Wagner Writer


I just walked in the door from my Thursday night writers group meeting and wanted to share something:

Your age group can have a huge effect on how stories are interpreted!

Tonight, none of the younger members showed up. In addition to me, there were 8 other people. Every one of the other 7 people was over 70  years old.

Now I might embellish a hair on my blog (for dramatic effect!) but that’s not an exaggeration. Two of the three people who ended up in my group were 75 and 81 (I know because they compared how young they looked, LOL).

First, let me say those people were all amazing. They’re spry, intelligent, well-written, and interesting. I’d totally have beers with them and maybe go on a date or two (awwwww yeah).

Still, their reaction to the piece I brought was really eye-opening.

I shared a short story I actually read at a different writers group last week. That group skewed younger, with me falling right in the middle. After hearing my piece, they were all very impressed. Every person seemed to like the style, tone, and voice. One member, an editor, was particularly praise-worthy.

Following that group, I went home and worked hard on the small changes they provided. I decided I wanted to take the final version to another group and see if the tweaks were effective.

That was tonight.

I admit I felt pretty cocky walking into the conference room. I mean, I’d worked really hard on a story that was already well-received. I sat up proudly and volunteered to go first. The grin smeared on my face gave away my excitement as I passed out my copies and began to read.

Let me just say the response I received was a total shock.

The older group hated the story.

Hated it.

They thought it was mean and it was course and unrefined. OK I might be singing some Beauty and the Beast there (props to any of you who got the reference). Still, the sentiment holds true.

The group certainly wasn’t mean about it, but they interpreted it completely different than the other, younger members.

When it was all said and done, I noticed a couple interesting differences between my generation and theirs:

1. Kids back then didn’t curse (???).

When I was eleven, I couldn’t say the word, “Butt,” in my house. If Mom caught me, she sat me down and made me write, I will not say curse words, fifty times (that’s how she punished us).

However, the second adults weren’t around, all the pent up cursing burst from me like a pinata. In fifth grade, me and another guy stood around a giant tire during recess listing all the dirty words we knew. It got pretty creative.

I figured that’s how it was with all kids and, to maintain realism, the characters in my story (who are all eleven) curse.

The older people were SOOOO thrown off by this. They said the story wasn’t realistic because “eleven year-olds don’t talk that way!” The entire group of readers (all over 70) swore up and down they never would have spoken that way as kids. They said it was disrespectful to talk that way.

2. Kids back then were more “honest.”

In my story, there is a lot of behind-the-scenes drama. I’m trying to highlight the awful dynamics kids faced. Yes, they sometimes did mean things, but those things sometimes came from self-preservation rather than awful places. With bullying and everything, good kids do some bad things.

The older readers in the group didn’t fully understand that. I’m not saying they didn’t have their kid drama. However, what I thought were realistic kids, they thought were disgusting brats. They thought each of the three kids in my story was an absolutely terrible person. None of my younger readers got that impression.

Now that I’ve received their feedback, I’m trying to decide what to do to my story. Honestly, I don’t think I’ll change it much. Each story has an audience, and sometimes those audiences aren’t compatible with each other. Essentially, you can’t please everyone. I wrote this story for adults around my age, and I believe I’m going to leave it that way. But it was really interesting learning how differently another group took it.

I’ll be sharing the story soon, so you can tell me if you agree with this post or not.

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