NA/YA Genre Rules

by Ava
(Las Vegas)

Question: I have a hard time understanding the rules of NA and YA genres.

For example, I’m writing a fantasy novel with the characters in their 20s, let’s say.

Does the story have to be about New Adult experiences?

Can a story still be New Adult Fantasy without a focus on leaving home or leaving the comforts of a familiar situation?

While it is happening, the character arcs involve growth or acceptance of who they are or something they must be or do differently.

The question applies to YA novels too.

Answer: Obviously, you want to appeal to the typical readers of your genre. So you will want to create a main character they will be interested in spending time with.

In NA and YA, which are genres defined by the age of their typical reader, your main character will typically be part of that group (or perhaps slightly older). That's not necessarily true. You might be able to create a younger or older character that a NA audience might enjoy, but it would be more difficult.

Most readers like a main character who is undergoing struggles they can relate to, because we like seeing how other people cope with situations similar to our own.

However, while there are a handful of experiences that are the most common for a particular age group, that doesn't mean they are the only ones.

For instance, some issues appeal more strongly to particular generations. A character who appealed to baby boomers might not appeal as much to millennials, because the experience and concerns of these groups is different.

And there are some issues that are so universal they can appeal to many different groups. In that case, how you tell the story, how you address or reinterpret the issues, may determine if your readers relate to the character. For instance, you might choose a universal theme but give your main character a voice that is particularly appealing to readers of a certain age.

Finally, readers can grow bored of even the most appealing theme and might find a slightly different book to be a refreshing change.

So the bottom line is... writing has guidelines and principles, but never rules. One fundamental principle is that the story should connect with the reader. If you think your book is atypical but appealing, the best thing may be to show it to some beta readers who resemble your ideal reader (strong readers who are part of your target readership). If the story strongly engages their emotions, you have done your job.

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