Ask Daphne! About Older Characters

vintage-shoes-thumb-420x315-95715Vintage shoes today for Leslie, who asks:

I have a new book idea, and before I outline, I’d like your thoughts. The MC is 16, but there is an older adult that factors heavily in the premise. If I have a couple chapters where it’s the older woman’s POV, is the book still considered YA, or is it an adult book with just a young character? Or, is this just a type of book that most authors should steer clear of?

How much is a “couple of chapters”? You can make an argument that any serious shift away from your MC’s teen perspective may drag your book out of YA, but in truth, the term is about much more than just character’s age.

That said, without looking at it to make a true determination, I would caution you against spending too much time in your older character’s head. Can you provide the same information she provides with her POV by switching things around, and having her talk with your MC? Or have the MC hear about things in some other way?

YA can include older characters, certainly, but the thing to be aware of — and try to steer clear of — is letting the adult characters be the ones who come through in the end with the answers or the solution or in some other way “rescue” the teen. If you can avoid that, and keep the story firmly as your teen MC’s, then including an older character can add a nice bit of perspective. I can’t help but think of the Harry Potter books, where the adult wizards often provide some vital piece of information to Harry that helps him figure things out for himself, but they usually don’t “rescue” him. That said, the books do stay firmly with Harry, and don’t jump into Dumbledore’s head, for instance.

Anyone feel strongly otherwise? Or have other examples to cite that do or don’t work for you?

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