Writing young adult fiction isn’t easy. I’ve heard from people who believe it’s easier than writing “real” fiction, or who think that it’s simple because “you’re writing for kids.”
First of all, young adult is real fiction. I’ve read young adult novels with plots much more complicated than what I’ve seen in adult fiction. Some books deal with issues that adult fiction doesn’t touch. And as for writing being simple because it’s for kids? Trust me, teenagers don’t want “simple.” They want something realistic and authentic. They’re looking for stories that catch their attention and keep it, and for characters that sound like real teenagers even if they’re being written by a forty-one-year-old.
I’ve seen some authors of adult fiction say that they plan to write a young adult novel, and that it won’t be hard because they just have to make the characters younger than the ones they usually write. Wrong again. Teenagers are more than just “younger than adults.” Their brains work completely differently from adult brain. (I’m not just saying that; it’s science.) They have their own subcultures that may or may not have anything to do with the adults around them. They talk and think differently from adults, and if you take an adult character and say he’s fifteen just so you can call your book young adult, teens will notice. And they won’t be happy about it.
I’ve been writing young adult fiction since I was a young adult myself. I wrote my first book-length manuscript—longhand in a spiral notebook; I didn’t even own a typewriter at that point, and this was before computers were widely available—at age twelve, and wrote nineteen more from then until I graduated from college. I haven’t forgotten what being a teenager is like, but that doesn’t mean I rely on my own memory to create convincing young adult characters.
I taught in high schools for a number of years, which gave me an opportunity to observe teens in the wild, so to speak. And now, even though I no longer teach, I have a 16-year-old daughter, and she and her friends are more than happy to give me “teen tips”, and to tell me when my characters just aren’t cutting it.
Not all of my characters are typical teenagers, though. Jonah Leighton, one of the main characters in my Reality Shift series, is a sixteen-year-old boy chronologically, but he talks and thinks like a centuries-old guru. He’s what you might call an “old soul.” But that’s part of his character, and the teens who have given me feedback on him like him better than “normal teen” Shanna Bailey, the other main character. They don’t mind that Jonah doesn’t sound like a typical teen because he isn’t supposed to, and because that’s a consistent part of him.
If you’re curious about how well I do in writing books for young adults that young adults will actually enjoy, please check out my Reality Shift series and my series The Dark Lines, both urban fantasy series available from Jupiter Gardens Press. http://www.jupitergardens.com. Currently books one through four of Reality Shift are out. Book one of The Dark Lines is out, with book two coming in September.
To find out more about me, including my Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube links, check out my website at http://www.joramsey.com.