Young Adult Fiction Writing Guide | PART 2
III. Two Angles to Create Outstanding YA Fiction
Young Adult (YA) fiction always focuses on the growth of teenagers, and the main characters are typically between 14 and 20 years of age. There are several similarities between these age groups, which are reflected in YA fiction, such as the fact that most of the characters are students dealing with identity issues. A best-selling YA story is more likely to combine the unique feature of youth and reflect the actual growth of the youth generation.
1.School Life is the Topical Subject
What was your everyday life when you were a teenager? Most of you might be a student and spend day and day at school. Unsurprisingly, school life is an element in almost every YA fiction. When the market is flooded with these kinds of books, how can we make our work stand out? Giving up describing school life is an unadvisable choice, but upgrading a regular school to an elite academy is worth trying.
Unlike regular schools, characters who go to an elite academy might have different backgrounds than most students. For example, they might be from wealthy, upper-class families or have special powers like magic. The elite academy is a perfect stage for authors to tell readers an unexpected story.
Three Examples for Reference:
(1) Heroine-focused and Revenge
The heroine’s father was a police officer killed in the line of duty while investigating the local Mafia family. She has been dreaming about going to the top Police Academy in the country, but when receiving the offer, she decided to give it up because of her father’s death. Then she changes her identity to attend an elite academy and befriends the son of the local Mafia boss. She plans to have him fall in love with her to carry out her revenge. However, they worked closely at school, and she developed feelings for him…
(2) Rebirth and Royalty
The heroine was a beautiful and talented popular high school student, but things changed drastically after a car accident. She died in this accident and reincarnated in a new body. Unfortunately, she is not the perfect girl she was. She rebirths as an ugly and untalented princess at the Royal Academy. Could she impress everyone with her old talents and new body in her new life?
(3) The True Princess in Disguise
Before finding out she was the daughter of the richest man in the country, the heroine was nobody. Her life changed overnight as the secret was released. After entering the Exclusive Academy, it is evident that the teachers and classmates favor her older sister while mocking her and her humble origins. When she has top marks in her class, and a famous professor declares that she will be the last student he will personally tutor, it proves the teachers and classmates wrong. After being deprived of the privilege, the heroine’s older sister holds a grudge and frames her for a crime. What will the heroine do to pay her back?
2. Identity is the Issues Throughout YA Fiction
Identity is a complicated choice. For most young adults, becoming who they want to be is difficult. Also, learning to accept who they are can be a hard-fought battle for them. With these common issues in the youth generation, writers can find diverse angles for designing the plots of YA fiction. The writers of some books examine what happens when the protagonists are caught in an identity crisis, while others focus on the unbelievable twists in identity. When it comes to personal identity, there are always many stories to tell.
Fantasy Hybrid is a new trend in YA fiction. This kind of story mainly occurs in fictional worlds where magic and magical creatures exist or in the real world with supernatural elements added. And the main characters, the hybrids, generally have no less than two paranormal identities, such as werewolf & vampire or witch & dragon. The uncertainty of genetics would bring the protagonists unusual adventures and challenging journeys when finding and accepting their identities.
How to create a hybrid character and design the background? Here are some examples for reference.
(1) An ordinary high school girl was injected with unknown supernatural blood, which activated special powers. But when she comes of age, this supernatural blood will take over her body and put her into a coma. What could she do to break the spell?
(2) One day, the hybrid heroine’s hidden power was released. She needed to learn to control her powers by practicing until she became strong enough to retaliate against those who tried to hurt her.
(3) Because she is a hybrid, she has been bullied by others in the royal family. At 18, she was betrothed to the devil in exchange for her country’s peace. How can she fight back against her unfair fate and find true love?
Ⅳ. Q&A on Young Adult Fiction
Q1: What about a story with a significant age gap between its two main protagonists? For example, if one is 26, while the other is 18. Could it be deemed a YA fiction?
A1: Usually, a story that includes this age gap would be deemed as New Adult fiction. Let’s refer to the book Call Me, by your Name by André Aciman. Although it is about a teenager in love, it is not typical young adult fiction. The theme of the story is more mature and realistic to be a YA book and is more suitable for an adult.
Q2: How to differentiate between Young Adult (YA) fiction and New Adult (NA) fiction?
A2: Ask yourself these questions before you start writing:
(1) What is the age of the protagonists you want to create, and where would the story take place? High school or College? If they are in high school or first-year students in college, it could be deemed a YA. If they are senior college students and are faced with some problems related to their job, it could be deemed a NA.
(2) What are the problems that the story wants to solve? And is it realistic, or does it have a hopeful ending? If the problems the story discusses are related to the problems that most teenagers face, and the ending positive and full of hope, it could be deemed a YA.
(3) If you are still confused, please imagine what kind of readers would want to read your story? That might help too.
Q3: What if at the beginning of my story, the protagonist fits into the YA category, but by the end, fits into the NA category?
A3: It depends on the main plot of your story. Decide in advance which period of your protagonist’s life you want to focus on. If you are highlighting their teenage years, then it is a YA.
Q4: What if I write a story in which the protagonist is an adult that has flashbacks of her/his teenage years?
A4: Because the story takes the point of view of an adult, it is considered an adult-themed fiction.
Q5: I want to write a werewolf story and choose a paranormal genre. The main protagonist is a teenager. Should it be considered a YA fiction?
A5: Sure. A YA fiction can combine with other elements, whether it is a werewolf, paranormal, fantasy, mystery, or LGBT+ novel, it doesn’t matter. If the characters are teenagers and their behavior fits their age, it is a YA fiction — for example, Daughter of Light by Revien Rodriguez.