Young Adult Fiction Writing Guide | PART 1
I. What is YA fiction?
As one of the most famous novels of the past decades, you must hear the name of Twilight even if you might not have read it. The series is a collection of young adult vampire romance novels that reached the New York Times bestseller list at number five. Millions of readers worldwide share the story of Bella and Edward and make this series become one of the most successful Young Adult (YA) fiction.
Wikipedia defines Young Adults as an age group that focuses on the protagonist’s psychological and moral growth from youth to adulthood. YA fiction is “a category of fiction written for readers from 12 to 18 years of age.” The main characters are typically between 14 and 20 years of age, experiencing the transition from childhood to adulthood. So they always face unforeseen challenges. The features of this age group determine that a YA story is always connected to a “problem”. Solving the problem is a journey for young girls and boys to discover who they are.
However, this genre also takes up a large market of adult readers. Referring to an article on The Atlantic, approximately 55% of YA fiction readers are adults.
II. Four tips for Writing a Young Adult fiction
Being recognized by both the teenager and adult groups is not that easy. How do we create a good story that can satisfy the different tastes between these two groups? Here are four tips for you!
1. Make Sure the Character’s Age and POV are Correct
Generally, a young adult is more concerned about the present than the past or future. This feature and mindset determine the way they think and see the world. When you create young characters, try to put yourself in their shoes. If you are an adult writer, you might find it is a little bit challenging because adults’ mindsets usually are different from the youth’s. How to solve it? The answer is rolling the clock back to your youth and recalling how you saw the world and processed the world around you at that age.
Here is an example from The Ryland Boys by Devils_Assasin:
Turning, I walked to the playground and climbed up the stairs to see the young boy wearing an astronaut helmet and outfit. He seemed like he was going to be trouble, you can usually tell by the things they choose to wear.
“Who are you?” He asked looking at me in suspicion before eyeing his mom who casually sat at the lounge chair.
I watched him hold the steering wheel as he eyed me with his judgy eyes, he’s his mother’s son alright.
Giving him an evil look, I smirked “I’m an alien! Here to take over your space ship and seize your planet!” I said watching him scream and grab the foam bat hitting me.
I laughed and laid onto the floor of the second story. “Ah! Oh god! The pain!” I said holding my stomach. Maybe I’ll just play dead, he might actually stop beating me up.
He hit me a few more times before pulling out a toy gun “I’m the greatest astronaut in this universe! You can not defeat me!” He said pulling the trigger.
It made a loud futuristic shooting sound and I played dead.
Here you may see a vivid scene:A young girl is playing a game with a younger boy, and their point of view suits their identity.
2. Know the Voice and Language Habit of Youth Generation
The language habit of the teenager group depends on their worldviews and identities, which include but are not limited to social class, sexual orientation, economic situation, education, family, etc. What they say through their mouths must reflect these things, just like adult characters do. Also, the young character’s voice is influenced by word choice, sentence length, punctuation, etc.
Before writing the first sentence, a young adult says, you can do some research about the words young people use in daily life. For instance, teenagers generally do not speak in long sentences, and the vocabulary they use is common and accessible.
But if you are creating a nerd or genius as the main character, their language habit needs to distinguish them from others, of course.
Here is an example from The School Bully by Louise M.:
I blinked as the book I was holding vanished from my hands. I raised my head in slow motion. Hannah, a classmate and a complete pain in the neck, sat on my desk, my book in her hand. I reached for it and she held her hand over her head.
My eyebrows furrowed together in confusion, my eyes glued to my book. “Umm…”
“Can I borrow a highlighter pen?” she asked.
I sighed loudly as I began to dig inside my bag. I should have known. This kept happening to me. She kept happening to me.
And I was in a really good part of the book, I thought, disgruntled.
I found one and handed it to her, resisting the urge to pull out all of her long, red hair from the scalp. She gave me my book back and I practically snatched it from her. She huffed and used my highlighter pen to mark something in her notebook.
“Can you not do that again?” I said quietly to her.
“Do what?” she asked, not looking up from her task.
“Take my book away.”
She laughed aloud. “It’s the only way to get your attention when you’re reading, nerd. Nothing else seems to be working.”
In this scenario, the protagonist is shy and is described as a “nerd.” Even though she doesn’t like what Hannah did, she still responded to her request. Their dialogues are short with common words too.
3. Add More Details to Characters
Well, it sounds corny. But it is always a must during writing fiction. A successful character should have depth and dimension, and it is a golden rule for fiction. Even writing YA fiction does not mean authors are allowed to stereotype.
For instance, not all teenagers are full of energy, or acting childish. The most exciting protagonist needs both strengths and weaknesses. More importantly, these characteristics should not sketch an outline based on what a stranger would see on the outside but be known by the character’s parents or BFF and released as the story develops.
Here is an example from Aries by Dreamcatcher:
A name that sent chills down the spines of every man that lived to tell.
He’s charming for sure, has a twinkle in his eyes that can only be described as warmth hotter than sunlight on amber, but don’t let that glimmer fool you. For the warmth of his eyes are of a power hungry man. A man who’s thirst for blood reigned over empires for centuries before and more centuries to come. Because he was no man. He was a beast. The strongest and most feared beast of all. Pack leaders pleaded at his feet. He killed to feel alive. Feeding on the blood of the defenseless, with no heart. Some say the moon goddess was cross with him and never blessed him with a mate. For who could be a mate to a monster?
From the description, readers should have a clear image of Aries in their minds, and a good understanding of the type of person he is. Someone who loves this kind of Hero would be interested in reading this book.
4. DO NOT Teach Readers a Lesson in YA Fiction
Petty issues will arise as a youth grows up into an adult. These include, but are not limited to, drug use and abuse, alcohol and alcoholism, sexuality, homosexuality, bullying, and suicide. These issues come up as a matter of course and are a reality to teenagers. That doesn’t mean that we are suggesting that teenagers have to have sex, get drunk, or do drugs, but it is essential to recognize that it is unlikely that these issues will not come up at some point during a person’s teenage years. How your protagonists respond to these issues should reflect their unique characteristics.
When you’re developing a character or plotting a scene, you can discuss these heavy topics. When you do, though, it is very important to convey real emotion, such as fear, excitement, and curiosity; again, please remember to try not to attempt to teach readers a lesson. You are not your readers’ parents. Just tell the story and rate it appropriately. Make your readers believe that, in the end, the choice is on their hands.