The Lost Boys of YA: Are Young Men Reading Less? :: LitReactor

boys_tvHow do we get dudes reading?

My husband is a total dude, and he admittedly hates to read.  He says he gets bored with reading, and he’d rather just watch the movie anyway.  I even let him borrow my copy of Fight Club, because he adores the movie (and what dude doesn’t like reading Chuck?!), and I think he got through a chapter. Maybe.

So, what’s the real issue?  I know plenty of guys who read fiction… and read a ton of it.  Does my husband’s analytical mind prevent him from using his imagination against the written word?  Or did he, like many others, fall victim to the whole I-hated-the books-we-read-in-high-school-so-I-don’t-enjoy-reading attitude?  We read the classics in high school, I know, but some of them were excruciating.  I didn’t read them all.  No one did.  So I can see how that experience might make some people book-shy.

Back to my first question:  how do we get dudes reading?  I wish I had an answer, but I really think the solution needs to begin at an early age.  What are your thoughts?

– sld

The Lost Boys of YA: Are Young Men Reading Less?


A friend of mine who recently finished six years of military service used to read on the bus between training exercises. It seems like a pretty innocuous thing to do. The ride from one base to another was four hours long, so he brought a book to entertain himself. At least, that was his original intent when he started out as a 19-year-old private. He quickly found that his peers viewed reading as a strictly feminine activity, and a laughable one at that. Tired of the constant harassment that it provoked, he eventually stopped bringing books on the bus.

This incident, although anecdotal and somewhat extreme, is not inconsistent with other outside data on adolescent reading habits:

  • A Canadian study published in the Alberta Journal of Educational Research found that 24 percent of second grade students thought of reading as a “feminine activity,” and later, additional studies have mirrored that result.
  • Only 12.5% of teens report that their fathers read more often than their mothers, and reading rates among young men have been dropping.
  • Guys Read, a group dedicated to reversing these trends, notes that boys of every age group have scored worse than girls on reading tests for the last 30 years.
  • Pew research conducted in 2013 reported that men read fewer books of any genre— 21 percent fewer in the category of YA titles, to be precise.

Based on the information at hand, it’s difficult to pinpoint how much of this is the result of cultural norms, and how much might be chalked up to other unknown factors.

Read the entire story at LitReactor.

Chaos Theory


An androgynous voice globbed over the intercom: “Flight 479, direct to Columbus, will be boarding three hours late.”  A young man rolled his eyes, taking a seat in the scantly occupied terminal, and fished his smartphone from his backpack.  Two new text messages, both from her.

Paul, please come back.  I need u here.  

Can we just talk?

He slid the phone into his sweatshirt pocket and sighed painfully, leaning back against the vinyl seat.

“Now there’s the sound of a man in love,” someone declared.  Paul jerked and turned around to see a man’s well-worn face smiling at him.  “Well, aren’t you…?  In love?”

“I thought I was,” Paul smirked over his shoulder.

The old man shrugged.  “Eh.  You are, or you aren’t.  Love doesn’t come and go like hunger pangs.”  He shook his head.  “No.  Love is love and nothing else.  You a college boy?”

“Yeah, um, I go to Ohio State.  Biology major.”

The old man’s head tilted back.  “A buckeye.  Man of science.”

“I guess so,” he shrugged.

“Well,” the man grunted, slowly standing, “tell me about the girl.  She the reason you’re on the red-eye?”  He took small, rheumatic steps and sat down a couple of seats away.  “You’ll feel better if you talk it out, son.  You’re just going to think about her for the next three hours anyway.”

Paul inhaled sharply, his shoulders rising, and eyed the old man, pensive.  “We’ve been friends – well, we were friends – forever, since middle school, and we dated off and on throughout high school.”

The man shook his head.  “I assume you and she were each other’s ‘first’?”

Blood vessels dilated on Paul’s neck.  “‘First?'”

“First love,” the man said, matter-of-factly.

“Oh,” he breathed, “yeah.  Mine, for sure.”

The man nodded once and focused his gaze straight ahead.  “Go on.”

“I mean… well, we were each other’s first everything.”  He crossed his arms.  “So, we headed off to different colleges, and I thought we should see other people.  Mika didn’t agree, but she tried.  She thought we were meant to be together.  And the thing was every time we’d go back home, we’d get together… it was almost like we’d never been apart.”

The old man grunted.

“But I screwed it up.  I pushed her away.”

“Eh, why would you do that?”

“I don’t know.”  His fingers played with the latch on his wristwatch.  “I thought that’s what I wanted.  I knew her.  Too well.  I thought I wanted something different.  Someone new.”

“And you tried to win her back,” the old man guessed.

Paul leaned forward, elbows on his knees.  “I waited too long.  She’s getting married tomorrow.  To a guy I used to play baseball with as a kid.”

Watery eyes cut to the forlorn boy.  “Mercy.  Did you tell her how you feel?”

“Yes.”  He sat upright, as though the words pained him.  “Tonight, the first minute we had to ourselves.  We went into her old bedroom.  I sat her down on the bed and just blurted it out.  I said, ‘Mika, you always said we’d end up together, and I believe you now.  I love you, and I want to marry you.'”  He chewed on his lip.

“What’d Mika say?”

“That I have a special place in her heart, but she didn’t know what love was until she met John… that I’d always be her best friend.”  He shrugged, heartbroken.  “She was so sure before.  I never thought she’d do this to me.  I thought she’d always be there for me.  Mika was mine... she was always mine.”

“Therein lies your problem, my boy,” the old man pointed.  “You cared for the girl all along, but you expected her to hang around like a stray dog.  You fed her – just enough for her to justify staying – until it became inconvenient for you, and then you cursed her for leaving once she starved.”  The boy’s head hung low.  “I know this is difficult to hear, but there’s always design in chaos. You’ve got to recognize this girl’s purpose in your life.  Sometimes what you want and what you get don’t coincide, but what you get always coincides with what you need.”

“What do you mean?”

“A friend gives you a birthday gift.  You open it; it’s a scratchy wool sweater, but it’s the hottest day in July.  What do you say to your friend?  You say ‘thank you,’ because he didn’t have to give you anything at all.  No matter how untimely the gift, you show appreciation.  You don’t understand why that particular gift was chosen for you, and maybe your friend doesn’t even know precisely why, but, rest assured, there is a reason.”

“Like, six months later, I’m in a freak snowstorm with nothing but that wool sweater to keep me alive?” Paul snickered.  “I just can’t believe everything is designed, predetermined.  That implies some almighty intelligence, one that cares whether or not I have sugar in my coffee or if I wear a blue shirt or a red one.  Science teaches probabilities out of chaos, and that’s what I believe.”

“You don’t say?” The old man’s watery eyes sparkled, and he chuckled, low in his throat.  “You don’t believe there’s a reason you met Mika?  Or a reason you’re here now, obliging a strange old man with talk of unrequited love?”

“Could we change the subject?  I really don’t want to talk about Mika anymore.”

The old man sighed.  “Alright.  But, just think about it, eh?  Listen to an old man who’s had more than his share of heartache.  You trust me… life may not make sense now, but it will later.”

And so, he yielded, and they discussed muscle cars and books for the next hour, until all the other passengers of Flight 479 had stretched out across the empty rows and fallen asleep.  Paul fetched his cellphone and started a game of Texas Hold’em.  The old man watched every flick of his finger, and soon he and Paul played together, whispering about strategies, blind-stealing and semi-bluffs.

A few minutes into their second tournament, a new text flashed across the screen.

I need to talk to u…  I can’t let u walk out of my life like this.  We’ve been friends for so long… why can’t u still be my friend?

“Mika?” the old man asked, rubbing his eyes.


“Why don’t you call her?”

Paul checked the time.  The plane would start boarding in a half hour.  “I don’t know.”

“Eh, go on.  At least let her know you’re okay.  She hasn’t any idea where you are, and she’s concerned.”

Paul still loved Mika. Whatever the outcome, he loved her.

He texted back: Calling.

“Smart boy,” the old man said, getting to his feet.  “I’ll give you some privacy.”

Holding the phone to his ear, listening as it rang, Paul said, “Hey, I never caught your name…”

The old man turned and faced him, eyes steadied, posture a bit straighter. He answered in a strong voice, “I am –“

Paul’s finger shot up to silence him as Mika answered the phone.  “Hey,” he said quietly, “just wanted to let you know that I’m fine, I’m at the airport…”

The old man looked on, a gratified expression on his face, like a grandpa at his grandson’s wedding.  After a moment, he turned and walked away, down the concourse, out of sight.

Paul paced, the phone wedged between his ear and shoulder.  He spun around after the call ended, expecting to find the old man.  He eyed the terminal, searching.  Fellow passengers milled around, shuffling into boarding position at last, but the old man wasn’t in line.  He hoisted his backpack and wandered through the terminal, looking for him.  The last few passengers plodded down the jet bridge, and Paul had no choice but to leave without saying goodbye.  He trotted down and out of the concourse, abandoning his flight plans, and hailed a cab back to Mika’s house.

Wrapped in blankets, Paul and Mika perched on the roof just beyond her bedroom window.  They confessed everything – feelings, wants, regrets – until the sun peeked over the purple Rockies. Though he hadn’t thought it possible, Paul felt better about their situation.  Mika would be a lifetime friend, and suddenly, he longed to confide in the old man.

Instead, he told Mika about him.

“Too bad you didn’t get his name,” Mika said.

“I know.  He’s halfway to Ohio by now.”

“But I think the real question is,” she said, smirking, “would you still be here right now if you hadn’t met him?”

Paul grinned.

Downstairs, Mika’s father yawned as he poured himself a cup of coffee and switched on the news.  A stoic reporter read the teleprompter, “…After a three-hour delay for mechanical repairs, Flight 479 to Columbus, Ohio, crashed early this morning, killing all crew and passengers on board….”

– sld

Here’s to Breaking Writing Rules—Rebels With a Cause or Rebels Without a Clue?


Rebellion promotes art – a fantastic lesson for us writers. There’s a reason why I love Hemingway….

Originally posted on Kristen Lamb's Blog:

Orignal image via Wikimedia Commons Orignal image via Wikimedia Commons

For the past several years, I’ve always begun the New Year with predictions of what the publishing industry would or wouldn’t do in the year to come. But this year? I’m being a rule-breaker and taking a different perspective—one I believe has greater impact and longevity. Algorithms rise and fizzle, publishers go out of business, change paths, or change rules. Heck, Amazon changes its mind more than my mother trying to pick a restaurant. So…eh. Not going there this year.

Unlike the days of early artists, we live in a light-speed society where something can fall flat or catch fire in an instant. This is an exciting time to be a writer.

We are in a New Age of the Artisan. When I give advice to young people about a future career, I simply want them to ask these simple questions. Can what I do be…

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5 Things to Stop Doing (If You Really Want to Finish Writing Your Novel) :: Writer’s Digest


Easier said than done, these points are… but sometimes, we need reminders.  Yoda said it best:  “Try not! Do, or do not. There is no try.”  Be like Yoda.  Become a Writing Jedi in 2015.

– sld

5 Things to Stop Doing (If You Really Want to Finish Writing Your Novel)

by Kevin Kaiser

Your novel isn’t going to write itself (I mean, if it were, it probably would have finished itself a long time ago!). Here are the five things you need to stop doing immediately if you want turn yourself into someone who stops asking questions about how to write a manuscript and starts bragging to friends about how you completed your manuscript.

1. Nix the excuses.

We get it, life is busy and writing is hard work sometimes. Still, excuses never changed anything, never inspired anybody, and never made any dreams a reality. Goals like writing a novel don’t die on their own. We suffocate them with our excuses.

2. Stop trying.

Your novel needs less “trying” and more “doing” from you. Like Yoda said, Do or do not. There is no try.

See the rest of this article on Writer’s Digest.

How Replaying Movies Takes Writers Behind the Scenes


Oh, my goodness, yes. My husband is bewildered by my ability to watch and re-watch movies that I have already seen. Think I’ll print this out and just hand it to him next time.

Originally posted on Drew Chial:

Reaching Cool

Writers are never just passive observers. Whether we’re reading or watching a movie, we don’t consume stories, we occupy them. We’re drawn into the events on the surface, while our subconscious minds pick apart the mechanics behind them.

The more we read, the more we understand story structure. In my piece Don’t Just Read More, Watch More I talked about the benefits writers get from watching movies too. Not only do we consume films faster, but their time limitations force them to have predictable three-act structures. Watch enough movies and you can predict when the protagonist’s routine will break, when their journey will take them past the point of no return, when their alliances will shift, when they’ll be at their lowest point, when their change has lead them to a new goal, and when they’ll rebound at the climax.

Aspiring novelists need to know those beats by heart. Films…

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8 Ways to Make Your Characters More Relatable :: LitReactor


I hate math; therefore, I hate formulas.  Formulaic songs, formulaic stories, formulaic characters:  hate, hate, hate.

But I love this article from LitReactor on creating realistic characters.  Read, my fellow night owls, and be inspired.

– sld

8 Ways to Make Your Characters More Relatable

by Robbie Blair

How does one write a compelling character? It’s a question so complex that you might as well ask how to write a good book. That said, there are a number of factors that crop up again and again when we look at the characters who strike a chord with many of their readers. One such factor is relatability, and in this article, I’m going to talk about ways to make your character more relatable.

Some Quick Notes

Not every character has to be relatable. While you can benefit from having relatable heroes, villains, or even side characters, there’s no mandatory pre-requisite that says a good book must have such characters—or even that compelling characters have to be relatable. Sometimes an emotionally distant villain is preferable, sometimes a lack of resonance can make an anti-hero even more interesting, and sometimes relatability just doesn’t mesh well with your character concept.

This article isn’t about teaching you the “right way” to write a character. It’s not about developing a mathematical formula that allows you to construct characters in some theoretically perfect way. I’m all for an organic approach to characters that allows characters to emerge from the story, world, and situations you’ve created. This look at ways to make more relatable characters is meant as a launching point from which you can brainstorm, troubleshoot, flesh out, or re-invigorate your characters.

There’s no reason not to give your villain a puppy to play with, some charity to support, or even a moment of selflessness (even if it is for a cause that stands in opposition to the heroes).

Read more of this story on LitReactor.