Last Friday I posted a fun song about Millennials. Earlier this year a number of articles told of a Pew Research report that declared there are more Millennials in America than Baby Boomers. There are now over 75 million people ages 18-34. Boomers (ages 51-69) are no longer the largest demographic. (And there are more 22-years-olds today than any other age group.)
This was inevitable, of course, but something that has startled many that it happened so soon. Especially when the report claims that the number of Millennials in America will continue to grow via immigration.
So what’s the big deal?
For years I have taught writers to be aware of population trends. I kept saying “In ten years, that 15-year-old playing video games on his phone will be an adult and a potential reader of your book. And you will only be 10 years older.”
Consider this. Those who read Janette Oke when they were younger, now have children who are that age…who have never heard of Janette Oke.
Let me say it another way. The 30 -year-old lover of fiction was nine-years-old when Left Behind was first published….(1995). They did not necessarily grow up with Left Behind as a “bestseller” in their world. For them the major book was Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone first published in the U.S. in June 1997. When they were 11.
That is why the marketplace never tires of trying to find new writing talent because there are always new generations of readers.
The Mindset List
Beloit College creates a “Mindset List” describing the mindset of the year’s incoming Freshman to help professors know the framework with which these students operate culturally. I’ve taken the liberty of compiling a list with a different subject in mind. Mine is today’s 30-year-old reader.
For someone born in 1986 or later:
Superman has never had a phone booth in which he can change.
There have always been gay characters on television.
They never heard Muhammed Ali speak at a live event.
There has always been a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Castro has always been an aging politician in a suit.
Datsuns have never been made.
Iraq has always been a problem.
Bert and Ernie are old enough to be their parents.
They never heard Howard Cosell call a game on ABC.
Trivial Pursuit may have been played by their parents the night before they were born.
They have never been able to find the “return” key.
There has always been Diet Coke.
The three-point shot has always been a part of basketball.
“The Simpson’s” TV show debuted when they were four-years-old.
The Statue of Liberty has always had a gleaming torch.
Peeps are not a candy, they are your friends.
South Africa’s official policy of apartheid has not existed during their lifetime.
This generation has never wanted to “be a Pepper too.”
Hip-hop and rap have always been popular musical forms.
They were in early high school when 9/11 happened.
[some items on this list is from the Beloit College web site]
You get the idea? So how does this affect you as a writer?
Never Assume Cultural Knowledge
As the above list illustrates, if your book makes a comment about the Fall of Saigon… or President Ronald Reagen’s “Mr. Gorbachev, Tear Down This Wall” speech you must be aware that many readers may not know what you are talking about!
Never Assume Biblical Literacy
We also have a generation where many have not grown up in a church-going environment. Therefore you cannot take for granted that your reader is familiiar the allusion you make to a Biblical idea or concept. In 2010 Pew Research did a survey and found that less than half of the public knows the Four Gospels are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John or that Martin Luther inspired the Reformation.
In a Barna Research poll in 2015 barely half of those surveyed thought the Bible was the Word of God without error. And among Millennials, 23% believe that the Bible, the Koran, and the book of Mormon are all different expressions of the same spiritual truths. And yet those same Millennials when asked if they were somewhat knowledgeable (up to highly knowledgeable) about the Bible 84% claimed they “knew” the Bible.
In other words, the person to whom you are writing may or may not have the same understanding of the Bible, theology, church-life, etc. as you do.
Thus the challenge for the writer. To communicate the power of the Good News to a dying world. But to do so in a way that communicates clearly. One way I have described it is to say “It is no longer ‘Evidence that Demands a Verdict’ but instead ‘Evidence that Demands a Story.’” And by story I mean both fiction and non-fiction. Engaging the reader with a compelling story can be a vehicle to communicate some powerful truths. Truths that can change the world.