As many of you know, I've been struggling with a particular set of suggestions that don't seem to mesh with the other critiques I have gotten on my latest MS. It is the nature of our beast for us writers to dissect every comment and suggestion, often trusting others judgments over our own. That changed for me this weekend, and I owe that debt of gratitude to one Julie Duck. I’d been so lost in my own manuscript that I’d forgotten how truly remarkable and amazing it is when an author, like Julie, truly manages to capture the YA voice.
Many of us YA authors, like myself, are mature adults with families and responsibilities. We've got a lifetime of experiences to guide our choices -- a lifetime our MC's have yet to live! It is hard but critical for us to keep our mature perspective of the world out of what we are writing and/or beta reading. Take my latest MC – she’s seventeen and has been diagnosed with a cancer. Now as a parent, I'd be concerned about treatment options, and medical insurance, and whether or not there is enough money to cover the cost of drugs, and the mortgage, and groceries.
I venture to say that a seventeen-year-old girl/MC who is academically, athletically, and socially active would be less concerned about affording her next meal or paying rent. She’s more apt to focus on things like the loss of her hair, weight loss and body image, whether her friends will see her differently, school, and of course her boyfriend's reaction to her failing health. Do these things seem trivial to me, a thirty-plus woman with bills to pay and mouths to feed? Sure, but I'm not a teenager, and I'm not the MC.
Will our teenage MC’s make some choices that we as adults think are idiotic and in many cases cruel and/or selfish? Absolutely! Will they use language that is crude, choose only to think of themselves, and be completely clueless as to how the real world actually works? Of course. They are teenagers after all – they do know everything! The key to amazing YA writing is lending credence those bad choices and letting the MC’s chips fall where they may. Remember this YA writing – no preaching allowed!