I recently had a discussion with fellow writers about what constitutes “serious” writing or not. Personally, I think it comes down to the writer. I have plenty of stories written that I would not consider serious, but that’s because it isn’t serious to me. However, I understand when people discuss genres being “serious” or not, but I think that’s a different discussion completely.
Today, I’m focusing on why young-adult fiction (or any genre) is “serious” writing even if the topic is humorous or light reading.
Novels, no matter what genre they fall under, have more than just a story. There are motifs, themes, foreshadowing, symbolism, and aspects that many readers might not even catch the first time around. This is not to say a reader does not understand these things. Instead, I’m saying that there is a lot more to a novel than what it might seem at first, and I’m going to be using Minutes Before Sunset as my example. Minutes Before Sunset is a young-adult paranormal romance. By many standards, this may not be considered a “serious” genre, but, again, I’m talking about “serious” writing, not genres.
I’ll talk about why novels go beyond the story by use of symbolism, foreshadowing, themes, and an overall message. But, when I use Minutes Before Sunset, I will avoid spoilers by using only the opening scene, which is available online.)
Independence Day might seem like a holiday that simply worked with the story, but it was carefully thought-out. My characters lives are fated, and often, they do not feel like they own their own body, let alone their future. Having Independence Day as the opener is vital, but it’s also very important to realize this is Eric’s favorite holiday. This holiday represents freedom, independence, and a new future—everything that Eric Welborn does not have–but it also represents a huge theme and motif.
Returning to Independence Day: we see fireworks. We see Eric’s obsession with them. We see how a child sees them, as fascinating bursts of light among darkness. We hear Eric’s father call them “useless burst of fire.” This is a symbol. Minutes Before Sunset is based on the idea of Dark vs Light (except the roles are flipped: the dark is good, and the light is bad.) This tiny conversation is more than it seems. The fireworks, from Eric’s eyes, are hope, the only light in the dark life that he has. His father, however, sees all light as evil; hence why he calls the light useless. By showing this childhood perspective, we can see Eric’s naïve state, how he thinks before his life is tainted by fate. We see his relationship with the Dark and, ultimately, his father. We see why they will argue, even in the future. Eric, despite being born to the Dark, sees light as hope.
Other symbols in the first novel include the willow tree, Eric’s nightlight, and the car wrecks. Unfortunately, I can’t explain what they mean until after the trilogy is complete, but there was a plan. There is always a plan.
Foreshadowing is hard to explain when I promised to stay in only the beginning of the novel, but I’m going to try my best with the assistance of Read to Write Stories. Michael Noll got it right when he discussed the first time Eric discusses the hill called “Willow Tree Mountain.” Noll talks about how this little bit sets up the setting to explain why the people are ignorant—because they choose to be. They accept what they want to. You can read his piece here. But it basically points out exactly how certain people will act and think later on in the book. But if you’re interested in what this scene foreshadows, I’ll give you a little hint: it’s coming in Seconds Before Sunrise.
As you can see, one scene can hold more than just the scene of the story. Many writers spend hours making sure each scene goes beyond a simple event that pushes the plot forward. Novels, at first, might not seem complicated, but it’s when you study each chapter, each character and symbol, that you realize how much planning, writing, and editing went into the creation.
Writing is more than randomly selected words scrawling across a paper. It’s symbolic. It has foreshadowing, themes, and many other aspects that allow readers to connect with the emotional repercussions of the story. It takes a lot of preparation, and, to me, the amount of dedication a writer has makes any genre “serious.”
P.S. I’m looking for bloggers to help me spread my cover reveal on December 1. If you’re interested in hosting the cover reveal on your blog, you’ll also be entered into a raffle to win a pre-release ebook of Seconds Before Sunrise. Please comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.