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Posts tagged ‘writing fiction books for teenagers’

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

When I was an aspiring novelist I went to listen to a talk by an author of eighteen (wow!) novels. He was giving advice on how to write a novel and one of the first things he said was, “Don’t write in first person. It’s too difficult.”

Gulp. I’d already begun a novel, had about four chapters finished, in fact, and the way I heard the story in my head was clearly in first person. I didn’t find it difficult. Hmmm.

Lesson learned: What doesn’t work for another author may work for you. Each writer has different strengths; some are great at characterization, some can keep their stories going at breakneck speed, some use the language beautifully. Do what’s right for you. For me, I like first person and I think it’s particularly good for teen novels.

A story told in first person is intimate; you’re inside this person’s head, observing the world through his or her eyes. Thus it’s natural for a reader to form an empathetic bond with the protagonist. Since teens, especially, want to know what other teens are thinking, putting your teen novel in first person is a natural draw for them. They’ll envision themselves in the main role, and enjoy the power or the adventure or the romance offered in the story. No doubt your protagonist will put a “teen spin” on things and that will further engage the reader.

Writing in first person also allows you, the author, to get to know your characters better. You’ll find that once they come alive and begin speaking, they’ll reveal more and more of themselves each time you sit down to write. I’ve been surprised by some of the deep-seated issues my characters have brought forth onto the page. They’ve come up with past hurts or long-repressed desires that have added an extra note of realism to the fictional story. This is part of the magic of writing, and I’ve never spoken to any author who hasn’t had at least one character take hold of a story and begin to direct its course. It’s often the main character’s personality traits, in fact, that help determine just how the story’s crisis will be resolved.

Tension is another benefit of writing in first person. Because the reader is seeing the world only through the protagonist’s eyes, he or she is discovering it right along with the hero. There is no omniscient narrator saying, “A thief lurked behind the door.” The protagonist can only note misgivings, or acknowledge an eerie feeling: “Had the door moved slightly with the wind or was that someone’s breathing? I knew I shouldn’t have come here alone.”

Wrapping yourself in the skin of one of your characters, listening to another’s thoughts and feeling their emotions, is for me one of the most enjoyable aspects of writing. It’s a free ticket to experiencing the world from a different vantage point. And when it’s over you get to introduce that character to readers and share with them an enriching story.

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Diane Lee Wilson’s author website: www.dianeleewilson.com

Diane Lee Wilson’s bio page

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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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