Writing for boys (yet again)

I recently did an interview about writing for boys. I guess my previous blog entries on the topic got somebody’s attention. It got me thinking more on the topic. I don’t really think about writing for boys — I really just try to write books I like and hope other people like them too — but I keep coming back to this and trying to sort it out. Here’s my thoughts:

1. Don’t get caught up in what boys like. Just write what you think is good. I mean, you want to remember that boys are a subset of kids and not write a dense novel about legal papers and real estate, but you also don’t have to throw a skateboarding subplot into a perfectly good family story just to get boys into it. Write with urgency and conviction and the story can be about (almost) anything.

2. It seems that “writing for boys,” has come to mean, “writing for boys who generally dislike reading,” which is a fine thing to do, but not the beginning, middle and end to writing books for boys. There are all kinds of boys with different tastes. You’re not likely to write a book that all boys like, because boys don’t all like the same things. Just write a book that you like, or that you would have liked as a kid. There are probably a million kids who like the same books you used to like.

3. One thing I suggested in the interview is to worry less about what “boys” are like and focus on what your boy is like. By “your boy,” I mean the hero and anchor of your story. What makes him special? What makes him interesting? Children’s books at every level are all about the main character: his or her voice, his or her goals, how he or she changes in the story. Readers don’t connect with a boy because he’s typical, they connect with him because he’s interesting. They don’t care if he likes pizza and hates homework. He can hate pizza and love homework if it suits his personality.

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