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April 2012

Writing characters for young adult novels 150 150 srvvsa

Writing characters for young adult novels

Creating characters for young adult novels may not be the easiest thing to do, especially if your teenage years seem a lifetime ago—but they can definitely be the most gratifying to write. An author has to really know and understand their characters, even the antagonists, so that they can create real individuals who readers can relate to and identify with.

While a good plot is obviously very critical to the success of a book, it’s not going to carry the entire story. Sometimes authors will create complex, well-thought out settings and throw one-dimensional characters in to carry the plot forward. This is a big mistake, especially among books for young adults. Readers of this genre really care about the characters in the books they read and want to relate to their situations and see how they deal with their issues, circumstances and conflicts. Even if they’re immersed in a post apocalyptic setting or futuristic society, the reader wants to feel that they also deal with some of the same issues that they do in real life, whether it’s teen sex, drugs, peer pressure, or popularity.

When creating characters, whether for books for young adults or another audience, a good way to start is to write an in-depth bio for your important players. Interview them and ask what their beliefs are, create a back story for their childhood, learn about their parents, siblings, best friends, and pets. Find out what they like to do and what they dream of becoming when they grow up. Discover all of their strengths and weaknesses. You need to fully know who your characters are in order to make your readers understand them.

An important element to start with is the age of your protagonist. They should definitely be in the age range of your intended audience. Keep in mind that tweens, teens and young adults tend to read up but not down in age. Even if we’re talking about some of the best fantasy novels—the audience is not inclined to read about a character that’s younger than they are.

When you’re writing young adult novels, it’s important to maintain a young adult perspective—beware of the inclination to reflect on the past or your own experience. While it’s important to draw on your own coming-of-age, it’s not about looking back; it’s about using what you know and remember and making it current.

Whether you’re aiming to write the best fantasy novels or the next dystopian bestseller, the reader needs to watch your character experience an arc throughout the course of the book—meaning they want to see them learn from their mistakes and grow as a result. This gives them inspiration in their own lives and makes them like the protagonist even more than when they started reading the book.

The Boom of Dystopian Novels 150 150 srvvsa

The Boom of Dystopian Novels

If we were back in 2005 and you were an author trying to submit dystopian novels to publishers, you probably would not get much response. The thought of gambling on young adult novels written about depressed societies just didn’t sound like a good one. Fast forward to present day—dystopian literature is flourishing. The success of books like The Hunger Games and Revealing Eden (Save the Pearls Part One) are perfect examples of this trend.

The recent boom in dystopian literature is perfectly demonstrated in Collins’s trilogy, as well as a multitude of other series that are being churned out, based on complex, intricately developed worlds and societies that require a commitment of the reader. Those who read books for young adults will rarely read just one—research indicates that they will line up to be the first to own each installment and flock to the box office when the books are made to films.

Dystopian novels have actually been around for decades. Typically geared to the Tween and Young Adult audiences, this genre was made memorable for many students by 1984 and Brave New World, both of which are considered twentieth century dystopian classics. While these were often assigned reading, no one predicted that this genre would gain such popularity.

Many blame it on the recession and state of affairs in many countries, while others simply attribute the boom of dystopian literature to its provision of an escape, where the reader goes to a place where the protagonist is much worse off than they could ever dream of being. Post apocalyptic societies reduced to subsistence farming or surrounded by toxic wastelands, fighting zombies hungry for human brains have somehow become the perfect reading escape to the Young Adult market.

Some publishers attribute the success of dystopia to the same elements that make young adult novels popular in general—a relatable protagonist, regardless of the setting or plot. Knowing that a character who lives in utter chaos, struggling to survive on a daily basis, shares some of the same issues as the reader, gives the reader comfort and a new perspective on their own circumstances.

A reason why this genre is flourishing among books for young adults is that these worlds are fresh to young readers. They’re thrilled by harrowing circumstances; and these scenarios don’t have to be unprecedented. Just look at the revival of the zombie movie in recent years… these moviegoers may or may not have ever seen classics like Evil Dead or Night of the Living Dead—regardless, they were thrilled by Zombieland, 28 Days Later and the Dawn of the Dead remake.