What better way to start off the week than with a great guest post from YA author, Ava Bloomfield? Writing is a complicated journey, but with Ava’s help, everyone can create believable teen characters. Feel free to share your tips in the comments below!
Writing Relatable Teens
Nobody wants to grow up. We learned that in Peter Pan. So how does an adult write a relatable YA character? How does anyone write a relatable character?
It’s a subjective thing; we all know that. It’s impossible to wholly judge a character for their realism while we go about our particular lives, with our particular experiences, in our particular way. It fits that novel writing is such a personal process, in that context; our characters are born from us after all.
Some argue those two aren’t remotely comparable. Some would say they’re too different; one is ‘deep’ and one is…well, Bella Swan. It’s all subjective anyway, so how do you guarantee you’ll write a Charlie and not a Bella?
The answer is simply that it depends on the journey, not the character itself. We can relate to almost anything if the underlying themes ring true to its audience.
While Charlie is coming of age, Bella is experience her first love. Or infatuation. Whatever you call it, there are inferences to be drawn. Just because Perks examines abuse and mental health issues doesn’t mean that Twilight’s love story is a vacuous waste of time by comparison. Didn’t Jane tell an unconventional love story with Mr Rochester in Jane Eyre?
Granted, Meyer doesn’t hold a candle to Charlotte Bronte.
But when we put the calibre of any particular writer aside, it’s easy to see that there’s room for any variation on topic. It’s how the writer weaves their message through a character that makes them believable, relatable.
Characters in YA aren’t just reflections of ourselves, or unfathomable things we just dreamed up one day. They’re extensions of ourselves. Teen characters are ghosts of our past, holding hands with today. In my experience, the whole process of writing about a young character is as familiar as it is daunting. We set out to write about a ‘real’ teenager, with battles to face, and through their development we thread together the fragments of our experience.
That ‘thread’ I’m talking about is a sensation that never leaves us. It’s the sensation of being on the cusp of adulthood, unprepared; plunged utterly defenseless into the wolf-pit that is the world. And it’s that thread that binds the YA writer with their characters and entwines them; it’s a natural occurrence. It’s necessary. It’s our link with our former selves, however near or far that is.
But therein lays the opportunity for disaster. By the logic of what I’ve just described, writing YA characters would be purely therapeutic. We’d confront our demons and wrap things up neatly in the end. We’d snuff out conflict in a way we never could in the real world, because we’ve walked that path before. And that’s not realistic at all.
Teen characters have to be monumental screw-ups in one fashion or another. They’re the lessons we wish we’d learned, failing all over again. There’s nothing palatable about success without sacrifice, is there? It’s as true for the protagonist as it is for the writer.
To write an authentic teenager, we give away the depths of what makes us who we are today. It’s not slaying the demon that wins the battle for any YA character; it’s the metamorphosis they experience on their journey. It’s the awareness that they aren’t the same person they were before.
And you, the writer, will have experienced it with them.
Charlie from Perks wasn’t the same come the end. Bella from Twilight wasn’t the same either. It’s all in the journey. It’s in the believability of their transformation.
The reader will experience that metamorphosis and evolve. The writer connects with its reader by way of character. Within that thread of experience, binding it all, is a common vein we share.
Isn’t that why we read YA, after all? It’s more than just an escape, and it’s certainly more than nostalgia. It’s a way of holding hands. It’s a way of saying, ‘I hear you’ that transcends any other medium.
Writing a relatable teen character is like shouting your deepest secrets into the void and waiting for them to echo back to you. Just know you’re not the only one listening out for it.
Ava Bloomfield lives by the sea with her partner Matt and their Scottish Terrier, Sputnik. When she’s not busy with her day job as a transcriber, Ava can be found rummaging in charity shops for hidden treasure, mooching about in her local library, or writing her next novel.
Ava writes stand alone books about angsty teenagers. Check out: Honest, All Girls Cry, Leap and Beyond on Goodreads.
Alternatively, send her a psychic message over the cosmos. She’s not quite tuned into it yet, but she’s certain it’ll happen any day now.
Want to be a guest blogger? I would love to have you on! I am accepting original posts that focus on reading and writing. A picture and a bio are encouraged. If you qualify, please email me at email@example.com.