Tag Archives: characters

The YA Protagonist’s Age: You’re 17? Me, too!

15 May

The young adult genre is normally defined by coming-of-age stories, where the protagonists are often between the ages of 14 and 18. That being said, if you are publishing a YA story right now, chances are your protagonist is 17 years old.

So why are most YA protagonists 17?

Short Answer: The protagonist is old enough to be on the cusp of adulthood but young enough to still be considered a young adult.

Long Answer: Adding to the short answer above, 17 years old is also highly regarded because the target audience reading YA right now is not necessarily teenagers. In fact, most studies indicate that the main audience buying YA is 18-27. (Many teenagers are more focused on fan fiction online—another topic for another day.) But focusing on the older aspects of teenage years is currently more sellable than the younger teenage years of 14-16.

Basically, 17 years old seems to be the sweet spot in YA right now, especially for crossover YA, but I would love to see more variety.

In fact, I find it incredibly uncomfortable how much we are focusing on the age of 17. It’s almost as if every teenager on the planet will have a revelation in that year of their life…and that’s highly unrealistic.

Teenagers do not go through the same issues at the same time. Not everyone falls in love for the first time at 17. Heck, I’m pretty sure half my class was “dating” in middle school, and, yes, that “dating” included some pretty adult things. In fact, let’s talk about that.

Sex is being introduced to YA on a more often, regular basis. (And that’s another debate.) But I think this addition is one of the main factors behind the focus on aging up protagonists. The average reader might feel okay reading about a 17-year-old, who is practically “free” of childhood, but a 14-year-old might cause different reactions. But people face different issues at all ages. Let’s take historical fiction as an example. The average age of a Civil War soldier might have been 26, but boys as young as 12 served as drummers. You’re now talking middle grade fiction, let alone young adult. I think it’s especially okay to give younger protagonists bigger roles in YA historical, but 17-year-olds still take the center stage, and while I understand the marketing aspect, I wish we could get over it.

I went against the grain when I featured a 14-year-old protagonist in my latest YA series, because I think variety is important.

In fact, I’m going to stick my neck out and say one of the reasons young readers (actual teenagers) are reading less YA and focusing on Harry Styles fanfiction on Wattpad is because of how much YA is currently being marketed for older audiences. Ally Carter, author of the Embassy Row series, recently talked on Twitter about how “sweet” young adult fiction is all but missing from the main market. Darker, older, edgier materials are hot, and while that’s awesome for readers like me who enjoy those books, many teens are feeling left out of their own genre…and that’s not okay.

When I was young, I grew up with Cammie in the Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter. Her character aged over a few years, and I loved it. The series starts off quick and short and sweet, and as Cammie grows, the content gets darker, more mature, and complicated. In fact, there were a lot of series like that when I was younger, and I LIVED for them. (Hello, Harry Potter.) When I’m at book signings and teenagers tell me how they struggle to “relate” to YA anymore, I feel for them. I truly do.

Teenagers deserve younger and older protagonists—all going through a variety of topics and struggles. They deserve to feel welcome in their own age bracket.

I lost my mom at 11. I moved for my seventh time when I was 12. I had a stepfamily when I was 13. I started high school and my first long relationship at 14. I got in my first car wreck at 15. Heck, I got my license at 15, because, Kansas. (Farmer’s permits—driving by yourself to work and school—were pretty common.) I started my first job at 16. I published my first book at 16! I graduated high school at 17. I turned 18 one month before I moved out and went to college. And sex? I was 19. All of these topics are seen in YA…but they’re mainly assigned to 17-year-olds. Why?

Not everyone has their first “coming-of-age/independent” moment at the same time.

So why are all of our protagonists the same age?

~SAT

November Snow Paperback Release & Sequel Sneak Peeks!

19 Sep

Today’s post is short and sweet.

The paperback of Bad Bloods: November Snow released!

So, who wants some sneak peeks? 😀

Bad Bloods: November Snow Paperback Release

Bad Bloods: November Snow Paperback Release

Bad Bloods: November Rain is FREE

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Bad Bloods: November Snow

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Free Bad Bloods Prequel: Wattpad

What are the latest readers saying?

“A powerful work of art. In November Rain, Thompson invites us into a world of secrecy, murder, and unlikely friendships that are bound to make your head spin with wonder.” – Lena May Books, November Rain

“I bawled like a baby at the end of this book. I highly recommend this story to all to read and enjoy!!” – Black Words, White Pages, November Snow

So what happens after Bad Bloods: November Snow?

July Thunder!

The sequel is underway! I’m working really hard, despite hitting a bit of a snag, and I released the first sneak peek of July Thunder’s very first chapter, told by Violet herself. For those of you who need a little reminder, Violet was a bad blood from the Northern Flock, she was the shadow from Shadow Alley, and now, she is a protagonist. The other protagonist will be a brand-new character named Caleb. I am so looking forward to readers seeing how he connects with the first book. (There are hints throughout November Rain and Snow. *hint hint*)

Check out the July Thunder/Lightning Pinterest Board!

This is a first look at brand-new cast members, as well as old ones, and the sunken bay, where most of the sequel will take place. The sunken bay is in Eastern Vendona. Niki from the Southern Flock originated from there (which you can read about on the Bad Bloods Prequel on Wattpad) as did a few other bad blood characters. Other important origin stories you should pay attention to? Ami. She was in the Southern Flock, and she will play a significant role in July Thunder/Lightning. But that’s all I’ll say for now! This board isn’t complete, so keep your eyes on it for additions.

July Thunder Pinterest Board Sneak Peek! See more photos at the link!

July Thunder Pinterest Board Sneak Peek! See more photos at the link!

And finally, the preview of July Thunder/Lighting!

This excerpt is from Violet’s perspective on July 1, 2090.

“Are you afraid of Caleb?” Daniel asked.

Levi tossed his head back and laughed. “Afraid?” he repeated. “Of course I’m afraid. But I ain’t here ‘cause I’m scared of him.” Levi dropped into the water with a dramatic splash. When he resurfaced, his glowing skin scorched an eerie glow across his eyes. “I’m here ‘cause I’m scared for him.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I snapped.

Levi’s eyes met mine. “The sea?” he asked, and to make a point, he dragged his fingers through the water. “She talks to me.”

“Well, isn’t that sweet?” I mocked, but Levi’s expression only darkened.

“She’s far from sweet, sweetheart,” he said. “She’s gonna kill us.”

“What are you talking about?” Daniel growled, but Levi smirked at his tone, like a sailor to a siren.

“Caleb didn’t tell you?” he asked, then touched the water again. “We’re all gonna drown.”

P.S. I released a longer excerpt via my newsletter. If you missed it, sign up today. More sneak peeks will release in the future. (I won’t ever give your information away, and I send one newsletter a month – if that.)

Thanks for reading!

Bad Bloods: November Rain is FREE

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Bad Bloods: November Snow

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Free Bad Bloods Prequel: Wattpad

~SAT

#MondayBlogs My Protagonist and Illiteracy

5 Sep

My protagonist is illiterate. She recognizes a few letters, she can identify her name, and she loves listening to stories more than anything. But she cannot read.

Her name is Serena, and Serena is a bad blood.

Bad Bloods in 35 words or less: 17-year-old Serena is the only bad blood to escape execution. Now symbolized for an election, she must prove her people are human despite hindering abilities before everyone is killed and a city is destroyed.

While Serena lives in a futuristic world where magical children like her are executed, illiteracy is a very real issue in our world today. An issue I wanted to discuss in my Bad Bloods duology. There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding illiteracy—some of which I discuss in an article Tackling Diversity in YA—but the main one is the fact that illiteracy isn’t as uncommon as the average reader might think.

1 in 4 children in America grow up without learning how to read. (DoSomething.Org)

books-writing-reading-sonja-langford-large

For readers, this fact might seem startling. Readers generally know other readers, after all. And—on top of that—many of the characters in YA fiction love books, because readers love books, and it’s easy to relate to a character that loves the same things as them. For many readers, it’s impossible to imagine a world without reading, even in fantasy and sci-fi settings. I, for one, definitely struggle with that concept, but illiteracy is a reality for many young people, especially women all over the world. Granted, I will be the first to admit that I did not set out to write Serena as an illiterate person to spread awareness. No. I originally set out to write her as a character who didn’t enjoy reading due to severe dyslexia—something my brother and father deal with to this day.

As a child, growing up in a household where my two role models didn’t read was very difficult, especially when my late mother was a reader but no longer able to share that joy with me. That being said, we can relate to one another—readers or not—as people, and since so many characters are readers, I wanted to remind readers we can love those who don’t read, too (although maybe we can help them find the perfect book so they try reading again)! We can also understand how illiteracy happens, and hopefully, we can learn to sympathize with it and also help others learn to read in the future.

The issue of illiteracy developed with Serena’s character over time, but I wouldn’t change Serena for the world. She is smart. She is caring. She loves ice cream, her friends, and stories told beneath the full moon. She falls in love. She cries. She feels pain and sorrow. She laughs.

Serena may be illiterate, but she still has a story.

And so do the millions of people around the globe dealing with illiteracy today.

That is why she’s my protagonist.

~SAT

Bad Bloods: November Rain is FREE

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Bad Bloods: November Snow

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Free Bad Bloods Prequel: Wattpad

#MondayBlogs Writing Tips: Naming Your Characters

22 Aug

Naming characters is really important! It can also be fun…and a little daunting. Choosing them can take hours, and on top of that, publishers might change them anyway. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the process. In this article, I’ll list a few aspects to consider while naming your characters, and I’ll include websites you can use as tools to find the perfect name.

Have fun!

1. Time & Culture

Is it believable that your character’s parents would name them something within the setting’s restrictions? Of course, there are exceptions, but consider the year. 1880 is going to be VERY different from 2030. Research your setting! If you want, you can actually look up popular names through the years at SSA, [Social Security Association.] Also, BabyNames.com allows you to explore baby names based on origin, ex. Irish names, Persian names, etc. Babynames.com provides thousands of names within cultures, meanings, genders, and more. You can even save your favorite names as you skip around. (Don’t be surprised if people ask you why you’re looking up baby names in public. I’ve been “congratulated” on a number of occasions.)

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2. Last Names and Family Lineage

Remember most parents use iambic pentameter for names. The rhythm should work. On top of that, you can consider naming a character after another character. A son may be named after his father or grandfather. Last Name Meanings provides a list of last names and where they derived from, along with the meaning behind them.

3. Unique and Memorable

Of course everyone knows not to use names already used in very famous novels, but what about within your own book? Avoid repetitive names or sounds. You probably don’t want to name everyone with a “J” name. It’d be hard to follow Jack, John, Jared, and Jill around. Personally, I suggest making a list of characters names in alphabetical order so you can physically see what is represented. Consider start, end, and syllables. The exception generally happens within relationships. Example? If you have brothers, maybe they will have similar names, but don’t overdo it.

4. Mixing Names (Sci-Fi/Fantasy)

Listen, we all know sci-fi/fantasy generally calls for unique names, but tread carefully. Having a character names Zzyklazinsky is going to be WAY too hard for a reader’s eyes. Sometimes, your best bet is taking well-known names and simply mixing them to create something more relatable but unique, ex. Serena + Violet = Serolet. Try NameCombiner.com to see what you can come up with.

5. Look All Around You

There are so many references on the Internet to find names. Other than those websites stated above, get creative. Pick up an old yearbook. You’ll be surprised how many different first and last names (along with rhythms) you can find. However, I suggest not using a person’s exact name, but rather use it as a reference. Maybe a first or a last. When I recently atteneded a high school graduation, I kept the pamphlet with all the names on it. There’s nothing like needing a quick reference – a real one – that isn’t online. Even funnier? A real Noah Welborn was on there. (My male protagonist from The Timely Death Trilogy is named Eric Welborn, but his little brother is named Noah Welborn.) Sometimes, reality fuses with fiction. And, of course, life in general. If you’re at a restaurant and notice your waiter’s name on his nametag, jot it down. Even if you don’t use it now, you might in the future…which brings me to my last point.

Keep a list of names that you love (and maybe even why you love them). That way, when you’re ready to write another book, you have a notebook filled with ideas already, and you can start right away.

A mixture of all these things creates a list of believable characters, and I really hope you’ll enjoy playing around with names more than before!

Original posted April 29, 2013

~SAT

Here are two of my FREE books:

Bad Bloods: November Rain

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Minutes Before Sunset

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#MondayBlogs Writing Tips: Different Perspectives

8 Aug

I love writing from different perspectives. Both my YA series—The Timely Death Trilogy and Bad Bloods—are written in first POV but from two different speakers. I love using this technique for novel writing, because I enjoy first person, but I dislike how it restricts the storytelling to one character, especially when a scene would be better from a different perspective. So, I have two protagonists, and of course, there are complications that come along with this. What’s the most common question I am asked?

How do you make each voice unique?

I’ll provide a few aspects to keep in mind, but of course, this journey will be different for every writer and every novel. First, know that every character should have its own distinct voice. A reader should be able to open the novel and know who is speaking immediately. This is more difficult than it sounds, but it can get easier over time.

1. Perspective. 

The most obvious change between one voice to another is their unique perspective. What is their background? How do they feel? Where were they educated? Are they affecting the words, or are you? It’s important that characters have their own voice, and that voice will come out in combination with their personalities and backgrounds. For instance, your character who is a fashion designer would definitely use specific colors and fabrics to describe clothes, but your mechanic character might not.

2. Pay Attention to Diction and Syntax

Just like authors have their own “voice,” so do characters. Because of their backgrounds, characters will have different vocabularies. One character may use very flowery language, while another may have less of a need to elaborate. Consider their education, where they come from, and what they might know. The way they speak should differ, whether they are talking out loud or explaining the scene inwardly. Sometimes, syntax can be used to emphasize certain speech patterns, but be careful not to overuse syntax. Too many exclamations or repeated habits/phrases can become tedious and boring rather than unique and fun. Sometimes less is more. Little clues are normally enough.

3. Consider Rhythm

Honestly, I think rhythm is often overlooked, but paying attention to subtle changes in sound and length of sentences is important. One character’s thoughts may drag on, so their sentences are longer, while another might make short lists to contain their thoughts. Like everything making up your character, a person’s rhythm will depend on their personality, background, and goals. It could even change from scene to scene, but consistency is key.

All four of these women would tell a different story about this picture.

All four of these women would tell a different story about this picture.

One of my favorite exercises:

Write a chapter in which the two characters are talking. Write it from POV 1, and then, rewrite the exact same scene from POV 2. Check to make sure the dialogue and the physical actions are the exact same, but then, compare the thought process. How did the scene change? What does this change mean? Do they each bring a unique perspective? And out of those perspectives, which one is best to use?

As an example, two people can be talking and Person A could notice Person B is fidgeting. Person A may assume Person B is nervous, but when you tell it from Person B’s perspective, you learn that they are distracted, not nervous. These little bits can truly morph the way characters interact. I always encourage this exercise when starting out, even if the writer isn’t planning on telling from another’s perspective.

This exercise helps me understand the characters, and I feel more confident when I move onto a new scene. (Sometimes, it even helps me choose which scene to use…and worse case scenario, you have an extra scene to release as an extra for your readers.)

Have fun and good luck! 

Original posted March 31, 2013

~SAT

Bad Bloods: November Rain is FREE across all eBook platforms right now! (And I’m dutifully working on the next installment, too!) Happy reading. 😀

November Rain

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November Snow, 

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Bad Bloods Free Book

Bad Bloods Free Book

 

#MondayBlogs: Writing Tips for a Trilogy or Series

4 Jul

So, you have an idea for a trilogy or series. Awesome! Writing a series can be a lot of fun. I mean, who doesn’t want to spend more time with their characters and worlds? But many aspiring writers aren’t sure where to start, and writing a series is a lot of work. With these three steps, though, it might be a little easier than you think.

1. Determine the arc for the series—and each book

This step is important for your series whether or not your books will be standalones or need to be read in order. Each book should have an arc (and don’t forget that every character in your series should have an arc, too). On top of that, your overall series should have an arc. This means each book is building up to something by itself and working together to build up to something bigger. One easy way to do this is to consider your “sub-genre.” Maybe your first book of your paranormal romance trilogy will be a mystery (Who is the villain?), while your second book will be a thriller (We have to run from the villain!) and your last book will be your adventure (We have to go after the villain!). This method ensures each book brings something new to the series, while also working through an overall arc (in the example’s case, defeating the villain). Again, this is only one method, but you can mix and match to study your series and determine if you are keeping your books fresh and exciting but also unified.

Writing Tips for a Trilogy or Series

Writing Tips for a Trilogy or Series

2.  Keep Notes

Consistency is SO important. You might think you know your characters from top to bottom, but chances are, you don’t. We’re only human. We can only remember so much, and as your cast grows and changes, it gets harder and harder to remember every little detail. That being said, you must remain consistent throughout each book. You wouldn’t want a side character who is allergic to chocolate in book one to eat chocolate ice cream in book five. Same goes for scenes. If you’ve said a door was to the right, it better be to the right in the other books, too. Personally, I keep a file on places and characters, and I create an overall timeline. What’s a timeline? This tracks years before and during the books. This means if I have a character who says she broke her leg at five years old in book one, she says she was five in book three, not nine. Another file I keep is a summary of what was told to each character in previous chapters so I know what my characters know from scene to scene. It seems easy to remember, and it might be for some, but sometimes, we have to go work on something else or step away for a few months, and it can be hard to remember when you return. Keeping notes is never a bad idea.

3. Be Open

Writing a series is hard, even with a plan. But don’t fret! We all know that writers aren’t completely in charge of their characters, worlds, or ideas. Sometimes, the protagonist throws a curve ball, and everything changes. That’s okay! Think of writing a series like a road trip: You know where you’re starting, you probably know where it’s going to end, and you might have places you want to visit in between. But there might be some surprises along the way. Embrace them, and keep going. That’s where the fun is. And don’t give up! Following your dream is worth it, even if you have to rewrite that dream a couple of times along the way.

Original posted September 5, 2013

In this article, I discuss lessons I learned while writing my first two trilogies.

~SAT

A new review came in for November Snow! “Truly, Thompson has done an incredible job here of story weaving. Just wonderful. Don’t underestimate your need for tissues here people, don’t do it. Prepare yourself with tissues and a cuddly stuffed animal.” – Babbling Books (Seriously, listen to her advice. Tissues will come in handy.)

Catelyn's Story on Wattpad

Catelyn’s Story on Wattpad

This week, Catelyn’s Story released on the FREE Bad Bloods Prequel on Wattpad. This is also the first origin story seen from the Southern Flock’s perspective. They formed later than the Northern Flock, so from now on, you’ll see stories flip back and forth between the two flocks. If you ever wondered why the groups of bad bloods are called flocks, this origin story explains why! In Bad Bloods, Catelyn is Serena’s best friend. Here is a preview: The girl was pretty enough for plenty of crimes. Read her story by clicking the link.

Pre-Order Bad Bloods

November Rain, Part One, releases July 18, 2016

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November Snow, Part Two, releases July 25, 2016

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#MondayBlogs Writing Tips for Love Interests

6 Jun

Romance sells. This is a proven publishing fact. Though that doesn’t mean you should add romance to your novel just to add it, romance is quite popular in ANY genre, and let’s be real, love is everywhere. The chances of writing a book with no one (not even a side character) falling in love or being in some sort of relationship is pretty slim. Think of your own family and friends. Someone is going through something. Which is why love is so relatable. It might also be why we love reading about love. So, how do we write about love?

Like any topic, there are a million ways to write about love, but since I know you have a million more articles to read, I’m only giving out two quick tips to keep in mind when developing a relationship for your characters. But first, I want to get one stereotype out of the way, a stereotype we’ve all loved to hate. That’s right. I’m talking about Insta-love.

A note on Insta-Love:

I use the term “love” loosely here, but can we admit that insta-love happens? All. The. Time. In reality, it might be classified as infatuation or lust, but in the moment, a lot of people believe they have fallen in love at first sight or fight kiss, and technically, some people do fall in love right away. We’ve all heard stories of those couples many envy. You know, “She walked into the room, and I just knew!” It does happen, and it happens to people of all ages, but I definitely prefer when an author allows love to shape over time. This generally means love is more character-driven than plot-driven, and there are many ways to approach it.

Here is one system to think about.

1. Show How the Love Interest is Different

Why should we love them? Sure, he/she is good-looking and funny and smart, but so? Everyone is good looking and funny and smart to someone—and as an author, you’re not necessarily trying to get only one character to love another character. You’re trying to get most of your readers to also love that character, or in the least, believe in that character’s love. This is why we have to start thinking beyond types and start thinking about love in general. What makes love relatable? More love! Think about the love interest’s relationships with all of those around them—their friends, their family, etc.—and I guarantee you’ll make that character relatable. You’ll also figure out why your love interest is a standalone (and interesting) character. If that doesn’t work, try some personality questionnaires to get to know your characters better. Maybe they have a strange hobby or a secret phobia or a new dream that contradicts everything they’ve ever dreamt of before. Questionnaires will help you concentrate on the love interest as a person rather than as a love interest in your story…which is key to creating an interesting character for ANY situation. Not one character should be in a book to simply support another character. Sure, supporting characters support the main character, but much like the villain, supporting characters are still the main characters in their story. Treat them as such. Give them their own desires, interests, fears, and arcs. Love interests are never just love interests. Love interests are just characters who happen to fall in love.

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2. Now Show How the Love Interest is Different Around The Lover

This is the “two characters who happen to fall in love” part. To me, it basically translates to affection, and not necessarily physical affection. I mean, emotional affection. Maybe they open up to one another about topics they’ve never opened up about before. Maybe they simply cry in front of one another. Maybe they are the ones who challenge them the most and cheer for them even harder than anyone on the sidelines. Maybe they can dance and trip and don’t feel embarrassed that they tripped together. It’s both about comfort and accepting discomfort, knowing the other will love them anyway. The juxtaposition between positive and negative emotions—while sharing them with one another—helps readers relate to the couple while also allowing the couple to relate to one another on a more intimate level. In this process, you’ll probably see where the characters draw lines with friends and co-workers and family members as well. A great exercise I swear upon is taking your protagonist’s deepest darkest secret and figuring out how they would tell everyone in their life and why the situation changes based on who they were talking to. Of course this doesn’t have to go into the book. (But who doesn’t love a good secret?)

Of course, there are many types of love—and the English language is very limiting to the definition of love—so exploring lust, infatuation, obsession, admiration, and love all come with their own complications and expectations. That’s the joy in writing stories though. Get lost in the chaos. Figure out the unknown. Push boundaries. Listen to your gut. But most of all, follow your heart.

I hear that’s the key to love, after all.

Original—Insta-Love Isn’t Instant—is very different. 

~SAT

Enter Clean Teen Publishing’s Summer Fun Giveaway!

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Win a paperback of November Rain in this Goodreads Giveaway.

Win signed swag from The Timely Death Trilogy and Bad Bloods by signing up for the Bad Bloods Thunderclap and emailing me your support at shannonathompson@aol.com.

Pre-Order Bad Bloods

November Rain, Part One, releases July 18, 2016

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November Snow, Part Two, releases July 25, 2016

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