those questions and trying — for themselves and their readers — to find the right answers.

So at the end of the day, here’s my takeaway:  When you find your passion, you take hold of it and find a way to make that work, even if it doesn’t seem like the easiest or most lucrative route.  You find the stories that you want to tell — that you need to tell — and you tell them the best you can, and let things start to fall into place later.  The path you follow might not be the same as what everyone else is doing, but if you’re following your heart, you’re not going to get lost.

And if the books you’re writing happen to be stories for adults…books about facing and overcoming the challenges of learning to live your life…then I can tell you that there’s at least one person, sitting right here, who will be delighted to read them.

 

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T.L. Bodine writes dark fantasy, horror and speculative fiction.  She currently has two books available: The Beast in the Bedchamber, an anthology of dark fairytale retellings, and Nezumi’s Children, which might be described as “Lord of the Flies meets Watership Down.”  Her next book, Tagestraum, should be available around Christmas.  

When not writing, T.L. spends her time playing far too many video games and traumatizing her Facebook friends with an endless litany of philosophical rants.  She also runs a small-scale rat rescue from her apartment and dabbles in a bit of urban homesteading.  

About BECCA PUGLISI

Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

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16 Responses to Why Write Fiction for Adults?

  1. Jemi Fraser says:

    Great post! When I was a kid there weren’t many books written for kids but I’ve been lucky enough to always find books I love 🙂

  2. Morgyn says:

    Rat smoochies, T.L.!

    OK, that’s a first, LOL. Hey, whatever floats your boat.

    NA, I haven’t sunk any serious tooth marks into it. What I have read on blogs, makes it sound more like purse strings on sex get loose. So? Would really love for you to expound on what you saw as the borders you crossed, leaving YA for NA.

    One thing I keep pondering is how Hunger Games and HP managed to cross the same border and still stay pretty much between the lines. Your thoughts?

    Grand post. Will be forwarding, plenty.

    • T.L. Bodine says:

      I’ll admit that I haven’t read widely in NA either — I’ve seen it pinging around and follow a few bloggers who’ve talked about it (and why it’s important) — but reading recommendations are few and far between.

      For a touchstone, here’s a blog post about NA that resonated with me: http://suzannevanrooyen.com/2013/01/04/new-adult/

      (Incidentally, Suzanne’s book Obscura Burning is right between YA and NA and is a pretty fantastic read)

      But in general, I’d have to agree with you. By and large, NA books often seem to be an excuse to write YA-type characters and storylines but with more sex to fit in with the current erotica trends. Which seems like a damn shame, because there’s so much else in the 20-something life experience that needs to be documented and examined and unpacked.

      So far as Hunger Games and HP go, I think two things are at work: First, they both deal with issues far larger than the main character. Though they’re deeply personal stories, they’re also set in a much larger world, and that makes them more timeless/ageless. And of course they’re both phenomenal series with excellent writing, which gives them an advantage 😉

  3. Rosi says:

    Excellent post. It does no good to ignore your passion and chase after the next big thing. Thanks for posting this.

  4. I’m so glad that you tackled this topic, TL. So many people talk about why it’s important to write books for children and teens, but no one really talks about the importance of writing for adults. And the same principles apply. So thank you for giving us all permission to write the kind of books we wish we could read ourselves :).

    • T.L. Bodine says:

      Ultimately, my motives are purely selfish — I just want the world to be filled up with great books for all ages so I can read them all 😉 bwahaha!

      But no, seriously: If anybody out there was waiting for someone to say it was OK to write what you love (regardless of what it is)…You have my permission. Go forth, and write with love <3

  5. Reading your article became a pep talk/inspirational motivator for today. Thank you for reminding us to write stories about “facing and overcoming the challenges of learning to live your life…”

  6. C.Lee McKenzie says:

    Books have always helped me through life stages and life events–good and bad. Somehow knowing that others experience what you do is a comfort and a source of strength. I agree that there are a lot of adult looking for books that they can connect with. Super post.

  7. T.L. Bodine says:

    Thanks for hosting me today 🙂

    I’ll be lurking around all day if anybody has any questions or wants to carry on the discussion further!

  8. Mart Ramirez says:

    Excellent advice! I agree 100%! Always follow your heart.

  9. Laura Pauling says:

    I totally agree! Not only that we should be writing what we’d want to read even if it happens to be trending or not trending, but that branching out to other age groups and genres, stretches and grows up as writers!

  10. I really enjoyed this post, T.L. I think you hit on a lot of truth here. There always seems to be this assumption that one we shed our teens, we are adults in every sense of the word, and suddenly are linked to an infinite conduit of wisdom. This is not the case, of course. We are not all sure of ourselves. We don’t always know what to do, what direction to take and what decisions are right for us and others. Instead we muddle along and do the best we can, making lots of mistakes, trying to wear our adult clothing while a part of us pines for the simplicity of the past. There really needs to be more literature that reflects this stage we all go through, so thank you for being one of the ones with the courage to write it!

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