Building Blocks for a YA Story

Although the month has changed, I still have one post for last month’s theme of YA fiction. My Monday Sparks Writing Prompts have been about the building blocks for a YA story, encouraging readers to vote on a protagonist, antagonist, plot, and setting. All the elements are pictured above and I’ll list them below. I’ll write an opening with these building blocks for a YA story and you can use the same building blocks to write your own opening in the comments. I’d love to know how these elements inspire you!

  • Protagonist: Young man
  • Antagonist: Young woman
  • Plot: Puzzle. A mysterious problem the protagonist must solve and the antagonist tries to prevent him from solving. Does not have to be crime related.
  • Main settings: Small-town library and pizza place

“That’s too cool,” said Ava as she tried to cram another coffee table book on the shelves for oversized books. “How many people get invited to the reading of a will? I hope you have to go to Mrs.Vander’s house in a storm at night.”

“Actually, it’s in the lawyer’s office tomorrow at 11 am,” I said, moving down the aisle to slide a book into the pets section. “And my mom’s going with me since I’m underage.”

“It still might storm,” said Ava with a grin.

Once I’d emptied my cart of returned books, I wheeled it into the main walkway through the adult nonfiction. And almost crashed into Amyra Vander.

“You aren’t really coming to the reading of the will, are you?” she asked, flinging long strands of red-enhaced hair over her shoulder.

My eyes were swelling wide open. In the two years I’d worked at the main branch of the library, I’d never seen Amyra in it. In fact, although we’d been in the same grade since kindergarten, I couldn’t remember the last time I’d spoken to her. Being an average-looking guy with average-brains and below-average talent and ambitions seemed to keep me off the radar of the High Queen of the High School.

“She probably only left you $50.” Her brown eyes–maybe hazel–narrowed to mean little streaks. “She couldn’t have left anything more to her lawn boy.”

“Then I’ll get my check and leave.” I gave her my polite, I’m-working-so-I-can’t-chat smile that I always kept handy for any patron who saw me as target for a conversation.

“Why humiliate yourself? Just don’t show.”

I kept walking away.

“I know you heard me. You’d better not show.”

What’s the YA Story Behind the Hand?

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.

For more YA writing prompts, click here.

What’s the Story Behind This Face?

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.

For more prompts for YA fiction, click here.

Write This Scene in Show Don’t Tell

Last prompt for the month featuring show don’t tell.


The air burned in my nose as I pumped up the hill. All this exercise would either kill me or make me fit enough to beat the entire cross-country team next fall. But if this was the only way I could see Ava and Lucy during this stupid virus crisis, I’d let the air burn off my nose completely.

“C’mon! Race ya!” My little brother flew by us as we passed the Jenkins’ farm.

Besides the threat of death, Gavin was the other drawback of these rides. But Mom made me bring him.

“I’m glad it stopped raining.” Ava sat up straighter, the breeze that was tossing the leaves of the budding honeysuckle catching her long, red hair.

Lucy bent lower over her bars. “I don’t let a little rain stop me from riding.”

Of course she didn’t. Lucy was in good enough shape to make Olympic athletes throw up their hands and go home to their couches.

I didn’t say that, though. Couldn’t. I was pedaling.

Gavin stopped at the overgrown drive that always had a chain across it, and we pulled up beside him.

“Look.” He pointed at the chain that was wrapped around a tree.

“That chain is always blocking that drive,” said Lucy.

“It’s not now.” Gavin hopped into this seat and took off.

“Gavin! That’s a private drive!” I tried to shout, but it came out as a strained whisper.

He disappeared around the bend.

I looked to Ava and Lucy. “He’s your brother,” Ava said.

“You know, I’d forgotten that.” Blowing out my cheeks, I pushed off and headed down the drive.

Monday Sparks — Writing Prompts: YA Fiction

girlsw-1031538_1280Last 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.

Who do you think these characters are?

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