09 February 2021

The Fountain Pen of Youth

As writers we are always looking for ways to expand our readership and obviously sell more books. One way to do that is to try to reach younger readers. When we’re young we never think we’re going to lose our cool, but inevitably it happens. The music and other things we once thought so cool have little relevance for young people today.

As many of you know I’ve spent a lot of time in and out of the hospital in the last few months. And in that time I came across a lot of different nursing teams. The people on these teams are from everywhere and in all age ranges. But almost all of them have one thing in common as compared to me. They’re young. The vast majority are in their mid-twenties to early thirties.

I had a lot of pleasant conversations with them, but in talking to them I realized they don’t relate to the same cultural touchpoints that I do. And I don’t think it’s because of our different ethnic backgrounds, I think it’s because of our ages. For me the Beatles are everything. Most of them can’t relate to that. Some of them may even like the Beatles, but it’s not the same for them as it is for me.

I watch movies from the 30’s and 40's on Turner Classics and think of them as “old” movies. They think of movies from the 90’s as old. And black and white movies are ancient to them—might as well be cave drawings.

The point here is that if you want to reach this audience you have to write about things they relate to not only what you and your peers relate to. We need to include references to the things that are important to them. The music they like, the movies they like, the characteristics they admire or despise in a hero or villain.

They say write what you know but sometimes you have to write what you don’t know. 

In The Blues Don’t Care there’s a lot of stuff that I don’t relate to personally as it’s set in another era, World War II, but I found myself relating to more and more of it as I got deeper into the subject. If we can do that with stuff from a previous generation then we should also be able to do that looking toward the future too. And hopefully pick up some new readers along the way.


And now for the usual BSP:

I just sold my short story "A.K.A. Ross Landy" to Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. Stay tuned for more.

Please join me on Facebook: www.facebook.com/paul.d.marks and check out my website  www.PaulDMarks.com


  1. Great stuff, Paul.
    Science writers write what they WANT to know. We are all scientists or historians when it comes to research. Looking at younger generations is anthropology as much as looking at people in the past or another place.
    And musicology of the present and near past can be fun, too, excavating the touchstones of people who grew up in 21st century.

  2. Didn't F. Scott Fitzgerald say something about writing for the youth?

  3. The only problem with writing for "the youth of his own generation" is that if you get too bogged down in the culture of RIGHT NOW, it often dates badly. The honest truth is that most of Fitzgerald's "flapper" stories (imho) don't hold up today. Gatsby is a classic - because it's all about love lost, love found, hope, corruption, and various other fever dreams of love and longing and all the eternal tragedies of life. So while the details of music, etc., can give current ballast and interest to a tale, in the long run that's not what's going to make it last.

  4. Handy Glossary for Generations X, Y, Z:

    fountain pen, n. A writing instrument similar to a Sharpie but refillable in your choice of color. Such device employs a nib of steel, plastic, or goose quill from which flows the ink. Pens passed from mother to daughter, father to son, were ultimately recyclable. Pens were especially adept at scribing cursive.

    cursive, n, adj. Handwritten words formed by joining letters.

    ink, n, vt. Colored liquid used for writing.

  5. Paul, I spent Thanksgiving a year ago in the hospital where doctors mined kidney stones. The nurses ranged in ages, but I enjoyed them as we teased and flirted. It's a good thing to stay on the best side of our nurses. Hang in, Paul. Get better soon!


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