Friday, August 25, 2006

Writing For Boys

A couple weeks ago, I took my son to the dentist. He was nervous, because he had to get his first filling, and I scared him to death telling him about the shot of novacaine, which it turns out he didn't even need.

Anyhow, to calm his nerves, I handed him a book I had brought along to read. A book for young-adults. He read it for maybe a minute (if I'm being generous) then put it down.

"You don't want to read it?"

"No," he said.

"Why not?"

"It's boring."

"But you barely read it!"

"Yeah, but there were no explosions on the first page."

Explosions. That's what happens when you let your boy read Star Wars books. Not only do you have to have action, but the action must be on page one, paragraph one. And it must be an explosion.

Flash forward to today, where someone asked about some young-adult thrillers geared toward boys, or perhaps books similar to those by Meg Cabot, except targeted to boys. It seems her son is much like my own, as well as like myself when I was a boy.

And now the wheels are cranking in my head. It seems more difficult to attract boys into reading than girls. So, what would it take to get boys interested? And can I write books that I think boys would want to read even more than girls?

I'll admit my novel Mindburst is targetting myself. It is based on my own childhood playtime, and my love affair with superheroes. But I also made the main character a girl. Why? Well, the reason is many-fold, but one reason is that I figured that it is more likely a girl will pick up my book than a boy. Boys would like it, I think. Then again, they may be turned off at the female protagonist. Who knows?

And the book I'm currently writing is most definitely targetting girls. Think Tuck, Everlasting and you'll have an idea of what my new book is like. (Or may be like, since I'm only about halfway done.)

The question becomes, how to write for boys? How do I appeal to the kid that I was when I was, well, a kid? How do I write something filled with the action that boys like, but also isn't just another Star Wars wannabe?

I have no answers. But it is worthwhile for me to consider it, because I think more needs to be done to attract boys to reading. We are seeing a lot of progress there, actually, with authors such as Eoin Colfer (Artemis Fowl, etc.). Maybe some day I can jump in.

So, those of you with boys...what do they like to read? Give me some ideas, because I'd like to find out who is doing the whole "writing for boys" thing right, and maybe learn a thing or two from them.


Kassie said...

I'm not sure I can answer your question, but I can endorse it! My son's teacher and I were talking about getting boys interested in reading, and she pointed out the fact that most children's authors are women. Even the 'topics' geared toward boys are often covered by women - and they bring a different sensibility to the prose.

So, it might not be so much what you write, but how you write it.

Lexie Ward said...

My son loves anything with adventure and humor: The Lemony Snicket books, Harry Potter, etc. The humor can be dry and understated (as in these books)--in fact, all the better! Also anything that involves nature.

Pharmamedics said...

My nephew like also like to read adventure stories with a portion of humor, wild plot.

Anonymous said...

I'm just passing through, but I thought I'd offer some suggestions. As far as books, my brother David (now eighteen) liked a lot of fantasy books and writers. Anne McCaffrey, Orson Scott Card, Jane Yolen, Ursula Le Guin, Kenneth Oppal. Vivan Vande Velde is pretty popular, as is Anthony Horowitz.

He also really liked the Magic Treehouse series (I'm not sure who the author is), Chris Crutcher, Bruce Coville, Gordon Korman, Louis Sachar, Chris Archer (particular the mindwarp series).