Hello, folks! I’m Brent Kelley, the author of Chuggie and the Bleeding Gateways. It’s the second Chuggie adventure, the first being Chuggie and the Desecration of Stagwater. These are gory, profanity-filled adventures through the monster-filled world of Mag Mell. With Bleeding Gateways, I’ve chosen to donate half of my royalties for the first year to the American Cancer Society. I wanted to stop by my pal L.S. Murphy’s site today to share what I know about Young Adult Fiction. I haven’t published any YA yet, but I think you’ll find this guest post insightful, informative, and worthwhile. Visit me at www.brentmichaelkelley.com.
5 Keys to Writing Good YA Fiction
1: Your Audience
Obviously, understanding your audience is important. What are kids into? What moves them? What will get them to put down their Gameboys, turn off the Power Rangers, and read a book?
Those are great questions. I remember this one time back in freshman year, we were at Luke’s dad’s house filming for a history project. The video itself was absolutely pointless. It seemed like five buddies screwing around in the woods with no interest in addressing any historical topic whatsoever. And that’s what it was. It ended with each of us being “executed” by flying sticks in front of a big mud puddle, which we all fell backwards into. It was really an amazing scene. First, Rudy got it. Then me, then Fetting, then Trevor, and then Luke. I think. I know for sure Rudy was first and Luke was last. Luke had to throw his own stick at himself, so it was difficult for the viewer to assume that an executioner was responsible. In the end, we all laid in a pile in the cold mud, appearing to be dead. My memory may not be the clearest, but I’m pretty sure the power of our acting overwhelmed our instructor, Mr. Zak, so much that he accidentally gave us a much lower grade than we deserved. Much, much lower. As I re-read this paragraph, I’m not sure it addressed anything relating to understanding YA readers, much like our video didn’t address anything to do with history.
2: Raising the Stakes
HA! The first time I typed that, it said “Raising the SNAKES”! I bet that would have made TONS of sense in talking about YA! Raising the stakes on your hero is what I meant. More and more pressure on them as the book goes on. Now, if you were raising SNAKES, that’d be something else. Me? I have two snakes. An albino Nelson’s milksnake named Crabdip and a ball python named Darth Batman. Couple o’ regular little snuggle-pals! “Hey, Daddy! Can I have a mouse to eat whole?” No, DB, you just had one yesterday or the day before. Let me check my calendar. Oops! Yeah, you can have a mouse, pal! I used to have a 7-foot Burmese python back in college. Her name was Kitty, and let me tell you, that snake loved to snuggle! One time I yawned and she stuck her whole head in my mouth. Yeah, I know. Gross. So put THAT in your book!
3. Characters Need Flaws
One way you can make sure your characters are flawed enough to feel real to the reader is to answer the following 10 questions from each character’s POV: 1) What do I fear? 2) Who don’t I trust? 3) What is my darkest secret? 4) How does… Wait, I think the secret one was supposed to be first. Heh, here’s MY darkest secret: I can’t keep these things straight! Okay, maybe that’s not quite my “darkest” secret. It may not be a secret at all at this point. Anyway, I’m afraid of bees. Some will say this item – maybe even the entire post – is as useless as a lazy metaphor. That’s because they stopped reading before I got to…
4. Bad Guys Need Redeeming Qualities
That’s right, folks. Your bad guy should have something about him that’s at least a tiny bit decent. It makes the character complex and worth further examination. Like my old history teacher Mr. Zak. What a monster! Sure, most folks who know him think of him as a good man who enjoyed teaching and who made his classroom fun. But they didn’t see our historical film or the grade he gave it. They didn’t see the look on little Rudy’s face when that grade got handed down. You know who really lost out? The public. After we got the grade, none of us had the confidence to show that film to the community. I think about that, and I think about all the lives that could have been saved. How could lives have been saved? I don’t know. Somehow, I bet. I should bring it up next week at Mr. Zak’s Monthly Benefit for Orphans with Mesothelioma. That guy’s like Walter White on Breaking Bad, but without the drugs. And he’s never killed anybody. And he introduced me to Frank Herbert’s DUNE. And he’s really nice.
5. The Final and Most Important Key
You gotta go out with a bang when you do these lists. Much like, I imagine, Walter White is going to go out with a bang on Breaking Bad. I don’t think he’s going to die, though. I think they’ll leave it open to “OMG, what happens next?” And then they’ll never tell us. Maybe in like ten years they’ll do a movie or something. I’ll tell you one thing for sure: I’ll be watching on Sunday! Did you see the cliffhanger from last season? (or half-season, you know what I mean) Boy, I sure did. I’ve watched that episode a lot. Here’s a secret… It’s on right now! The only problem is I haven’t really “seen” it. I downloaded it from a Hungarian bootlegging site, so I don’t really know what was said. The subtitles are slightly off. Example: Walt Jr.:“Having is to you for to being receives… paining carwash the death!” To which Skyler replies: “One thousands of goat to soaking of goat.” So yeah, no idea what actually happened last episode, but it looks like Hank might be onto Walt. Oh, and speaking of Hungarian stuff, Google thinks all the emails I get from HungarianSingles.com belong in my Junk folder! Come on, Google, I pay good money to get those emails. Don’t hide them from me!
Thanks for reading BMK’s “5 Keys to Writing Good YA Fiction”. You found it entertaining and informative.
Also, I invite you to check out Chuggie’s adventures. Help me and Chuggie fight cancer!