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Posts tagged ‘Kashmira Sheth’

Narrating Your Story In A Lean Style, by Kashmira Sheth

Many recent novels sometimes seem lean in the way they are written. The reader is in charge of filling in some of the blanks. These kinds of stories are rich in characters and voice but short on extraneous narration. This writing style often helps readers feel a great kinship with the main character. This lean narration is not just used for transitions from one scene to another, or from one physical place to another, but is also used for the emotional journey.

In teen novels this has to be done carefully and judiciously. If done too much, readers may feel like they didn’t get into a character’s emotional world. It could cause the reader to feel apathetic toward the protagonist and he might lose interest in the story.

One way to use lean narration while avoiding the pitfalls is to have fully fleshed out scenes with dialogues and sensory details that are relevant to the interior landscapes of the characters involved. The mood (eg. upbeat, happy, gloomy, tense or sad) can be enhanced with narrative details, dialogue and action tags.

For example, if your main character is having an argument with his parents about not doing well in school, his body language during the argument could carry the scene as much as the words he lashes out at them. At the end of the argument, what your character decides to do can tell readers how he feels about what just happened. Does he take his books out and just stare at them? Does he start studying? Or does he go for a run to clear his head and to get away from his parents?

The setting can also tell the reader a lot.  If your protagonist goes running in a rain shower, this may help show how he is desperate to get out, and maybe his mood turns more gloomy and sour. The setting can influence what your character is feeling, and you can convey this without too much narration. If he goes out for a run on a beautiful, sunny day, it is easier to believe his mood turns better.

How your character responds to the world around them also gives clues to your character’s state of mind. Say he goes out on a drizzly, cold day and, instead of making him feel terrible, it invigorates him. He feels that his argument with his parents is only one small part of his life. Just as he knows the sun will shine again, he knows things will get better with his parents. In this case, his response to the situation may indicate an inner strength and an optimistic nature. All of this can be done in a few sentences. Yet it reveals a lot about the protagonist and moves the story forward.

By using settings, metaphors, active verbs and small details that echo your main character’s feelings and disposition, you can move the story forward in a lean but satisfying way.

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Kashmira Sheth’s author website: www.kashmirasheth.com

Kashmira Sheth’s bio page

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Creating A Sense Of Place In A Novel, by Kashmira Sheth

Writing a story that has a rich sense of place makes the setting feel authentic. If the place is unique, our characters stand out against their illuminating backgrounds.

Making the place come alive becomes crucial if our readers are unfamiliar with the setting. This occurs in many types of stories, including historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy and stories set in other cultures. Not only do readers need to connect with the main character and their journey, but they also need to know and understand where that journey takes place.

As a writer, you needs to conceptualize this place in your head. If you simply describe all of it at the beginning of the story, it won’t be effective. Too much information about the place will probably get boring; it might slow down the story, and even make the plot feel irrelevant. The key to introducing a new place is to do it in such a way that the reader finds it relevant and fascinating,

By adding a little information at a time about the setting, readers can slowly drink it in as they read the story, instead of having to gulp it down all at once.

By describing things that need to be explained or that would enhance the story, and skipping the unnecessary details, you can sharpen the pace. If you start describing a moonrise, make sure there is something unique about it and that it has a connection to your story. If the moonrise is somehow linked to the character’s journey, mention it. Otherwise, save your descriptions for something unique to that place or to your story.

The writer should also consider carefully the timing of these details.  If the place or culture is utterly unfamiliar to our readers, details can be thought of as multiple curtains. They can be lifted up one at a time to reveal what we need to know and want to communicate at that specific time in the story.

Besides revealing the right details at the right time, using metaphors and similes can ground readers to a particular place. These metaphors and similes must be tied to the environment your protagonist inhabits. If someone is living in a lush tropical climate, “as sweet as maple syrup,” doesn’t resonate true. Instead, “as sweet as sugarcane juice,” might work well. If the story is set in another culture, some words from the native language can also help give the story an authentic feel. The sounds of a different language can have an almost magical power to transport the reader somewhere else. Using vivid and unique imagery and sounds of language from the place can also create the right atmosphere for the story. These metaphors and imagery plant the reader firmly into our character’s world.

By employing the different techniques mentioned above, you can bring into focus the world of your protagonist and invite the reader to step in.

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Kashmira Sheth’s author website: www.kashmirasheth.com

Kashmira Sheth’s bio page

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Using Your Character’s Senses To Show Your Story-World, by Kashmira Sheth

As a writer, many of us see the story unfolding in our head. When we start putting those scenes down on the page most of them are written out as what our main character or our narrator ‘sees’. I love what eyes can see and the type of sensory details it can provide the readers but it is important to remember the four other senses too.

In real life we experience many things with sight but at the same time we also gain knowledge of our physical world through the other senses. It is important to write stories that not only use the sense of sight but also employ sound, taste, smell and touch to make the physical world of the protagonist richer and more complete.  For example, if there is spilled sugar in the kitchen our character may not see it but will experience it with other senses. How she discovers it could depend upon if she is walking barefoot or wearing shoes.  If barefoot she may notice it by feeling it on her feet but wearing shoes she might hear the crunch first.

Rich sensory details bring multiple layers to a story. A misty, foggy March morning with beautiful imagery is good. But if we take the same scene and add the sound of a bird, say a cardinal, piercing though the mist it could add a new dimension. The reader hasn’t seen the cardinal, and yet the sound can bring the image of red crested bird ready for spring. By adding sound we give an impression that beyond the veil of mist there is a world out there, a world of sound, color and life.

Similarly, the sense of touch brings texture to the story. Just observing that a wool shawl looks soft or rough doesn’t create the same image as adding how it feels to the touch. That the wool shawl felt smoother than my furry kitten or that it felt like I was holding a prickly pear gives a fuller, more accurate and vivid description.

Taste is one of the most important and indispensable tools for fiction writers. If you are writing about food, no matter how much you describe it just doesn’t do it justice. It is like going to a restaurant and getting a dish that looked lovely. The presentation is great but what you are after is the taste. Are the green beans crunchy and flavorful? Is the dressing tangy? Is the crust melt-in-your mouth flaky?  In my writing, I use the foods and spices of India to bring out the flavor of Indian dishes.

Last but not least is the sense of smell.  Smell is probably the most evocative of all the senses. You may visit a beach that you used to go as a child after twenty years. You may notice that half-a-dozen new resorts have been built, changing the look of the beach. Yet you might feel that there is something very familiar about the place. It probably is the scent of the salty, moist air. It is the scent that will take you back to your childhood of building sand castles and wading into the water.

Using all the senses to describe the place your protagonist inhabits is critically important in a YA novel. It immerses your reader fully in the scenes and settings of the story. As writer, it is satisfying to make the world come alive, one sensory detail at a time.

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Kashmira Sheth’s author website: www.kashmirasheth.com

Kashmira Sheth’s bio page

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Keeping CornerBoys without Names     TracksAuslanderThe Traitor's KissCleopatra ConfessesAcross the Universe

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Using Characters And Setting To Situate Your Story In Another Culture, by Kashmira Sheth

The most challenging part of writing a story set in another culture is making it feel authentic and relevant. It is like building a brand new house that perfectly blends with the century-old neighborhood. It should have the same weathered feel as the other homes. To write a story that feels realistic, the author should think of two critical parts, characters and setting.

Characters:

Start a story with the main character and build her (or his) personality. Do it in such a way so that the readers can relate to and empathize with the protagonist. The character must have habits, likes and dislikes, and certain physical attributes. For example, she may like to wash her hands obsessively, he may hate the idea of his father’s waking him up at four to help him on the farm, he may have a big mole on his hand or she may bite her nails. These kinds of details help us create an image of our character in readers’ mind no matter where they are from.

Give your character’s personality a strong sense of believability. A childhood adversity, such as money problems, may drive your character to start a lawn-cutting business while still in high school. A shocking event in his early life (eg. a sibling’s accidental death) may cause him to have nightmares into adulthood. Life-changing events that shape him make his behavior believable, his motivations clear, and his journey plausible in the reader’s mind.

Setting:

A place with sensory details is also critical to a story. If the story is set in an unfamiliar place the setting is as important as your main character. Using all five senses brings the place alive and keeps the story grounded. When a writer can establish a character in a setting that seems unique and yet natural it adds depth to the story.  To achieve this, the writer can use a familiar place (contemporary novels) or build it up from imagination (fantasy novels) or from extensive research (historical novels).

The last step is to bring the character and the setting together in an intertwined fashion. If your protagonist lives by the ocean, the tide may have some special significance to him. On the other hand, if he lives by the mountains, he maybe fond of hiking along a trail to clear his mind.

Another way we can do this is to let your character use dialogues as well as body language not only to convey his thoughts and feelings but to ground him in the place. These gestures must be culturally specific and relevant to the story though.

What if your protagonist, who lives by the ocean, opens a window, sees someone, and shivers? Is it because of the cool ocean breeze or because he sees his arch enemy walking up? This kind of reaction to a setting can serve dual purposes for your story and make readers want to keep on reading.

Once the setting and character are well established readers can identify with the protagonist easily. Then the details you provide from another culture, tradition or time become just as engrossing as the ones the reader is familiar with.

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Kashmira Sheth’s author website: www.kashmirasheth.com

Kashmira Sheth’s bio page

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Month In Review with Steve Rossiter (March 2013)

Writing Teen Novels has reached the end of its third month of articles for 2013, from this year’s line-up of novelists from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

Thank you to all the contributors, to everyone who has been reading the articles and those who have connected with Writing Historical Novels on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Tumblr, or via Novel Writing Quotes on Facebook or Google+.

The purpose of these Month In Review articles is to:

- provide a handy list of links to the articles for the past month, then to

- relate some of the content of these articles to my own novel writing to help novel writers and other interested people discover the month’s content and gain some insights into ways the month’s content can be engaged with in a practical context.

Articles for March 2013

Are Teen Novels ‘Genre’ Fiction? by Elizabeth Wein

Using Art In My Teen Novels by Stephen Emond (graphic novelist)

Writing ‘Unlikable’ Characters In Teen Novels by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Selling Your Teen Novel Manuscript by Laurie Faria Stolarz

Unreliable Narrators In Teen Novels by Beth Revis

My Novel Writing Process by April Henry

Editing A Novel: The Necessary Evil by Lish McBride

The Process Of Writing And Revising My Novels by Monika Schroder

Finding A Good Literary Agent For Your Novels by Paul Volponi

Research For My Teen Historical Novels by Carolyn Meyer

Developing The Story For My Novel ‘The Puzzle Ring’ by Kate Forsyth

What Is At Stake For The Characters In Your Teen Novel?  by Diane Lee Wilson

Voice In My Teen Novels by Kashmira Sheth

Why I Love To Set Novels In British Columbia by Sam Hawksmoor

Setting Up A Suspenseful Plot (Secrets Of Narrative Drive) by Sarah Mussi

On Novels That Are For-Teens-By-Accident by Bernard Beckett

Beginning Your Novel With A Great First Chapter by Pauline Francis

Getting An Agent And Publisher For Your Novel by Andy Briggs

This month’s articles and writing my teen novel

Sarah Mussi wrote: A strong opening must promise the reader that something worthwhile is going to happen because this will make the reader feel it is worth carrying on reading. This sounds simple but it’s a bit more tricky than it seems.
Firstly, ‘something worthwhile is going to happen’ should not be confused with curiosity. Mere curiosity, or not knowing something, is not enough to stimulate the interest of the reader over the course of a novel. Secondly, the willful withholding of information in order to ‘arouse interest’ or ‘create a surprise’ can be extremely annoying.  Anyone who has ever had the misfortune to read a book like this knows the feeling. It’s counter-productive. It’s BOOK DEATH! So you have to be very cunning.

Monika Schroder wrote: Once I have finished a full draft it goes through numerous revisions and each of these revisions focuses on a different aspect of the manuscript. In an early stage when I revise for plot I tweak and streamline the events along the story’s arc. I cut scenes or write them more tightly. Another revision focuses on the character development, making sure that I have kept his or her development clear and the character’s traits are consistent throughout the story.
After the larger structural problems are fixed it is time to improve syntax and word choice.

Kashmira Sheth wrote: Our inner world is colored with our outer world. The physical surroundings, including weather, seasons, terrain, plants, animals, and people have a profound impact on how they express themselves. For example, a character living in a desert might use a spiky cactus to describe a prickly personality, while a character living near a rocky beach may compare it to sharp rocks. A character’s profession will also shape the way they talk and think.  A poet may describe a sunset differently than a scientist, even though they are both watching the same sunset at the same time and same place. The metaphors and similes our characters use or don’t use reflect their environment and their backgrounds. This makes up part of their voice.

For my own teen novel in progress, set in 1939 Poland and discussed further in the January and February Month In Review Updates, my approach includes going back to revisit the first chapter as part of the editing and rewriting process to ensure it performs the important role of effectively introducing readers to my main character and drawing them into the story. As Sarah has suggested, there is a difference between skillfully crafting a sense of anticipation and story momentum by raising unanswered questions in readers’ minds as part of a satisfying story experience versus simply withholding information you would otherwise provide in the belief that withholding this information will create suspense.

Of course, while the first chapter of a novel holds a special place as readers’ entry point into a novel, it is not just the first chapter that can benefit from being re-shaped with the benefit of the big picture context gained from of a complete draft of the novel. With this big picture context in mind, the essence of each scene and the contribution it makes to the story (eg. revealing character and dynamics between characters, and showing character-change and changing dynamics between characters) can be fine-tuned so the components of the story work in unison to more effectively convey a satisfying reading experience.

Kashmira’s point that ‘our inner world is coloured by our outer world’ is something I have considered, and continue to consider, in relation to my novel. My main character, as a teenager in 1939 Poland, does not have day-to-day familiarity with contemporary things like computers or the internet, television, rock music, mobile phones (or even widespread access to home phones) and other electronic or communications devices, passenger aircraft, widespread access to motor vehicles, widespread commercial use of plastics, the United Nations, the Holocaust, the outcome of WW2, nuclear weapons, the Cold War, satellites, space travel, and whether there was intelligent life and societies on neighbouring planets. This means many concepts which could come to mind for a contemporary character cannot come to mind for my character in 1939 Poland. Day-to-day concepts which come to his mind may have more to do with things like agriculture, livestock, horses and horse-drawn carts, railway travel, communicating by posting letters, the outcome of WW1, instrumental music, folk songs, books and paintings. Contrasting a contemporary character with one from the past provides a clear example of how a character’s ‘inner world is coloured by their outer world’, but this applies equally to different characters within the setting of a novel. Each character in a setting does not experience the absolute entirety of that setting, just as no person experiences the absolute entirety of the planet, country, region, state, city, street or even the house where they live, due to the physical limitations of only being in one place at a time. Each character will experience different parts of their setting and have different thoughts than other characters, which will influences which parts of the setting they subsequently experience and what they then think, and so on, building up in each character a unique ‘inner world coloured by their outer world’.

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‘Month In Review’ Updates

For more articles on writing novels you can check out Writing Historical Novels and Writing Novels in Australia.

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Voice In My Teen Novels, by Kashmira Sheth

When I first started writing I had a hard time understanding what voice was and how I could give distinct voices to my characters. Should I have them talk with an Indian accent? Would that be enough? I didn’t think so.

I read more books, looking for voice, and as I wrote my first novel the concept became clearer. Voice is how people express themselves. It has to do not only with accent, but also with word choice, with sentence structure, with figure of speech, and most importantly with how a character views the world and themself. Beyond all that there is time, place and culture to consider.

There are regional differences in how any language is spoken. Characters speaking in English from the United Kingdom, Australia, the United States or India sound different from one another. They pronounce things differently, greet each other differently and put emphasis on different syllables. In some parts of the world, people may spit sentences out so fast you wonder how they were able to keep them from getting tangled up.  In others, people may draw out their words slowly and carefully like each sound is a nugget of gold that they have to weigh precisely.

Depending on their age or background some characters use short, simple sentences. Some use long and convoluted ones that go on and on, with the help of punctuation, and if you are not paying attention, their meanings could be lost.

Then there are figures of speech. Our inner world is colored with our outer world. The physical surroundings, including weather, seasons, terrain, plants, animals, and people have a profound impact on how they express themselves. For example, a character living in a desert might use a spiky cactus to describe a prickly personality, while a character living near a rocky beach may compare it to sharp rocks. A character’s profession will also shape the way they talk and think.  A poet may describe a sunset differently than a scientist, even though they are both watching the same sunset at the same time and same place. The metaphors and similes our characters use or don’t use reflect their environment and their backgrounds. This makes up part of their voice.

Our character’s position in life will influence how our character views the world, which in turn will impact their voice. If she is a princess she is going to view world differently than if she is a chambermaid. They both may be living in the same palace but they view it differently, they express their thoughts differently and they expect others to communicate with them differently. Again, who they are will give each of them a unique voice.

Time, place and culture will also impact our character’s voice. A modern day princess will express herself very differently than, say, a princess in the 14th century.  Also, a 14th century Indian princess might talk differently to her father than a Russian princess during the same time.

What has worked for me is to know my characters well. Then I concentrate on the scene. Once I have a scene in my mind, and see my characters moving and interacting with other people in their physical space, the voice comes out naturally.

Voice was not as elusive as I had thought.

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Kashmira Sheth’s author website: www.kashmirasheth.com

Kashmira Sheth’s bio page

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Using Imagery In Your Novel Writing, by Kashmira Sheth

The writing that stays with us long after we have read it usually has many layers. The story is gripping, the narrative arc is well defined, and the characters jump off the page, but often there is also something else. It might be the way the writer has used imagery that creates a cohesive effect and pulls the story from enjoyable to unforgettable.

There are many things that one can use for imagery. It can be taken from nature – plants and trees, mountains and oceans, wild animals and birds. The imagery can be taken from culture – from food and cooking, from clothes and celebration, from rituals and traditions. It can be taken from art – from posters and paintings, from music and from books.

In order to use imagery effectively, the imagery must fit the protagonist and his or her journey. If your character is passionate about growing crops and cooking, then employing imagery of farmland, terrain, produce and spices makes sense. But if your character’s idea of cooking is to make toast and slather peanut butter over it and eat it on his way to meet a friend, such imagery will not resonate with the reader.

Imagery can be used to bring to life the character’s situation, his or her moods and emotional state. One book that I admire is The Witch of Blackbird Pond. Here, author Elizabeth George Speare uses color to reflect 16-year-old Kit Tylor’s two distinct worlds. Kit has left her tropical island home and has journeyed to the Puritan New England of 1687. The brilliant colors of the flora of Barbados clash in Kit’s mind with the drab landscape of New England. The author uses the blue and jade of the warm ocean surrounding Barbados to set apart the muddy brown river in the new land. The latter reflects Kit’s mood in New England.  The author also uses clothing to show the change in Kit’s surroundings. The Puritan women’s drab clothes made of homespun coarse material are in stark contrast to the colorful silks and satins of Kit’s wardrobe. And in dreary New England, she stands out like the brilliant plumage of a tropical bird. It makes the reader understand how Kit could be an easy target in this new world. These jarring contrasts are easily imagined in the reader’s mind and evoke his sympathy.

Speare uses color throughout the story in a unifying and clever manner. At different stages the colors mirror Kit’s emotions. A little into the story Kit comes upon a blooming meadow – an expanse that reminds her of the ocean. The meadow claims her and the reader feel that, along the way, this new county will claim Kit, too. In the middle of the story, when Kit feels a little settled in her new environment, the white snow covers the land and the reader feels that Kit is somewhat at peace. At the end of the story, Kit sees the tender green New England spring coming alive from the brown muddy earth, which reflects her transformation.

I believe that when appropriate imagery is woven into the narrative it can provide depth by reflecting the character’s emotional world. With this, the story becomes layered and stays with the reader long after the final words are read and the book is closed.

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Kashmira Sheth’s author website: www.kashmirasheth.com

Kashmira Sheth’s bio page

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United States (and beyond)

    

United Kingdom (and beyond)

    

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Keeping CornerBoys without Names     The Witch of Blackbird PondSaraswati's WayShades of Earth: An Across the Universe Novel (Across the Universe)Code Name VerityTarzan: The Greystoke Legacy

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Month In Review with Steve Rossiter (January 2013)

The Writing Teen Novels 2013 line-up was launched on January 1st with a diverse range of novelists from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and New Zealand as monthly contributors. Each monthly contributor now has their first Writing Teen Novels article online.

Thank you to all the contributors, to everyone who has been reading the articles and those who have connected with Writing Historical Novels on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or  Tumblr, or via Novel Writing Quotes on Facebook or Google+.

The purpose of these Month In Review articles is to:

- provide a handy list of links to the articles for the past month, then to

- relate some of the content of these articles to my own novel writing to help novel writers and other interested people discover the month’s content and gain some insights into ways the month’s content can be engaged with in a practical context.

Articles for January 2013

What I Did Wrong And What I Did Right On The Way To Becoming A New York Times Bestselling Novelist by Beth Revis

Some Themes For Teen Novels by Elizabeth Wein

Why I Write Mysteries And Thrillers – And Read Them, Too by April Henry

I Was A Teenage Artist by Stephen Emond

Voice In Teen Novels by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Why I Write For Young Adults by Laurie Faria Stolarz

On Finding Story Ideas by Kate Forsyth

On Story Development by Andy Briggs

Teen Fiction: A Definition? by Bernard Beckett

Getting ‘Great Ideas’ For Novels by Carolyn Meyer

Combining Personal Experience And Imagination For Writing Novels by Kashmira Sheth

Why I Write Young Adult Novels by Lish McBride

What Is The Appeal Of Teen Dystopian Novels? by Sam Hawksmoor

How Reading Berlin Newspapers From The Fall Of 1918 Helped Me Write ‘My Brother’s Shadow’ by Monika Schroder

Why I Made The Switch To Writing Young Adult Novels, by Catherine Ryan Hyde (guest article)

On Creating Conflict (Secrets Of Narrative Drive) by Sarah Mussi

Choosing The Right Story For Your Teen Novel by Paul Volponi

Historical Teen Novels: Fact, Fiction And Friction by Pauline Francis

Writing Narrative Point Of View In Teen Novels by Diane Lee Wilson

Approaching the writing of teen novels

Beth Revis wrote: “Do the things you fear. Don’t try to be like everyone else. Care more about the story than the market.”

Elizabeth Wein wrote: “I don’t write teen novels. Most of my novels are about teens, but I have never once in my life set out to write a ‘teen novel’.”

Guest contributor Catherine Ryan Hyde: “It helps to remind myself that when I was 14, my favorite book and movie was Midnight Cowboy, though my parents didn’t know it. That’s how I assess the reading level of a teen.”

Laurie Faria Stolarz wrote: “I knew that I wanted to target readers that were like me as a young person – those who found themselves getting discouraged by reading, whose minds tended to wander as soon as they got bored on the page. I wanted to create high concept, page-turning books that would grab the reluctant reader and get them excited about reading.”

Lish McBride wrote: “The writing coming out of Young Adult and Middle Grade sections makes my imagination burn and my heart glow with pure, unabashed joy. There have always been writers and editors that take writing for kids seriously, but now they’re being let onto the playing field. It makes me happier than you can ever know to be part of that team.”

Paul Volponi wrote: “After having written 10 novels for young adults, I believe that the most challenging aspect of writing a YA novel is choosing the right story. Why? You’re probably going to live with that story every day for a long while. In my case, it usually takes me anywhere from 10 months to a year to complete a novel. Then, following the initial writing process, there will probably be several more months of working with the editor representing the publishing company, making modifications on the novel. So there is little doubt that you need to choose a story that inspires you.”

I am currently writing a teen historical novel set in western Poland in 1939. The basic premise is that a teenage boy living with his family in Bydgoszcz in western Poland discovers at the outbreak of WW2 that he was adopted and his biological parents want to take him to Berlin, but he has different ideas. The story follows him as he tries to bring his family in Bydgoszcz back together amidst the German invasion and occupation.

I live in Australia and, like Beth Revis recommends, I’m not being like everyone else; writing a teen historical novel set in wartime Poland is not an attempt to hitch onto market trends and be just like the current bestsellers. It has originality but can also fit firmly into genres such as teen novels, historical novels and wartime novels. Like Elizabeth Wein, I am writing about a teenage main character but not necessarily writing a ‘teen’ novel in the sense of following criteria to fit a specific idea of what ‘teen’ novels should be. The novel I’m writing is intended for teenage readers and adult readers. The subject matter means I would not be actively promoting the novel to pre-teen children, given the setting in the opening months of WW2 Poland and being written for teen-adult readers in mind, but, as Catherine Ryan Hyde indicated, many young readers read above the recommended age-range. I first read one of Stephen King’s adult horror novels when I was 9 and enjoyed it because it didn’t talk down and overly simplify things like many of the novels I had read that were recommended for my age. Whereas Laurie Faria Stolarz has an emphasis on catering for reluctant readers, my natural emphasis for teen readers is probably more toward creating something which will entertain and intellectually stimulate Honour Roll students and intelligent adults, while still being accessible and emotionally engaging for more reluctant readers. As Lish McBride pointed out, there is a lot of sophisticated and entertaining fiction available to teen readers now. My approach to my novel-in-progress is not to focus on a simplistic action-adventure approach to war, nor a simplistic anti-war morality tale, or something similar, but a story about things like family, friendship, courage, responsibility, joy, sorrow and striving against adversity. Another key aspect of my approach for this novel is in-depth research; I want my depiction of the setting to stand up to expert scrutiny as well as the story being entertaining and intellectually stimulating for teen and adult readers. All this amounts to a story I am happy to write, revise and edit over a long timeframe then discuss with people over an even longer timeframe.

Teen readers deserve novels which are not a simplified version of adult novels but sophisticated and entertaining novels created with as much effort and attention to detail as adult novels.

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For more articles on writing novels you can check out Writing Historical Novels and Writing Novels in Australia.

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Writing Teen Novels
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Combining Personal Experience And Imagination For Writing Novels, by Kashmira Sheth

Often, the first book many authors write is semi-autobiographical. This is not as strange as it sounds. Writing from something we have experienced, physically as well as emotionally, is a good place to begin. When we know the internal and external landscape well it is easy to fictionalize it and make it deeply touching.

The emphasis here is on fictionalizing. It is difficult to take all of our experiences (for example, of our sophomore year of high school) and put them in our story. What is needed is to trim all the extraneous, unrelated events, then add scenes from our imagination to make the plot more exciting and gripping and to give our story an arc.

It is also important to have characters that are unique and interesting to the readers. In high school one may have many friends and even more acquaintances but in the novel one must replace them with a few unique characters that move the plot forward, the ones that matter to the story. It is also important to make sure that none of the people that you actually knew twenty years ago can identify themselves when they read the story, and that they cannot be identified when other people read it. Instead, take different attributes from people, add your own imagination to give them unique personalities and traits, and flesh them out in the story. At once they become your own, and yet they are truly believable, multi-dimensional characters to whom readers can relate.

The physical space where the story takes place can also be constructed from your experience as well as from your imagination. Again, if you add a small, secluded courtyard to the red brick building of your high school it might make the space more vivid and interesting. Whatever you add can be used in setting scenes that are unique to that space, further enriching your story.

The emotional growth of your characters is one place where you can use your own experiences much more deeply. If you are writing about the summer between sophomore and junior year, then you can go back to your emotional state of that summer. Was it the summer of heartbreak, angst, rebellion, disappointment, or sorrow?  How did you survive and persist? How did your emotions manifest themselves in your interactions with others?  What did you learn? How did that one pivotal summer make you grow and change? These emotional nuggets can be taken from your own personal journey. While writing a story you may be surprised to discover you gain a deeper understanding of the emotions you felt during that time.  This will help create characters that are not only believable, but also with whom your readers will empathize.

I believe this emotional dimension is why many authors’ first book is semi-autobiographical. When you write from your emotional core it feels solid and real. As a writer we may be capable of writing an intriguing story, imagining many scenes and settings, and inventing colorful and unique characters. Still, the emotional integrity of the story is sometimes hard to get right. Writing a story from our own emotional experience creates resonance and depth that make readers fall in love with our characters, and with our story.

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Kashmira Sheth’s author website: www.kashmirasheth.com

Kashmira Sheth’s bio page

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Keeping CornerBoys without Names     Saraswati's WayPrison Ship: Adventures of a Young SailorThe Traitor's KissThe Night She DisappearedA Coalition of Lions

Writing Teen Novels
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