Young adult (YA) literature incorporates nearly all genres. Its main target is youth between twelve and eighteen, but older people may enjoy it as well. The plots are primarily plot-driven and coming of age.
Writing techniques employed in other genres also apply to YA.. However, sentence structure is less complex and vocabulary is simpler. A typical story runs between 40,000 and 70,000 thousand words. That’s enough to develop a multi-dimensional story, but not so much that the reader loses interest. While secondary characters can be any age, primary characters must be teen or college age.
The readers experience the story through a believable and empathetic main character (MC) that they can identify with. As they feel the MC’s emotions and participate in his problems, they can take part in their resolutions. They vicariously overcome crises, reaching milestones on their way to adulthood. This can give them a sense of security, validation, or meaning to their lives. They might also experience psychological or emotional transformation.
Before you begin to write, get to know young adults. Listen to their vocabulary and speech patterns and how they interact. Study their books and magazines for style. Determine what plots or themes are overworked and aim for something fresh.
Teens are constantly bombarded with new experiences. Everything is big, important, and intense. Possibilities are endless. They may feel invincible or they may feel vulnerable and inconsequential, isolated and craving community. Many that desire to change the world care deeply about things of substance.
Topics that interest them are romance, independence, friends, influence of peer groups, and milestones like first date, first car, first job. Stories for older teens may deal with drugs eating disorders, cutting, and other intense subjects.
Stories about romance and darkness are most favored. Fictional romance from the MC’s unrequited love to his love relationships helps the readers understand their fantasies. If the readers feel trapped and helpless, they may turn to tales of dystopia and vampires. Identification with the MC makes them feel more in control of their lives. Stories such as death, suicide, and cutting allow readers to explore dark topics safely.
The focus of all YA is growth. Readers who experience the MC’s conflicts and resolutions gain more maturity and insight, which inches them along toward adulthood.—Quinn