Thursday, January 29, 2009

Thursday Three: Why YA?

When I first started writing, I thought about writing mysteries, since they comprise the bulk of my reading material. But I soon realised that I didn't have the skills in plotting to pull of a mystery. I still have a few good ideas in my head, but they're going to have to wait until my writing skills catch up with them.

I fell into Young Adult (YA) pretty easily, the way you fall into a comfortably baggy sweatshirt on a cool autumn day. I practically lived at the library for most of my young life, so YA is comfortable and familiar to me.

But it's more than that. YA books, by necessity, are about teenagers and that period of life appeals to me. Not that I would ever want to go back. No way, no how, not even knowing what I know now, would I ever want to go back to high school. But I can still appreciate the unique facets of that time and exploit the story-telling potential.

I've been thinking a lot recently about why the teen years appeal to me and I've come up with three key reasons, perfect for a Thursday Three.

#1. The Emotions. You never feel anything with the strength and purity you did when you were 15 or 16. Every emotion you have is the super-charged, super-enhanced technicolour variety. There are no little joys or small disappointments. Every feeling is a tidal wave. You grow out of it, of course, because it's impossible to feel with that intensity for the rest of your life without going insane. Maybe it's the masochist in me, but I like remembering and visiting the Planet of Intensified Emotions.

#2. The Invinvibility Conundrum. The teen years are marked with the most bizarre confluence of awkward low-self esteem and the perception of omniscent invincibility. You're uncomfortable in your own skin, but you somehow know everything and are unstoppable. A friend once confided in me that the most crushing discovery of adulthood, for her, was the uncertainty. Where once she sailed through life with an adolescent's self-assurance, she now plodded through second-guessing herself. This dichotomy provides a rich vein to mine in story telling.

#3. The World of Endless Possibilities. When you're a teenager, every life decision is still waiting for you to make it. Each time you make a decision, you narrow down the choices available to you. It's inevitable - the turns you take on the map of life lead you closer to some places and further way from other places. It's not always impossible to change, but after you get far enough along a path, it becomes exceedingly difficult. I love the blank page and the idea that all the options are open.


At 29 January 2009 at 08:46, Blogger The Finely Tuned Woman said...

I do want to add to that that you should not be allowed to make a huge life changing decision at an age when you are not ready to make such a decision. No matter how mature you appear, the adults around you should realize that you are not an adult yourself and should shelter you from the huge mistakes that you can possibly make that are unchangeable and that you are not capable of solving on your own.

At 29 January 2009 at 10:51, Blogger Babaloo said...

Ann, this all makes perfect sense to me and I can see how you arrived at writing for Young Adults.
How are you getting on with your book? Today seems the perfect day for writing to me - horrible weather outside, nothing to distract you there. :) Unless you find cleaning and laundry more appealing than writing... ;)

At 29 January 2009 at 12:58, Blogger laurie said...

i have always loved reading young adult fiction, so i'm with you. i'm reading neil gaiman's "the graveyard book," right now, which just won the newbery. it's ok but i'm not sure it's newbery worthy. he's a local guy (he's a brit, actually, but he lives outside the twin cities) so i had to write the story when he won on monday.

At 29 January 2009 at 15:36, Blogger kissa said...

It is strange to think that these intense emotionally driven years are when the life decisions are made i.e. A levels, university is chosen and what to study. I think many of us would with hindsight have done things so very differently. Hey ho!

At 29 January 2009 at 20:42, Blogger Noelle said...

I've been reading some YA novels lately, and in so many ways they are better than the adult ones.

At 1 February 2009 at 01:32, Blogger Career Guy said...

Interesting analysis, as always. Isn't it strange how it takes us a lifetime to approach "maturity"?

At 7 February 2009 at 19:32, Blogger -Ann said...

TFTW - Yes, it is strange to have to make such decisions so early. Or to have those decisions depend on the results of a test, as they do here in Ireland.

Babaloo - It's going well. I just have a few more revisions to do - hope to have it sorted by the middle of next week.

Laurie - I've not read that yet - is it worth it? I loved his SF/Fantasy book 'Neverwhere'.

Kissa - I know I sure would have made some different decisions.

Noelle - Yeah, I think the genre has always been good but has really improved in the last 10 years or so.

Dad - Are you grown up yet?


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