You Can Write Young Adult Fiction
edited: Tuesday, September 03, 2002
By Richelle M Putnam
Posted: Tuesday, September 03, 2002
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Writing for young-adults is not a simple task, but it can be accomplished if you understand what young-adult writing is.
You Can Write Young Adult Fiction
What is the difference between Young Adult Fiction and Adult Fiction? Not much. Subject matters can be just as intense, reality can be bluntly honest, and characters can be flawed beyond repair. So what is the difference?
Writing style for young adults must be unambiguous and honest. The protagonist should be in the age range of your intended audience. Though sex may take place, it must be important to plot, and not graphic or detailed.
Many authors write for young adults because they recognize opportunity to influence. Adults have already formed beliefs and attitudes while young adult thoughts and beliefs are still being molded. Because of this, authors must be responsible and make sure to not only entertain, but also cause the reader to form unbiased ideas and views.
Young adults desire understanding in a world of rules, regulations, and authority. Writers grant that gift through words, allowing young protagonists the power to solve mysteries, save the world from disaster, or change another person’s life. Divorce, drugs, crime, prejudice, peer pressure, and concerns for the future affect teenagers and their friends. Books give hope by giving characters the ability to deal with unsettling circumstances while helping others in the process.
If young adults are aliens and lost causes to you, but you hope your writing will change them, think again. Young adults strive for and believe in justice, probably even more so than adults. They are less likely to judge and more likely to forgive. Sometimes their actions appear clumsy and inadequate simply because they have not had many worldly experiences to learn from.
An author has to come to terms with a character, even an antagonist, in order to portray realistic individuals who have strengths, weaknesses, prejudices, and beliefs. Create in-depth biographies on major characters and important characteristics on minor ones. If you don’t understand why your characters are who they are now, your readers won’t be able to either.
Your memory plays an important part. What did it feel like to be left out of a group? How did it feel to be in love with someone who didn’t love you back? What was important to you? Justice? Popularity? Being accepted? Of course, you can’t wholeheartedly base characters on your feelings, as you represented only one teenager. Get involved with youth and learn from them. Write down their aspirations. What are their fears? Beliefs? Now, find out why they feel the way they do. Don’t speak. Just listen. This is a time for you to learn.
Authors make the error of building a great plot and then dropping vague, lifeless characters into scenes to carry plot forward. Big mistake. Readers care about characters and how they confront conflicts. Yes, plot is important and must be carefully designed, but without meaningful characters it loses its drawing factor. An earthquake in a deserted region may be news, but without characters it doesn’t stir emotions.
Search for characters as diligently as you do exciting plots, avoiding stereotypes at all costs. Teenagers recognize and enthusiastically embrace diversity in our world. They have recognized that loving parents have troubled teens, and negligent parents produce well-adjusted teens. They sympathize with peers that fall into dangerous behavior patterns and will leap into perilous waters to try to save them. Writers must use these traits to form believable characters that make mistakes, have many faults, and are physically flawed. All blondes are not dumb and every student who wears glasses isn’t a genius. Make the pretty blonde a genius, and the well-groomed, quiet student with glasses the rebellious one. Remember everyone has good and bad. Reveal both to your readers. Your characters don’t have to speak in the current teenage jargon, but be careful that they don’t speak like well-educated adults. Keep language simple and realistic. Now, blend these believable characters into a well-planned story that has a beginning, middle, and end.
Eliminate passive verbs, and avoid overusing adjectives and adverbs. Use nouns and intense verbs that enhance every sense--seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, and tasting—to form vivid pictures. If you can do this, you’re on your way to being a successful writer.
The Young-Adult category is not easy to write, but to this author it is the certainly the most gratifying.