One of the many great things about YA fiction is that you can sample any genre within the world of YA. So my prompt today is about historical fiction. If you could experience any time period as a teen, which would you choose?
Victorian times have always intrigued me since I fell in love with the Sherlock Holmes stories. I’d love to write stories about the Baker Street Irregulars, the gang of street kids who’d do surveillance and other basic jobs for the Great Detective. But I also would like to research what it must have been like for grandparents to be teens in the teens and twenties. 1910’s and 1920’s, that is,
What era is your top choice Or what YA historical novel do you recommend?
This photo presents so many possibilities. Who is the boy? Who is taking the picture? Where are they? What’s the YA story behind the hand? Please leave your inspiration in the comments. Here’s mine.
What’s up with Braden? He threw up his hand just like he did when Ollie tried to take his picture at lunch.
“It’s cool, Braden.” I lowered my phone. “We’re in my front yard, not school. My mom won’t give us lunch detention for posting pictures of each other.”
He held his arms away from his body, like he was ready to cover his face again. “I don’t like people taking my picture.”
“You can take pictures of me. That’s fair.” Now that I think of it, in the two weeks since I’d met Braden at school, I hadn’t seen him with a phone. “And I’ll show you exactly what I’m gonna post before I do it. If you don’t like it, I won’t post it.”
He looked to his feet. “I gotta go.” He hopped on his bike and pedaled like a bear was chasing him.
I stepped out on the sidewalk. I could just make out Braden stopping at his new house, dropping his bike in the front yard, and running inside.
This month’s theme is YA fiction. For my first prompt, I have this photo of a teen girl. What’s the story behind this face? She’s upset or angry about something. So upset that she’s stopped her scooter in the middle of a narrow bridge. Or maybe she’s upset because her scooter broke down in the middle of a narrow bridge.
You decide what’s the story behind this face. Here’s my inspiration:
I’m done. Not one more lesson or practice or event. I don’t care if my parents got me this stupid scooter so I can take myself to all my appointments. I can’t do one more thing.
Mrs. Halloran and another middle-aged lady stand at the bottom of the bridge, staring at me.
“Ginny?” calls Mrs. Halloran.
I stare back. So what if it’s rude? So what if I back up all the traffic on this bridge? A video of me will go viral–“Girl Has Nervous Breakdown on 3rd Street Pedestrian Bridge”–and at least that’ll be something different in my life from soccer practice and guitar lessons.
Last Monday I said that prompt was the last for my month focusing on YA fiction. I forgot that July had five Mondays this year. So you get a bonus YA prompt!
I chose this picture because it’s a group and the expressions and body language sparked ideas for character building. And for some reason, when I invent characters, I often develop them in groups of four, whether they are siblings or friends. Perhaps it’s because I’m one of four sisters and understand how that kind of group dynamics works.
Who are these characters? Are these girls starting out on an adventure? Or wrapping one up? They are obviously having a good time. The one on the far left is smiling but not laughing like the two girls holding hands on the right. She could be the group introvert. The girl in the background holds her head at a sassy tilt. Maybe she’s the one who has a comeback for everyone and everything.
My guest today is YA fantasy author Laurie Lucking. Instead of an interview, Laurie has written a post on authenticity. It has so many great points! Take it away, Laurie!
Authenticity in Writing for Teens
One of the cautions I hear most about writing for a teen audience is you have to be authentic—if you’re not genuine, they’ll spot it from a mile away. The thought makes me nervous! I’m not a teen, nor do I currently have any young adults in my family or close circle of friends. So will my teenage characters come off as inauthentic stereotypes? Will I distance myself from readers by sounding like a preachy adult?
But here’s the thing—I was a teen, back in the day. In fact, it was such a formative time in my life that I wanted to write books like the ones that shaped me in middle school and high school. As I write my teen characters, I can still tap into those memories and emotions. Even more importantly, I bring myself back to the simple but essential reminder that each teen is an individual. And I’ve found the key to avoiding stereotypes and preachiness is to focus on writing individual characters. Complex, relatable characters that read like real people. In the case of young adult fiction, these characters happen to be teenagers when the story takes place. But they’re so much more than just “teens.”
Do you see the difference? Writing how you imagine all teens think, act, and speak leads to characters who feel like stereotypes. Yes, many teenagers like certain music, watch certain television shows, or use particular slang. But not all. Some quote Shakespeare, some rap along with Jay-Z, others play classical music on their oboes or read every issue of Seventeenmagazine. A select few might do all four! So write your characters as interesting, three-dimensional, sometimes surprising individuals, not generic teens as you expect them to act based on news stories or the grumblings of older generations.
In a similar vein, refrain from using your story to illustrate how you think teens should act. As with characters who feel like stereotypes, an obvious agenda will distance readers from you and your narrative. Even inspiring characters must be written as individuals, or readers may find them preachy and impossible to relate to. Some young adults live very virtuous lives, and there’s nothing wrong with using that as a starting point for a character as long as he or she also has some faults, quirks, and temptations, with dialogue and thoughts that are realistic instead of reading like mini sermons. Or, if a character starts out in a bad situation and matures and grows during the course of the story, make those struggles tangible and multifaceted, not a straightforward climb from wrong to right. As many of us know, learning important life lessons is never easy whether you’re a child, teen, or adult!
All this isn’t to say we can lose sight of the fact that our principal characters are teenagers. They shouldn’t think and act just like adults, nor have the relative innocence of grade schoolers. The young adult phase of life is unique in its endless possibilities, intense emotions, strong but complex bonds with peers, and the excitement and angst of being so close and yet so far from being a true adult. My favorite part of writing for teens is embracing the trials and joys of that extraordinary phase of life between childhood and adulthood, and I hope that comes through in the characters and stories I write.
Now I want to hear from you! What do you find the most enjoyable or challenging about writing for teens? Do you have any tips to share? Thanks for having me today!
Only one person knows of the plot against the royal family and cares enough to try to stop it—the servant girl they banished.
Leah spends her days scrubbing floors, polishing silver, and meekly curtsying to nobility. Nothing distinguishes her from the other commoners serving at the palace, except her red hair.
And her secret friendship with Rafe, the Crown Prince of Imperia.
But Leah’s safe, ordinary world begins to splinter. Rafe’s parents announce his betrothal to a foreign princess, and she unearths a plot to overthrow the royal family. When she reports it without proof, her life shatters completely when the queen banishes her for treason.
Harbored by an unusual group of nuns, Leah must secure Rafe’s safety before it’s too late. But her quest reveals a villain far more sinister than an ambitious nobleman with his eye on the throne.
Can a common maidservant summon the courage to fight for her dearest friend?
An avid reader practically since birth, Laurie Lucking discovered her passion for writing after leaving her career as an attorney to become a stay-at-home mom. When she gets a break from playing board games and finding lost toys, she writes young adult fantasy with a strong thread of fairy tale romance. Her debut novel, Common, won the Christian Editor Connection’s Excellence in Editing Award, placed third in the Christian Women Reader’s Club Literary Lighthouse Awards, and is a finalist in the ACFW Carol Awards. She has short stories published in Mythical Doorways, Encircled, and the upcoming Christmas Fiction off the Beaten Path. Laurie is the Secretary of her local ACFW chapter and a co-founder of Lands Uncharted, a blog for fans of clean young adult speculative fiction. A Midwestern girl through and through, she currently lives in Minnesota with her husband and three children. Find out more by visiting www.laurielucking.com.