Friday, July 15, 2016

Writing for a young adults audience

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Teens are passionate readers, many falling in love with their favorite characters and often loving to hate the antagonist. It's these types of emotions that I hope to elicit from my readers, but just how does an adult write realistic stories for teens? We get to know our audience and then create compelling stories with characters they can relate to.

First, let's discuss character. The main character's age of any novel depends on who they are and what conflicts they'll face along the way. Getting to know your protagonist is the first step in developing them as a person. Below are a few writing exercises I've used to bring out my main character's personality and innermost thoughts:
  • Have your character write a letter either to you or to a supporting cast member in the story.
  • Write about your protagonist. This can be anything: a big event in her life, how she spent summer vacation, a typical day. What you write may not end up in the story, but it will help you get to know who she is as a person.
  • Create character sheets that not only includes basic features (age, color of eyes, etc.), but notes fears, allergies, likes and dislikes. Answer questions like “I love my mom, but …” “My dad always…” “I wish…” and “If I could change one thing…” (For more tips on character sheets, click here.

Now that you know your character, you need to focus on voice. Voice is everything in a teen novel, because if your characters don't sound like teenagers, you're going to lose your reader's attention. So what is voice? It's word choice, style, and reflection. It's seeing the world through a teen's eyes. To help bring out your character's voice, bring things back to them. For instance, a character may comment on a poster they have hanging in their bedroom: "I can't believe I still have that unicorn poster on the wall." Or they may notice that a person's eyes are the same green as their grandmothers.

To improve the authenticity of your character's voice, visit places where teens hang out. Observe their actions, body language, and speech. Take a notepad with you and jot down what they do and say. Okay, this may seem a little creepy, but as writers, we watch people all the time anyway. (If you're not, you should be!) Besides, I'm not suggesting you sit across from them with a notepad and pen like you're directing the scene. Blend in. Have a cup of coffee and a book in front of you. Wear headphones with no music. Attend high school sports, plays and other events that are open to the public. Be where teens are and your characters voice will benefit from it.

And when talking about writing for a young adult audience, I can't forget to mention plot. The first thing I'd like to say on this is...

Hook is not plot. Hook is what draws your reader in.
Plot is what carries your reader from page one to the end of the book.

How do I develop plot? I think about what is important to teens the same age as my protagonist. Then, I ask myself if the conflicts make sense to a person this age, and I remind myself of the following:
  • Teens are complex.
  • Include inner monologue in all my scenes.
  • It's okay for things not to be black and white. There can be gray areas in young adult.
  • My character should grow during the course of his or her story.
  • Don't be vague. The story can't be absent of details.
  • Write from the heart, because if I don't my readers will know.
I hope you found some of my tips helpful. If you have any tips you'd like to share, I'd love to hear them.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Checking in


We've reached the halfway point of 2016. I figured this was a good time to check how I'm doing on my goals. I'm happy to say I finished the first draft of one WIP. I'm really excited about this book. It's my baby, and while I say this about my other books, too, the characters in this story are the ones who got me hooked on writing. They've grown and changed over the years, and so has their relationships and the intricate details of the plot. This version is a fresh look into their exciting world. It's all new with lots of fun, magical, and sometimes dark things happening. Next up: polishing the manuscript to smooth out the rough spots and really make it shine.

I've done okay in the patience department. My fingers are still crossed that my agents finds a good home for the novel she has. And I have a few other projects in the works. 

How's your writing coming? Are you on track with your goals? Enjoying the summer?

Thanks for stopping by!

This has been an Insecure Writer's Support Group post. It's where writers share their thoughts, insecurities, and encouraging words. Thanks to Alex Cavanaugh and our co-hosts for keeping IWSG going. If you would like to know more about the group, just follow the link