How do we as authors, keep connecting to children of all ages when we write?
The technology is far out reaching my expectations as I see kids so much more focused on computers, hand-held games, IPods, and cell phones then on reading a good book. Writing must step it up to keep kids wanting to read instead of only looking and listening to sounds and graphics of their latest game.
So how do we do it?
1.Characters... well developed characters. It doesn't matter if the character has a few flaws, so much the better. Kids are not perfect and they don't want to read about perfect kids either.
2. Theme: the theme or subject matter has to matter to the reader. Make the theme of your story resonate with what is happening in a child's real life world. Kids will read about stuff that they care about or that they can relate to.
3. Conflict: conflicts need to be edge of your seat kind of stuff, the stuff that kids worry about and think about. They want to read about it and relate to it but here is the key. It has to be believable, even if the story is a Harry Potter take off with wizards and supernatural happenings, the rise and fall of conflict and resolution must be believable for the world you have created.
4. Endings matter: the ending to your story needs to be satisfactory. That doesn't mean it has to be a happy ending every time. Life doesn't work like that...bad stuff happens to good people or in this case characters. But the ending needs to be a natural consequence of the story line. Example: Character A has done drugs and refuses help and thinks he doesn't need help from outsiders so makes no change throughout the story. Now Character A dies in the alley with a syringe in his hand. For a teen or young adult reader... that is real. It may not be happy but it is the natural consequence of the actions laid out in the story.
Age appropriateness of the story line and the ending are important when you are trying to attract a readership. It is also important to keep the conflicts age appropriate in most cases. Picture book characters wouldn't settle an argument with a peer with a gun for instance, however a young adult theme that includes gangs and gang violence may have more graphic conflicts as the natural consequence of the characters and their actions. Not always goody goody, but definitely hooks a young adult reader.
Look at your story and identify the characters, the theme, the conflicts, and the natural consequences of the actions in your story. Can you tighten anything, change anything, or add something that will hook your reader away from the techie game or music they are currently into? If you answer yes, you've captured what your reader needs and wants, and now maybe you will be the next author he downloads to his Kindle.