Thinking Out Loud: The Feeling of Age in Young-Adult Writing
As you know if you read Sunday’s post, I’m getting started on a new scene in my YA WIP this week. I’ve got some basics down for scene structure and plot and character goals, and I’m getting the words on the page. Something else, though, is happening at the same time.
Sometimes, when you’ve stepped away from a project for a while, there are pieces or aspects of it you can see more clearly. I hadn’t realized that was going on with Caro’s story until I started brain-dumping today and finding ideas coming quickly, but still…not being quite satisfied.
It’s the age thing. The teenager. The young-adult. I’m so not there yet.
DISCLAIMER: I know that’s okay. I know I don’t have to be there yet. It’s only the first draft. I have time. I have musing and mulling hours. I can let it come, as it comes.
Still, I’m thinking.
It’s a subtle difference between upper middle-grade and young-adult, but it’s an important one. Factor in that I’m writing a historical YA, and you’ve got another layer of…something else. Honestly, I’m not sure if I will ever choose to write a modern YA (not that I don’t have ideas), because–in some ways–that world still feels so alien to me, about as alien as it did when I was one. A YA. If I ever really was. Which, I know, says I have something to write about, but..well, it’s not here yet.
Back to the historical. I know that this book needs to be young-adult. There are all sorts of reasons—from historical accuracies to the darkness of some things my MC will be dealing with. Yes, there have been wonderful MG books written about horrible times in history, and done brilliantly, but–for this book–that doesn’t feel right for me. Mostly, I think, it needs to be young-adult because of the choice I believe Caro has to make at the end of the story.
Bleak. Alone. Strong.
Caro is pretty much telling me that she has to be this old, this close to as much independence as a woman had in 1913, with the strength and power and rights to make this ending choice. I’m not fighting her.
But…as I write, I haven’t given her what she wants yet. Yes, my MC is the right age, numerically. Yes, she’s living in her world as a teen of that era would have done. Yes, there’s a young man. What’s not there? I’m not sure.
- An incredibly strong sense of herself, a feeling that she is on the cusp of something new and different than what she’s been living?
- A sense of separation from others, from her family, at the core of how she looks at the world?
- A need for independence that gets rope burn from the restrictions placed upon it?
- A feeling that there is more to see, to get to, than she’s experiencing at the moment?
- A tension in her muscles, a readiness for something she hasn’t yet defined?
- A feeling of power, unused as yet?
It’s a voice, a core element that I’m still reaching for. There’s a seriousness to Caro’s story that she needs to recognize, through which she needs to move, make choices, and fight. There’s an adultness to her young-adult character that I need to find.
Have you written young-adult and “younger” books? What do you do when you’re shifting gears from one to the other? Is it about the character, who they are and what they’re after? Or is there a place you push yourself to, to examine more closely, to make the leap?