Friday, July 27, 2012

From a TEEN'S Perspective: Creating Believable Characters in YA

I am SUPER excited about this post, because many of us are YA writers, and we struggle with creating awesome protagonists. Here is a post from a TEEN WRITER HERSELF!

To see what this blog post is about, just GOOGLE images for "teens." Ugh. I'm not even going to post some of them here, because, literally, the first few are filled with smoking, sex, pregnancies, and partying. OK, moving onto the post.

Writing has been a calling for me since I was nine years old. Because of that, I’ve always been seen as a bit of an oddball among my peers. More than that, though, it’s the books I read that draw the attention of my classmates (who hate reading). I’ve been reading books from the Young Adult genre since I started writing.

The Young Adult genre is one that has grown and prospered, and I have matured right along with it. Its popularity, even today, is growing at an incredible rate. I see adults everywhere reading and writing YA books.

Because of this, YA has downfalls. Some writers have already forgotten what being a young adult means. I don’t know who came up with the precognition that young adults whine about not having clothes that match, and that they gush over slumber parties, gossip, or adventures at the mall. This doesn’t happen.
Another issue arises with drugs and alcohol. Depending on the book, I find this is done appropriately most of the time. Adults are aware that it’s grown more popular among teens. But, every now and then, novels focus either too much or too little on it. One novel I have read is meant to focus on the loss of a friend, but a lot of the focus lies within the alcohol and cigarettes that numb the grief. I enjoyed said book, but sometimes, those aspects turned me off. Books need to balance these issues.

I own a couple of YA books from an author who’s thirty-one. The characters are cookie-cutter characters. It made the book extremely predictable, irritating at points, and at some points I nearly put it down. We had the cliché, angst-ridden protagonist; the seemingly-bad-boy-but-soft-at-heart love interest, the actual-bad-boy love triangle completion, the badass-doesn’t-take-crap girl, and the meek, quiet bookworm. Deaths were no surprise, revelations were no surprise.... The book was wearisome in general.

Writers who are around 18-28 tend to write the best YA, in my humble opinion. This is just from my point of view; I’m not stating a 100% (God forbid!) or saying something I think all people should think.

YA is given much more creative covers than other genres, the font face has the most variety I’ve ever seen, and the promotions for any book are extravagant. A teenager’s attention span for something new will last about seven seconds, so you’d better grab their attention quick. As I stated in a recent blog post, I decide whether I’m going to buy a book from the cover, the blurb, and the font face. That’s how long you have to grab my interest.

YA is a current ruler of literature. It’s a genre everyone seeks to contribute to because everyone loves it so much. It is the benevolent, crowning ruler of reading heaven. It’s fun to write for and fun to read if done correctly. Some writers confuse fun with easy, though. If someone chooses to write for the Young Adult genre, that’s what must be remembered. Fun is not easy, and not all heroine protagonists have to be angsty, lonely, and flat-chested. (:


Kendra Conine is a 16-year-old urban fantasy writer living in Illinois with a love for Japanese-styled music and her cats. She writes about people with elemental powers and can be followed on her blog and Twitter.

She is a teenage writer, and one of the most mature and helpful people I have ever met :) She is extremely caring and you can tell in all her posts, so you won't regret following her!



  1. I''m so far removed from my teens there's no way I could write from that point of view now.

  2. It can be scary for us older writers (I'm 28) to attempt writing for teenagers! Sometimes I definitely think we need a reality check from teens to help keep us on the right track. ;) I haven't heard complaints that I hit off the mark, thankfully, but then again I spent most of my teenage years watching everything that happened around me and not actually being a part of it. I like to think I've retained more that way.

    (Back, you know, when pagers were COOL and you had two phone lines in your house so one could be dedicated for the dial-up internet. Sigh.)

    Great post, and very helpful!

  3. LOL SC I like the picture you added!

    Alex: That's understandable. (: It's even better that you actually admit it—AWESOME points for you. :D There are several out there who seem to deny that they don't know enough about teens nowadays.

    Kelley: LOL, see how times change? Pagers are a thing of mythology for me... XD I believe that the uncertain YA writers who are afraid they don't have the right voice are the ones who do better than others, so from that post you seem to be doing well! :P

    Thanks for reading and commenting! (:

  4. I know this is an old post...sorry I'm so behind the times! Thanks for reminding us that cookie-cutter teenage characters just don't cut it sometimes (no pun intended). Creating realistic teenagers is something I've been working on with my manuscript. Thinking back to my years as a teen (I'm 25 now) and listening to the emo songs that got me through high school have helped a lot. Those years didn't involve gossip and shopping trips. Instead they included constant thoughts about sex, bad boys who were ACTUALLY really bad (as in, sexist jerks who weren't afraid to throw a punch), sitting around watching a lot of movies, and staring at AIM in hopes that someone would instant message me (that is, until Mom kicked me off the computer so she could use the phone). These are things I've kept in mind :).

    1. (Forget to click on "Notify me." Done.)

  5. *Forgot. Where is my head today? :)