All Things Writing

Writing to Different Generations

November 20, 2020 Bryan the Writer Season 1 Episode 33
All Things Writing
Writing to Different Generations
Chapters
All Things Writing
Writing to Different Generations
Nov 20, 2020 Season 1 Episode 33
Bryan the Writer

The show this week has to do with an experience I had recently which, while not intending to be writing focused, has profound implications for me and my fellow writers. So, sit back and enjoy the show. This one is going to be deep.

Never before have we faced a situation where four generations simultaneously have access to social media networks that allow them to reach across the world instantaneously. While this sounds like it would be a good thing, it poses some very interesting problems for writers.

Question, how do you reach those different audiences?  Even at a more basic level, how do you write books which are going to appeal to those different demographics. The answer that question is that you’re really not.

But the differences are not necessarily just one of size. The baby boomer generation was told early on that if they stuck with their jobs, at retirement that job would take care of them. My generation, Generation X, was told that we couldn’t rely on our jobs and therefore we needed be prepared for layoffs at any moment and we would have to rely on Social Security. Paradoxically, at the same time, we were being told that Social Security was in trouble and might not exist when we were ready to retire.

The millennials coined the phrase move on to move up. They look at a job, not necessarily as a career in one company, but a career path which may actually include several different companies. Generation Z, will likely have a very similar type of outlook, while in some ways they have a lot in common with the GenXers.

In terms of writing, a millennial reader is not necessarily going to understand if a character in a book remains committed to one company, or one organization for their entire lives. That character may not seem real to them. It’s also true that a Gen Xer is likely going to look at a character in a book which moves from job to job to job as unfocused and unreliable. Where a millennial would look at that character and consider that really the norm. Because remember, “move on to move up.”

Millennial’s were always taught that there is a world which is in constant peril. They are all in on social justice, and what they see is a balancing out of fundamental rights. This means that they’re going to generally be attracted to books and movies which have a social undertone. There is a huge market for works with a social message behind them which may have been completely lost or just seem preachy to readers even ten years ago.

For me this is especially difficult because I don’t generally have a social undertone in my work. I write purely to entertain, an idea that would seem strange to a millennial, but be perfectly at home with the baby boomer. A Gen X or would also see it in the same way, but would be likely more attracted to books which show a truly bad antagonist if I write that antagonist as big business.

A millennial or generation Z member likely would see an evil antagonist more in terms of the moral relativity which can spring from trying to understand that antagonist’s point of view.

I do want to stop here and just say that I don’t necessarily see anything bad or good in any of this. It’s just different ways of looking at the world. And again, the issue is that all of these generations exist in the exact same time and space. It makes writing to maximum appeal especially difficult. Write to one and you alienate the others. Try to write to all of them and you may lose any chance to hook them.

It isn't easy, but you can do it as long as you keep in mind how different generations are going to see your writing.

Thanks for listening!

Support the show (http://paypal.me/BryanNowak)

Show Notes Transcript

The show this week has to do with an experience I had recently which, while not intending to be writing focused, has profound implications for me and my fellow writers. So, sit back and enjoy the show. This one is going to be deep.

Never before have we faced a situation where four generations simultaneously have access to social media networks that allow them to reach across the world instantaneously. While this sounds like it would be a good thing, it poses some very interesting problems for writers.

Question, how do you reach those different audiences?  Even at a more basic level, how do you write books which are going to appeal to those different demographics. The answer that question is that you’re really not.

But the differences are not necessarily just one of size. The baby boomer generation was told early on that if they stuck with their jobs, at retirement that job would take care of them. My generation, Generation X, was told that we couldn’t rely on our jobs and therefore we needed be prepared for layoffs at any moment and we would have to rely on Social Security. Paradoxically, at the same time, we were being told that Social Security was in trouble and might not exist when we were ready to retire.

The millennials coined the phrase move on to move up. They look at a job, not necessarily as a career in one company, but a career path which may actually include several different companies. Generation Z, will likely have a very similar type of outlook, while in some ways they have a lot in common with the GenXers.

In terms of writing, a millennial reader is not necessarily going to understand if a character in a book remains committed to one company, or one organization for their entire lives. That character may not seem real to them. It’s also true that a Gen Xer is likely going to look at a character in a book which moves from job to job to job as unfocused and unreliable. Where a millennial would look at that character and consider that really the norm. Because remember, “move on to move up.”

Millennial’s were always taught that there is a world which is in constant peril. They are all in on social justice, and what they see is a balancing out of fundamental rights. This means that they’re going to generally be attracted to books and movies which have a social undertone. There is a huge market for works with a social message behind them which may have been completely lost or just seem preachy to readers even ten years ago.

For me this is especially difficult because I don’t generally have a social undertone in my work. I write purely to entertain, an idea that would seem strange to a millennial, but be perfectly at home with the baby boomer. A Gen X or would also see it in the same way, but would be likely more attracted to books which show a truly bad antagonist if I write that antagonist as big business.

A millennial or generation Z member likely would see an evil antagonist more in terms of the moral relativity which can spring from trying to understand that antagonist’s point of view.

I do want to stop here and just say that I don’t necessarily see anything bad or good in any of this. It’s just different ways of looking at the world. And again, the issue is that all of these generations exist in the exact same time and space. It makes writing to maximum appeal especially difficult. Write to one and you alienate the others. Try to write to all of them and you may lose any chance to hook them.

It isn't easy, but you can do it as long as you keep in mind how different generations are going to see your writing.

Thanks for listening!

Support the show (http://paypal.me/BryanNowak)

Welcome to the show. Once again, I want to thank you for joining me. I have a couple of amazing shows coming up. Last week I was joined by Mr. Mike Thompson. I can’t thank him enough for coming on the show with me.

Next week I’m going to have ERIN MACKEY on the who has written a pretty impressive stable of books. We are going to be talking holidays, writing, kids books, and really anything that comes to mind. I am super excited about it!

Season two of all things writing will kick off the 1st of the year. I am starting to put together the rough idea of the shows right now, the plan as it were, but for anyone interested out there, we have tons of opportunities to become show sponsors.

To celebrate the start of the new season, I will offer up a book giveaway, so stay tuned for that.

The show this week has to do with an experience I had recently which, while not intending to be writing focused, has profound implications for me and my fellow writers. So, sit back and enjoy the show. This one is going to be deep.

Never before have we faced a situation where four generations simultaneously have access to social media networks that allow them to reach across the world instantaneously. While this sounds like it would be a good thing, it poses some very interesting problems for writers.

For example, consider grandma sitting in a rocking chair and knitting while also simultaneously posting her latest selfie to Instagram. She also jumps over to Facebook to check a site she likes which carries her favorite vegetarian friendly recipes. Then she pops over to her newsfeed which she has set up specifically to provide her the latest news on all the topics she’s interested in.

If you look at her grandchild, you find that she has the exact same possibilities. However, her tastes and what she’s looking for, searching for, and what she finds interesting is going to be vastly different.

Question, how do you reach those different audiences?  Even at a more basic level, how do you write books which are going to appeal to those different demographics. The answer that question is that you’re really not.

I fall comfortably into the category of Generation X. We are sometimes referred to as the forgotten generation because as a voting block were small. We’re not huge like the baby boomers, and when you consider the millennial’s are larger than the baby boomers, you start to get the impression that my generation is small in comparison.

But the differences are not necessarily just one of size. The baby boomer generation was told early on that if they stuck with their jobs, at retirement that job would take care of them. My generation, Generation X, was told that we couldn’t rely on our jobs and therefore we needed be prepared for layoffs at any moment and we would have to rely on Social Security. Paradoxically, at the same time, we were being told that Social Security was in trouble and might not exist when we were ready to retire.

The millennials coined the phrase move on to move up. They look at a job, not necessarily as a career in one company, but a career path which may actually include several different companies. Generation Z, will likely have a very similar type of outlook, while in some ways they have a lot in common with the GenXers.

In terms of writing, a millennial reader is not necessarily going to understand if a character in a book remains committed to one company, or one organization for their entire lives. That character may not seem real to them. It’s also true that a Gen Xer is likely going to look at a character in a book which moves from job to job to job as unfocused and unreliable. Where a millennial would look at that character and consider that really the norm. Because remember, “move on to move up.”

Considering the baby boomer generation, this is the group that is highly dependent on things like Social Security. Sure, some of them do have retirement savings that they use. But, a lot of them were betrayed in a certain sense by a system which imploded underneath them. So, for them, faith in a company might leave a bitter taste in their mouth. Hence your characters who have faith in their company may be met with suspicion in the reader’s mind. If that is what you are going for, then congrats!

I think the biggest thing which makes writing books which will have universal appeal is in the way they view society in general. Baby boomers very much looked to traditional values. Gen Xers tended to question those traditional values. Which I attribute mostly to the 1970s. But you also have this really funny undercurrent of conservatism which exists in Gen Xers as a result of the 80s. A lot of us remember fondly how Ronald Regan talked to us through the television.

Millennial’s were always taught that there is a world which is in constant peril. They are all in on social justice, and what they see is a balancing out of fundamental rights. This means that they’re going to generally be attracted to books and movies which have a social undertone. There is a huge market for works with a social message behind them which may have been completely lost or just seem preachy to readers even ten years ago.

For me this is especially difficult because I don’t generally have a social undertone in my work. I write purely to entertain, an idea that would seem strange to a millennial, but be perfectly at home with the baby boomer. A Gen X or would also see it in the same way, but would be likely more attracted to books which show a truly bad antagonist if I write that antagonist as big business.

A millennial or generation Z member likely would see an evil antagonist more in terms of the moral relativity which can spring from trying to understand that antagonist’s point of view.

I do want to stop here and just say that I don’t necessarily see anything bad or good in any of this. It’s just different ways of looking at the world. And again, the issue is that all of these generations exist in the exact same time and space. It makes writing to maximum appeal especially difficult. Write to one and you alienate the others. Try to write to all of them and you may lose any chance to hook them.

With that, I’m gonna take a break. Sit back and listen to these words and I’ll rejoin you in a moment. 

Insert commercial here

and were back. Just before the commercial break, I was mentioning how it is difficult to write to multiple generations.

Society and the way they view different things also has a very big part in the story of how different generations look at novels. For example, baby boomers and Gen Xers actually know the classics of American literature. The reason this is the case is because when we were going to school we were made to read them.

In the realm of the millennial, and the generation Z, those classics were not necessarily taught because they had elements in them which society suddenly found objectionable.

On this point I just want to say that I find what is happening to books in our school to be reprehensible. I cannot state this point more clearly. Pulling classics off the shelves because we don’t like words, or characterizations of certain characters is essentially rewriting history. Pretending something doesn’t exist doesn’t make it so. Not understanding the lessons taught by books such as 1984, or Fahrenheit 451, or the adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn truly does make an entire generation ignorant of the world around them.

No, history is not all flowers and sunshine. There are a lot of bad things that happened. Pretending they never happened dooms us to wander around in a world where were wearing blinders. It also forces us to accept a version of history which is been board approved.

I do carry with me some great concerns about generations in the future which will not have been exposed to these works of literature.

However, I’ve gotten off topic. Suffice it to say that I do think we need to pay close attention to what books are available in the library. I think there’s considerable wealth of knowledge to be gained by looking at what the kids in schools are checking out.

I’m not saying that you necessarily have to focus your writing in on one particular generation, but it is important to remember that when you are writing to a certain type of audience, there are considerations which can be made which will make your writing more impactful, and thus sell better.

Baby boomers, who do still read quite a bit, will focus on the classics and just a good story. These are stories which were made to be entertaining. This can also be said of the Gen Xers. We tend to focus on books that have a good story, and are entertaining. This explains the attraction of Dean Coombs, Stephen King, Tom Clancy, and others.

Millennial’s tend to eschew a lot of things that are older, especially when it comes to media. There are definitely exceptions to this rule and I know there are a lot of millennial’s out there who do like classic movies and classic books. Ironically, especially since the schools are told them they can’t read them.

But if you’re trying to write to a millennial, focus on social justice. If you watch movies, and especially television shows and commercials, you’ll see what I’m talking about. Look at the couples were being portrayed. Many of the times now they will feature an interracial couple, or a gay couple. The reason being is that many of these commercials are now being written by millennial’s who tend to want to break the traditional mold of what’s being shown in advertisements. Again, I don’t necessarily care if this is truly representative of the American community overall. It’s reality.

Your characters have to have depth and balance of your writing to a millennial. It’s important to remember that not every couple is heterosexual and white. You do need to make set up a little bit and be sensitive to those characters.

The millennial’s and generation Z grew up reading kids books and young adult novels which showed these types of families which were different than the traditional mold. Something which is being depicted in media which only a few years would be considered inappropriate. To them this is just a normal part of society, and if you paint a picture which is all white and heterosexual, you’re going to lose your audience.

I personally find it hard to do this. Not because I’m necessarily insensitive, but because the characters in my books have always just been characters, and not necessarily vehicles for social change. When I write, social change is not a goal for me. I’m not interested in changing your mind on social issues, I’m more interested in giving you something it’s entertaining that will draw you out of the real world for a little while. I tell people I want to be the ultimate airport author, you would pick up one of my novels when you’re getting on a plane across the ocean. It’s not something heavy to weigh your brain down, it’s just something to help you escape for a little while.

A millennial or a generation Z person might view that as a waste of an opportunity. Again, I’m not saying this is right or wrong, it’s just reality.

Wrapping this up, I want to point out that there is nothing wrong with any style of writing provided that it tells a good story. I have a friend who writes books which have a social justice undertone. And that’s great, I applaud her work. It’s not something I would do, but I’m also different kind of writer. And I guess that’s my ultimate point.

In this great big fish bowl we call writing, there may only be truly a handful of stories to be told in the world, but there are infinite ways to tell stories. And that’s what it comes down to. As I’ve said before, write your story in your way. Write the story that you would want to read and if other people like it, great. If other people don’t, then at the very least you wrote a story that was true to your intent.

Well, we come to the end of another episode of All Things Writing. Thank you very much for joining me. I know we got kind of deep today, but I promise next week show will be a little bit lighter with visions of turkey, sugar plums, and all things holidays dancing in our heads. 

Remember that if you liked this episode; if you like the show, then please hit the like button, and also consider making a donation to my efforts, and will help me keep on keeping on as the truckers would say.

Until next time, this is Bryan the Writer signing off