I instinctively write the ones I know – moody, foulmouthed and bored all the time.
Well, it’s cool to be bored, innit.
However, I also remember that as a teenager I had long periods where I was actually quite happy, and this presents something of a problem when writing Jennifer, the lead character in my Paranormal Romance/Dark Fantasy title. Should I allow her any respite from the angsty world of being a lonely vampire? Should she be allowed to have some friends who accept and even seem to be fond of her, as I did when I was growing up? Should she occasionally have hyperactive giggling fits when she is showing off in front of a boy she likes?
To turn to the heavyweight of this genre; Bella out of that Twilight book has friends – not that she appreciates them in any way. All she’s interested in is bedding her sparkly vampire Adonis, and she seems blissfully unaware of the fact that the kids of Forks go completely against stereotyping etiquette by accepting her into their group without question. She never laughs, or does anything much other than pine after a man a hundred years her senior, who has questionable dietary habits and a sense of humour bypass.
Is this something I ought to be entering in to? Up to a point I suppose I am trying to write for a YA audience, but I struggle with the concept that teenagers have no sense of fun. Granted, their concept of fun may be slightly skewed towards setting stuff on fire, picking on the weaker members of the friendship group, or hanging around street corners and shopping centres getting in people’s way… but it isn’t all time spent on the verge of tears over a member of the opposite sex.
Still, some of it is, and that may well be what people want to read about.
Based on the habits of my friends in school and of kids that came into the library where I used to work, part of my trouble is that a lot of teenagers seem to stop reading around the age of 13 and never pick it up again until they’re 19 or 20. In doing this, they manage to miss out on a lot of brilliant fiction because they go straight from kids books to adult ones. I tended to read books ‘aimed at teenagers’ between the ages of about 11 and 13, then I went on to more grown up ones. I only came back to teenage stuff a couple of years ago, as an adult.
All of which makes me wonder who the ‘YA’ audience actually is. And should my book encourage people in their mid-teens to keep going, or is it aimed at people in their late teens and early twenties? Or is it both? And if so, how do I appeal to the broad range of emotions and experiences that constantly change and evolve over the period of adolescence?
There’s a lot to consider, essentially. Although ultimately I think I’ll do the same thing I do every time – write as it comes to me and worry about it later.
The editorial process is going to be an interesting one.