Changes: Or Being an Adult Writing for Teens
When I was nine, we moved to a new house. The house we’d been living in was a basic tract home, in which I shared a bedroom with one of my sisters. It was pretty much a nice-sized box, with some remodels my dad had one and a smallish backyard with a swing-set for us. Nothing super fancy. The house we moved into was one my parents had designed by an architect to their vision, it was on top of a hill with an awesome view of the ocean, and it had a huge yard (already being filled with the fruit trees I would have to weed around for the next 9 years, but we won’t go there…). It had bedrooms for all of us, for which we each got to pick a new bedspread and hanging lamp (It was the seventies, barely, so I won’t go into the gruesome details of my choices). Three stories, big rooms, you name it.
I liked the old house better.
I can’t remember how long it actually took between the time my parents bought the lot and when we moved into the completed house. It had to have been at least a year, right? Plenty of time to adjust. But to me, at the time (okay, possibly still a little), the change felt sudden, dramatic, and even traumatic. I can remember walking along the framed-in rooms, everybody else excited and happy, and me thinking nothing but, “I’m going to have to move here.” I may have pouted. A lot.
Obviously, I didn’t do change well, as a child. I’m pretty sure my sisters did it a lot better, at least that time. I pretty much hated change–I always felt things were okay, fine, safe, happy–whatever, the way they were, and then…boom! Someone or something would come along, and I’d have to step out of my comfort zone and take risks.
I’m not a child anymore. Obviously, I know change still happens out of nowhere–unfortunately, it’s usually the bad things. And I think I’ve probably been lucky in the last couple of decades, just about all the changes in my life (although not all) have been of my choice, of my making, and with all the lead-up time I needed to feel right and, if not always happy, at least accepting of them. Still…things also feel, I don’t know, as if they have more context. This week, a very good friend is moving out-of-state. As much as I’ll miss her, I think this change has been coming for a while. THINGS have led up to it, and the things she’ll be doing in her new place are, I think, building on the person she’s been becoming. Also, while there are going to be losses and nervousnesses, I can see (and I know she can) the good things that will be coming to her from this change she’s making.
Is it just that, as an adult, the changes are more often in my own court? I don’t (completely) blame my parents for making the move without consulting me. But, obviously, every time I’ve moved as an adult, I’ve been–if not in charge–definitely one of the active participators in the decision. Or is it that, when things do change, I have more of a life to set them against–more past to reassure me that change can be okay, even good, and maybe even a longer view into the future to know there may be some excitement and even fun coming from this change? Was I, as a child and teen, less able to step out of the moment when change hit and less able to experience it as anything but a shock?
Either way, I think it’s a place of difference for me, now, and for the teen characters I’m writing about. Yes, obviously, change has to happen more dramatically in adult novels or we’d put them all down and just read MG and YA (Oh, wait…). But I wonder if this construct of fiction isn’t even more so in writing for and about teens. It may be why I so love the genre–because change at that age is so much more…more extreme, more sudden, more impacting. I always feel, when I’m reading a really good book for teens, that this hero is on the edge of something, of a moment that has the capacity for awakening, decisiveness, transformation. As much as I believe that I, at my age, am still very capable of growing and changing, it’s all based on a history of having done it before. It’s part of a continuum. Perhaps change, to teens, feels much more like a first. And perhaps that’s why the books are so engaging to readers. To me.
What do you think? How do you see change in your life versus change in the books you’re writing? Do you have to find a way to consciously shift from your older point of view, back to the time when you didn’t want your own bedroom, thank you very much, or does it come naturally when you sit down at the keyboard? It’s not a matter of vocabulary or sentence length, I don’t think, but an entire perspective/feel. A challenge to achieve, yes, but worth it.