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A Five-Step Guide to Engaging the Teen Audience

Ah, the teen audience. How to write for them? How to grab their attention? How to get them obsessed with your new book? Writing a book that appeals to teens can be intimidating because it takes a certain amount of… finesse. All the more so if you’re no longer in the age bracket.

But being able to produce a work of Young Adult (YA) fiction is endlessly rewarding because teens can make for a pretty supportive and passionate fan base if you get it right. They’ll form loyal fan clubs that meet up and excitedly discuss your words; or create fanfiction in celebration of your work; or even buy every piece of your novel’s merchandise that they can get their hands on. The truth is as simple as this: if they love it, they’ll obsess over it, and that will do amazing things for you, and your work. So, how can you try to make sure they react positively to your new novel?

Here’s a five-step guide to engaging the teen audience and – hopefully – winning them over.

  1. Be relatable. If you want to capture the attention of a teen audience, start by being relevant. Teens want to feel like they can relate to your story, and your characters, so make sure the trajectory of your narrative features things that teens go through regularly and contemporarily (unless it’s a work of historical fiction as well).

  • Make it a series. Teens want something to fixate on; a distraction; something to lift their spirits. We see this when we take a look at the most popular books for teens, such as Twilight, The Hunger Games, and Divergent (check out our blog The Meteoric Rise and the Quick Disappearance of the Teen Dystopia Genre to find out more about this genre). Importantly, you’ll find successful YA novels are almost always in trilogies or series. So, don’t end your story abruptly at the end of the first novel. Leave them wanting more, developing your characters and narrative gradually, while making sure to keep it interesting enough to warrant another book.

  • Put your characters through the most. Yes, you read that right. Make your characters suffer. We don’t mean put your characters through needless emotional and physical pain, of course. It has to be for a good reason and it has to add to the development of your characters. Doing this ties into staying relevant: the world is going through a lot, so be realistic and allow your characters to go through it, too.

  • Keep it simple, but interesting. Avoid the temptation to make your plot too complicated or difficult to follow, or you might just lose the attention of your teen audience. Shove them right in the thick of it, but don’t make them struggle to keep up with the story. Keep it interesting enough that they can picture themselves as your characters, but not too complex that they lose interest.

  • Dystopian elements are key. You don’t have to write a dystopian novel to get the attention of the teen audience, but it does help to have a few elements of the genre to make a striking impression. For example, attractive characters, a blurred line between good and evil, a resistance or rebellion of some sort, or even societal barriers and odd classes of people. Try it out!

When it comes to the teen audience, it can be a little difficult to capture their attention because of the multitude of competing content available online and via streaming. And, more importantly, it can sometimes feel impossible to retain it! But we can assure you that the teens are probably the ones best suited to bring your story to life, give it more meaning, and ultimately make it live far beyond the written word.

Now, take what you’ve learned and get writing. Your YA audience awaits!

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