A few months ago a friend and fellow author, Dianna Gunn, posted an article focused on the reasons why she writes YA fiction. Since my novel, Starter Zone, falls into this genre, she suggested that it might be a good topic for me as well.
I like these types of articles because it gives readers insight into an author’s thought processes. Indeed, I enjoy reading Agatha Christie’s advice on writing mysteries and Stephen King’s thoughts on why people like horror novels/movies. It is fun to learn about an author’s inspirations.
YA novels appeal to me because I enjoy “coming of age” stories where a person journeys into the world and, through hard-won experience, gains knowledge and maturity. The heroes/heroines learn about themselves and their roles in the world. The various temptations and obstacles faced bring out their characters and develop their faculties, leading toward a greater self-awareness.
In many other types of novels the protagonists gradually accept the rules of society and learn to integrate themselves into its rules—to adapt their ways of thinking and behavior so that they can succeed in their life goals. But, in my opinion, the very best types of YA novels, the ones I love to read, blow that sort of “adaptation” idea out of the water. Look at Harry Potter and Katniss Everdeen for examples of how YA heroes/heroines forge their own path and shape the world around them. These protagonists achieve a realization about their roles in the larger society and see themselves as possessing the capacity to not only disagree with prevailing opinions, but to act out against them.
Many of the YA novels where the heroes/heroines strive to change society are set in dystopian or fantasy worlds. Dystopian themes touch many controversial issues faced in the world today, from terrorist attacks to evolving cultural gender roles. In the fantasy settings there is less moral ambiguity than in the real world. There are more issues painted black and white and fewer shades of off-white or dark grey clouding the picture. The YA protagonists inhabit these types of dysfunctional story worlds and, as they awaken to the realities around them, determine how to take corrective action. This often puts them at odds with family and friends who do not share the same realizations. The heroes/heroines are a force of change within their societies and often stand alone at the center of a revolution, where their choices and actions have far-reaching consequences.
These are the types of novels I enjoy reading, which is why I started writing them. “Write what you enjoy reading” is advice I have taken to heart. I hope that you find these types of YA stories as compelling as I do!