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Monday, December 16, 2013

Writing for Younger Readers Does Not Mean Dumbed down!

Written for younger readers but not
 dumbed down! 
Some editors, artists and writers in the Comic book Industry believe that writing for kids means writing material that’s dumbed down. Stuff like Scooby-Doo comic books and Manga.

But that’s not the case at all.

I’ve been writing Independent Reader and Young Adult fiction for the past three years. And the subject matter I’ve tackled in my work is anything but dumbed down.

I’ve tackled topics like masturbation, and feminine hygiene in The Thetas and All About Nikki Season- The Sensational second Season. I’ve written about body image in Isis series stories like Isis: The Beauty Myth.  I’ve written about I’ve explored the world fine Art modeling in Isis: All About the Goddess.

And younger readers have read all this content with no problems. Tween and teen boys and girls men and women of all ages all over the world have enjoyed my stories. 

All demographics of audiences the comic book industry desperately needs to pull  it out of a two decade slump.

I didn’t talk down to my readers in my stories. I didn’t patronize readers by dumbing down the subject matter or the characters. 

Too many in the American comic book industry treat children like they’re dumb. Like all they want to read is Scooby Doo or Manga.

I wrote content in such a way that the reader could comprehend the subject matter. That didn't mean I dumbed things down. That meant tailoring the content in such a way that it was appropriate for the audience of tweens and teens I was targeting.

Too many people working in the comic book industry treat younger readers  like they’re dumb. Like all they want to read is Scooby Doo or Manga. Or allegedly  child oriented comics like Archie or Johnny DC. 

Here’s a News Flash:  small children, tweens, and teens are SMART. If they’re passionate about a subject or a character they can read between the lines of the story and understand literary elements just like adults. All a publisher has to do is get them excited about reading.

And from what I’ve seen, they can handle content that features complex subject matter.  It just has to be written in a way that’s age appropriate.

Comic book writers don’t have to write down to younger readers. In fact they’ll see right through that kind of content.

Kids read this story and got it!
I used a lot of big words and complex
terms but Kids understood it
A good writer knows how to scale their content so it’s tailored to fit the audience of readers they’re trying to target. For example, in my Isis series books and All About Nikki screenplay books I often tackle topics subject matter like sex and body image. But I make it a point to NEVER talk down to the reader. The way I figure it, the reader will be smart enough to put two and two together. When these topics are presented to the reader in a tasteful manner that’s explains things clearly, the reader will walk away learning a bit more about the subject than they did before they read my work.  

What younger readers can’t handle is subject matter that’s obscenely inappropriate or just plain excessively violent like today’s comic books.

Younger readers can handle superheroes punching bad guys in the face or someone being knocked out. They can handle seeing a nude body in the context of a medical examination or a bath. They can handle hearing two characters talking about sex and sexuality or even showing characters having a romantic relationship.  They can even handle death. 

What is inappropriate for younger readers is seeing comic panels of someone being eviscerated, decapitated, or mutilated.  Seeing two characters having graphic sex in panels. Seeing graphic pictures of rape and sexual assault. Seeing panels featuring depraved acts like cannibalism. Hearing characters like superheroes using hard profanity like F-Bombs. Seeing “good” characters like superheroes commit murders and have no sense of morals in their lives or in the lives of their secret identities.

Enjoyed by readers of all ages!
(Well, 11 and up)
It’s content like this that alienates audiences like tweens and teens. It’s what turns away women and girls. All of these audiences buy lots of Young Adult fiction which features similar content to comic books. The Young Adult market that currently buys Monster High, Twilight, Harry Potter, and The Hunger Games could be the next big market for the comic book industry if editors in the comic book industry made serious efforts to capitalize on those demographics with quality content presented in the appropriate context. 

When it comes to content, many in the comic book industry don’t understand it’s not content, but context. In the proper context almost any subject matter can be presented to younger readers. If a creative team handles content in a sensitive and tasteful way they can reach an entirely new generation of readers and introduce them to the comic book medium.

As a writer who has written stories dealing with complex social issues, I know that the best ideas can fall apart due to poor execution. And when a creative team thinks that an idea is childish it’s because they’re not coming at it from the right perspective. Writing for younger readers does not mean writing in a dumbed down way. It means getting creative and finding a way to reach your intended audience with content that appeals to them.


  1. I can remember an anecdote on some website where a fellow decides to give a kid a copy of the New 52 Flash book but the kid didn't like it for being boring. (That in the New 52 Flash stories, Barry's dating his colleague and there's a character called Manuel Lago who got experimented on and mutilates himself to produce clones.) I can also remember some readers getting upset over a much nastier Bart in one recent Flash story (I can remember the comments where one reader suggested that since one of them was using too much exposition, the solution could've been to simply send themselves back to where they come from and with the character of Bart saying "loser"), that Flash stories do have a habit of franchising its character too much (because entirely original characters are difficult to write about) and there were some people who felt that there were plot holes in these stories (one story line focused too much on the character getting torture and the like). While I can't remember the reasons why that kid found the Flash boring but it says a lot about the writing.

  2. I meant to say tortured instead of torture.

  3. Ad, this New 52 flash sounds sick and twisted. Nothing like the Wally West stories I read as a teenager.

    Mutilating yourself to produce clones? Why can't we get a story about bank robberies or something like that? Comics today are too mean, too angry and too excessively violent. It's a sign to me that the writers aren't very good. When you have to resort to goore, blood and violence to shock the reader, it's clear the writers know nothing about storytelling.