Wednesday, June 19, 2013

YA Fiction: What would YOUR story be about?

The Daydreamer’s Ramblings is a semi-regular discussion feature about bookish things. I love to hear your opinions on all topics, and if there any topics you think I should talk about be sure to let me know!
A couple weeks ago, Chuck Wendig wrote a post called “25 Things You Should Know About Young Adult Fiction”. I agreed with the majority of his list, and #8: “What Were You Like as a Teen?” inspired my discussion topic for this week. Here’s the whole of #8:
“Write What You Know is one of those roasted chestnuts of writing advice that fails to tell the whole story — it sounds like a proclamation, that it’s the Only Thing You Should Do, but it’s not. It’s just one of the things you can do. And given that most of the people writing young adult fiction are not themselves young adults it behooves us to not just study teenagers like we’re Jane Goodall or Dian Fossey (“I am hiding in the teenage human’s locker. This locker smells suspiciously of gym socks, weed, Cheetos, and desperation”) but rather to look back our own time doing battle in the Teenage Arena. Rip off the old gnarly Band-Aid and let the memories flow. What were your teenage years like? What did you deal with? Remember! And write.”
Because I write YA fiction, this particular point on his list got me thinking: what if I wrote a story about my teenage self?

The main character would be overweight, shy, and awkward. She would feel invisible a great deal of the time, but she knew that was better than being picked on or bullied. She wouldn’t care about fashion or makeup, and her unruly curls would almost always be pulled back in a ponytail. 

She would have a lot of crushes on cute boys, and deal with a lot of unrequited love until one boy came along who didn’t care what she looked like. I know most people hate instalove, but sorry kids, that’s the direction this story takes. He would be the first boy whose hand she held, her first kiss, and he would make her crazy in both good ways and bad. He would become part of her family - there for holidays and special occasions, even allowed to spend the night on her couch. She would love him and he would love her, and even though he would end up breaking her heart, he would teach her a lot about herself and life and love.

She would have to deal with a girl who had been best friends with her all through elementary school but who became 'too cool' for her in high school. She would be tormented by this girl, threatened, and embarrassed. But through it all, she would have a best friend who stood by her and was always there. She would make new friends, something that wasn’t easy for someone who was so shy and had trouble letting her fun, funny, quirky, smart side show. But it was there, and every once in awhile, people would get a glimpse at it.

It wouldn’t be epic and it wouldn’t be life-changing, but I think it would be something people would relate to. Will I ever write this story? Probably not. There’s not enough excitement, and the romance doesn't have a happy ending. I’ve added bits and pieces of my life into all three of my novels, and I’m sure I’ll continue to, but this exact story? I think it’s just for me.

 What would your story be about? What genre of YA would it be? Would it be straightforward contemporary/coming-of-age like mine? Would it be an ‘issue’ book? Would it be a comedy? Would it make people laugh or cry? Would there be a happy ending?


  1. *hugs* I think all of our real life teenager stories would have horrible endings (if they ended at the end of the teenage years anyways). My teenage life was BORING, I was so shy that I barely did anything with other people. It wasn't until I turned 18 that this stuff started to change. So my story would just end up being me being homeschooled, occasionally having a friend spend the night, and me sitting in my room listening to Billy Joel. This is no joke. Hahaha! :P

    I would probably write something more along the lines of when I was 18/19, since that's when I actually started socializing. It would be a story of unrequited love and my first boyfriend, both of which end in disaster but I come out of it a stronger person. So... ours would pretty much be similar!

  2. Oh I wish you would write this story - somewhere ... everywhere! One of the reasons I loved Wally Lamb's books is because he writes stories like this.

    100% of the reason I don't particularly care for contemporary YA books is because I think the young men and women portrayed in these books are unreal - not close to my experience or that of any one I know or any of the kids I come into contact with.

    Tanya Patrice

  3. *SMOOSHES* Your story and my story would be somewhat similar re: first romance not having a traditionally happy ending. Mine would be about a girl who was a bit shy, but also learning how to speak her mind, and that she didn't have to be exactly who her family wanted her to be. A girl finding her way in the world, through heart-break, first love, confusion, amazing friendships, and hilarious blunders in fashion, love, make-up, and more. (Bright blue eyeshadow? REALLY teen Molli?)

    Love this. I might gank this topic at some point, with a link to yours, and that article the author wrote, because YES, I agreed with most of it!

    Love you so much. I am thankful pretty much every day that I've gotten to know you, and that you feel comfortable enough with me to text and tweet, and share funny things (HOLY TARDIS OF GALLIFREY!) and be yourself.

  4. My teenage story would have a lot of parallels to yours, Marie. Of course, if I decided to write mine, I'd have to add some vampires or werewolves. It's what I do after all. ;)

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  6. I can recognize my teenage self in most of the things you say about yourself as a teenager. I was not overweight but I AM now (LOL)
    Anyway, I don't think young adults only love extraordinary stories with a happy ending. I know they also love realistic stories with characters they can relate to. Happy endings are much appreciated but they love also books with very sad (even tragic) events the hero/heroines has to deal with.
    I don't write books, but teenagers are a great part of my life (I teach to them) and I'm fascinated by their world. I read YA fiction from time to time (both in English and in Italian, which is my native toungue) to understand what they like, what they believe in, what they dream of.
    I'd like to share, a quote I love. It's a definition of a teenager I've found in Cassandra Clare's "The Mortal Instruments" series (talking of shadowhunters, half-angel, half-human creatures):
    "Every teenager in the world feels like that, feels broken or out of place, different somehow, royalty mistakenly born into a family of peasants. The difference in your case is that it is true. You are different. Maybe not better, but different. And it's no picnic being different".
    My students loved to discuss this bit. Feeling different makes their lives hell. We should help them to cope with their feelings of inadequacy.
    As for vampires and other supernatural beings, what young adults often love in them is their being more human than human beings (Edward Cullen's or Harry Potter's out - of -date or evergreen moral values?)

  7. If I'm being honest, I would have no desire to write a word for word tale of my teenage years. But, that said, I'm far from afraid to delve deep into what happened to me--and what I helped or watched my friends go through--when I write.

    I didn't have any or many of the things that I like to read in YA fiction happen to me. I didn't go on my first date until I met my current boyfriend when I was 26. I had tons of crushes and there was lots of drama back in my teens, but nothing ever really happened.

    I also think I have a different view on the statement "write what you know", too. I don't think we need to write only what we have done (and I think a lot of writers, especially in Paranormal and Fantasy, where I spend (most of) my writing time, likely agree with me.

    Instead, I think it means "Write what you know -- to be true, to be right, to be wrong, to be real...' I think it's about having conviction about the story you're telling and why you're going through the effort to tell it. Why does it matter? Why have I made a pact with these characters to bring them to the world? What makes them, their situation, and their world(s) special enough that I'll commit to them for weeks, months, years?

    I think there is a fine line between making use of our experiences and allowing them to limit us. Some stuff is just too up close and personal for us to easily use it objectively in someone else's story. Or it may feel extremely important to us but may not be something that would resonate on a more communal level. The intuition to know how to balance all of these things is one of the arts we must master when we draw pieces of our own lives into fiction, because fiction is all about telling a good story that will draw a reader in.

  8. What I love about your story is that you did find the boy who saw into the real you and fell in love. That's really rare for teenagers, and it's a HEA for realz.

    HEA doesn't have to mean 'for the rest of your life.' For a teenager, a year is forever. A book can end and we can all feel good about the way it ends, and decide for ourselves what we think happened next. Did they grow apart, or was there betrayal, or did they end up together for the rest of their lives?

    I wish Jo Rowling had understood that. Being squeeful that Ron and Hermione finally got together fizzled fast when I realized that 'nineteen years later' they were still together, and he hadn't matured one bit. Wonderful high school boyfriend doesn't mean 'and husband' and she really ruined that one for me.

    [Sorry--I do digress.]


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