Tag Archives: YA lit

NA or YA? College-Aged Protagonists

27 Jan

If you live on Twitter like me, then you probably saw last week’s discussion on college-aged protagonists in young adult fiction. Many were calling for it. Others pushed back. Personally, I’m somewhere in the middle.

I desperately want college-aged protagonists, but I want them placed in NA, and I want NA to rise up on its own as an age category full of various genres.

Why?

Fun fact: I graduated high school in 2009. I graduated from the University of Kansas in 2013.

1. The Teens I’ve Listened To:

When I sign books at Barnes and Noble, specifically for BFest (a teen festival), I get to speak with a lot of teens. And I listen. I listen a lot.

Teens are already telling me that they feel left out of YA fiction. They ask me for sweeter, funnier, feel-good stories about friendship and finding your place in the world. Many tell me they’ve stopped buying YA altogether (opting out for fan fiction online) because YA feels too dark, too violent, too sexy for them.

Where are the sweet, just-for-fun road trips? Summer camp stories? Where are the books about friends? Not everything has to be a twisted romance filled with fighting to the death over a crown. (Not hating on those. In fact, I love them. But you know what I mean.)

By adding college-aged protagonists to YA, I fear that YA will only be aged up even more. It will get darker, with more violence and more sex. And that’s fine if teens want to read that. But there is a large portion of young teens that don’t want that, and we’re ignoring them.

Basically, I feel like we’re failing younger teens, and they need to be prioritized when it comes to YA.

2. We Need to Embrace NA

New Adult is a long-existing category. It isn’t new. But unfortunately it carries the stigma of erotica-only. Not that erotica is bad. (I work as an editor, and many of my clients are erotic authors, and I LOVE them. They SLAY.) But if a consumer base thinks that’s the only plot that exists within NA, then NA will turn those away who don’t want erotica. It will also set up those who want erotica to be disappointed if they buy a book in that age category when it’s clean. NA should be full of space pirates and sweet romances and twisty heists, with and without the X rating. But it isn’t right now. And that’s our fault. I understand that we’ve tried to expand NA before, but we need to try again. There’s no reason it should be for only romance. And now that there are more people pushing for NA, I think this is an optimal time to use our fan bases to spread the word about the age category and all the potential it holds.

3. Libraries/Families and How They Work 

Cycling back to the sweet stories in YA and non-erotic NA. They are out there, but they aren’t being prioritized on the shelves. Personally, I see younger YA and non-romance NA in the indie industry, but the indie industry is not as accessible. Libraries often chose what to carry from publishers’ catalogs, which automatically discount self-published or small press books. If they go to the edges of publishing, libraries still want books that have been reviewed by recognized editorials, and those editorials? They generally favor traditionally published novels. At my library, they carry very few indie titles, even when I put in requests. So while there are sweeter YA and non-erotic NA, libraries, schools, etc. might not have access to those, which is why I think pushing college-aged protags into YA wouldn’t be fair to young readers in particular. Also, Teen Librarian Toolbox has a fantastic thread on how families will chose reads for teens, why libraries label books the way they do, and how labeling college-aged teens as YA could negatively impact shelves. She also explains why YA was a wrong term to begin with in the first place. Definitely worth the read.

So what age category are you in if you write college-aged protagonists?

That depends on three things:

1. Voice: A lot of YA books have literary prose (Like “The Reader” by Tracy Chee), but if your book is written in the style of George R.R. Martin, you’re probably leaning more towards adult rather than young adult, even if your character is nineteen. An example: “Don’t You Cry” by Mary Kubica follows a college-aged woman dealing with her roommate acting very very strangely, but the voice isn’t YA. If NA was a thing, I would put it there, but since NA is still struggling, I personally think it leans more toward adult. Voice expectations are something you’ll pick up on by reading within your genre and age category.

2. Themes: Even the agents/publishers calling for college-aged protagonists in YA were clear on one thing: it still had to feel coming-of-age. If your book has a nineteen-year-old protagonist, but they are pretty settled into their life, then you’re probably looking elsewhere. In this case, think college-aged protags struggling to leave home, trying to find independence, a place between home and ultimate adulthood. However, this is largely going to depend on how YA and NA swing in the coming months.

3. Who you are submitting to: Always, always read submission guidelines and research agents/editors/publishers thoroughly. What works for one might not work for another, especially in this case. One agent might think a college-aged protag is YA as long as it features coming-of-age themes, while another might think you have no idea what you’re doing if you query them a YA novel with a nineteen-year-old protagonist. Adjust accordingly. Find a good, professional fit for you and your work.

In the end, everything is just a label, and labels can change overnight. In fact, this whole article is my little, humble opinion. Nothing more than that. And, honestly, my opinion could change.

Still, my best piece of advice has never changed: Read a lot. Write what you’re passionate about. Research thoroughly. Stay up-to-date on the latest news and shifts in the industry. Make friends. And you’ll be just fine.

~SAT

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Writing Tips: Lovers

16 Jun

Writing Tips: Lovers

Read my latest interview by clicking here. I talk about fellow Indie authors who’ve inspired me, Take Me Tomorrow, and so much more!

The protagonist lover characters seem to follow these molds:

  • Gorgeous, mysterious, heart-striken male who cannot communicate his feelings until death is threatening separation, because of some past that has caused him to reject relationships in any form until he falls in love.
  • Stunningly pretty female who doesn’t seem to realize she’s beautiful, therefore causing her to be more desirable despite having no capabilities in regards to physical strength or mental strength. The only appealing part of them is their love and how they can support the male with their love.  

So I wanted to share three basic tips to deepening characters within their relationships, but the basic rule I follow is to show why they are uniquely beautiful in the inside and out to the narrator and to the reader. Let the “beautiful people” stand on their own beauty, let them define what “beauty” means to them, and create a beauty that is 3-D, that is rounded and deeply set inside of the characters’ hearts. This includes their unique features, gestures, speech, and more, but here are three examples:

1. Scars, injuries, birthmarks: 

Physical descriptions can, in fact, have a rounding out effect on a character, but these descriptions go beyond “brown hair and blue eyes.” For any character, scars and birthmarks can show a history written on their skin, but you can show this as an intimate thing between lovers. Maybe a lover is the only who has seen a scar or maybe everyone has seen it but the lover is the only one who knows the true story behind it. These little marks of history can be very telling. Someone may have beautiful eyes, but that time they fell out of a tree and broke their arm trying to save a cat tells about how caring they are of animals and others’ lives. It might even insinuate how they have a lack of fear of heights (or, perhaps, explain why they now do.)

Ex/ In November Snow, Daniel has a huge scar on his back, but no one knows what it is from until much later in the story. Serena isn’t the first to see it, but her curiosity about it showed a deeper concern for his past and health than other characters expressed toward him.

This reminded of Eric and Jessica from The Timely Death Trilogy.

This reminded of Eric and Jessica from The Timely Death Trilogy.

2. Gestures:

How do your loved ones show they love you? Think of the small things–the daily “How are you” can make all the difference. Maybe, in a time of danger, a lover would place a hand on the other to remind them they are present. It’s small, yet it tells so much. It says, “I am here. I am listening, and I’m aware that you are, too. I am here for you.” There is an endless streak of gestures – big and small – that people do to show how much they care, and gestures are a great way to define emotions in a relationship between people.

Ex/ In Seconds Before Sunrise, Eric automatically makes Jessica tea without asking her if she wants some or if she likes it. He already knows she does, but a part of him does this without even thinking about it because it comes naturally to him.

 3. Speech: 

Choose their conversations carefully. It seems to me, in young-adult especially, the characters are undyingly in love, yet they never have a conversation about their feelings, insecurities, and/or questions. They never ask the other what the other is thinking. I’m not saying that your characters necessarily have to do this literally. (Ex/ “Do you love me?”) I get it. There is normally a sense of tension in novels, so discussing love is removed for many reasons, so you don’t have to have a discussion about love, but let the lovers have deeper conversations. (Ex/ life, hobbies, past memories, etc.) Most characters – like people – will talk out loud, and choosing what characters discuss can define relationships early on – it may even define their relationship before they even realize they have one.

Ex/ In Minutes Before Sunset, in their human identities, Eric talks to Jessica without even realizing he is opening up about topics he doesn’t discuss with other people. He doesn’t act like it’s a big deal, but Jessica isn’t sure what to say because she realizes he doesn’t talk about it. On the contrast, Jessica tells Eric how she doesn’t like opening up to people. Ironically, admitting that to him was her way of opening up. She doesn’t admit this to anyone else. But in their shade identities, they both open up fairly quickly. Going back and forth between the two identities, their discussions become the main growing aspect of their relationship.

These are only three places to start, but there are endless possibilities to round out characters and their relationships with one another (lovers or not.) A great question for aspiring writers to contemplate is who their favorite book relationship included and why. Write down a list and figure out how to incorporate unique ways into your own stories.

How do you round out relationships? Who are your favorite lovers? Why? And if you’re feeling extra open, have you ever used real life inspiration for a fictional character’s love interest?

~SAT

Writing Tips: Picture Book

16 May

Many writers use pictures as inspiration and/or reminders as they write their novels, but what pictures should writers try to find?

Since I’ve come across many who use pictures, I thought I’d expand by showing many different kinds of pictures artists can use throughout the writing process. I’m even going to use my personal picture book that I began in 2007 when I originally wrote Minutes Before Sunset. So you’ll not only get ideas, but you’ll also see an extra from behind-the-scenes of my recently published novel! (Which, by the way, is now available directly on AmazonBarnes & Noble, SmashwordsDiesel, Sony, and Apple.)

The original Minutes Before Sunset picture book, 2007

The original Minutes Before Sunset picture book, 2007

When I was creating Minutes Before Sunset, as many of you know, I already had a novel published. I also had two others written. As much I can keep my characters straight, I often need to go back, because of the abundance of information. I find this completely normal, and pictures can help more than you think! On top of that, it’s actually quite fun to create a picture book.

As you might notice, my book is titled “Characters,” but it contains much more than just people. At first, I thought I’d only need people, but then I realized that I could also use pictures representing scenes, objects, and more. Before I start, however, I’d recommend using Stumbleupon, Pinterest, and model websites to find the perfect picture (or as close as you can get) to certainties within your novel. These websites are also good just to find inspiration. Maybe you have character you aren’t sure of. On a lot of model websites, you can literally type in a description to find portfolios of genders, ethnicities, and even height or weight. Granted, models are models, so the pictures of characters may be much more perfect than they actually are in the novel. Simply keep in mind that you’re using these pictures as a map, not a definite rule. And here are my three types of pictures:

Characters: 

This example page includes Mindy and Noah (originally named "Colton")

This example page includes Mindy and Noah (originally named “Colton”)

This is one of my many character pages. I show this one first, because characters are often the most important to start with when making a picture book, mainly because a lot of novels revolve around the characters more than the scene. However, this can be very different, and it depends on your writing style.

I normally have a page or more per character (for clothes, hair, eyes, etc.) But I included this simplistic version, because it’s two side characters. Mindy is Eric’s stepmother; Colton is Eric’s stepbrother. Fun fact: his name was changed to Noah during the publication process.

However, in terms of character, you can add much more information on these pages than just pasting pictures into a notebook. (In fact, I keep a character list on my computer on top of these notebooks.) But I add basic information next to their pictures. As an example:

MINDY: married to Jim Welborn 2 years, curly red hair in her face, cheerful, brown eyes, comes across as perfect housewife, oblivious.

COLTON: Mindy’s ten-year-old, annoying, pries, brown hair with pudgy face, brown eyes.

In this case, for instance, Mindy’s picture is of a very young woman compared to her age in the book, but I used it, because it had the type of hair, skin, smile, and eyes that I wanted. Those were the most important features, for me, to find.

Objects: 

An example of an object's page.

An example of an object’s page.

This is an example of an object’s page from my picture book. When I was younger, I didn’t expect this to be too important, but it is, because there are so many scenes where these things can become symbolic and/or useful. For instance, throughout Minutes Before Sunset, Eric wears a vital necklace to the plot. I have pictures of it, but the words had a lot of spoilers, so I’m adding this one of dresses instead. Objects can includes clothes, furniture, cars, and possessions like phones or gifts like flowers. I’d recommend not stressing too much about objects unless they are very important, but, at the same time, keeping repetitive information straight. This example is a dress that my character, Crystal Hutchins, wears towards the end of the novel:

DRESSES: silver party dress, seen as rebelling against the fancy aspect of prom, but it really flatters her. Hair will be down, for once, very girly for Crystal.

An interesting fact to keep in mind is this is simply the dress, not how she looks in it or what it would look like in the light of a dim dance floor. As great as these pictures can be, they can get confusing if you don’t keep these scene aspects in mind. That’s why I added another category.

Scenes:

This is an example of scenes given through pictures.

This is an example of scenes given through pictures.

This is an example of my last category. (Thanks for sticking with me through this long post!) I struggled with adding scenes into my picture book, mainly because I believed I couldn’t find the perfect pictures (or even something close) that I needed to make notes. But I was wrong.

I found a lot of pictures, and I kept most of them. The only thing I’d recommend is keeping in mind, much like the characters and objects, that these are maps, not definite rules. In this case, the first photo is a railing at night, and that’s accurate, but the second photo is simply a tree in snow, and it isn’t the correct tree. It’s only a photo I can use for inspiration during a snowy scene I write later in the series. Here’s the example:

SCENES: First, railing by river where Eric (Shoman) first meets nameless shade. Second, lamppost and road used mainly in second book.

I hope this picture book with the examples helps inspire you to try out a picture collection for your novels, while also having fun exploring the internet for inspiration! 

Goodreads quote of the day: “Fate was a reality, but it wasn’t a beautiful or angelic thing. It was a heart-wrenching nightmare. And we’d fallen blindly into it. We had no escape. It was happening, and it was up to me to guarantee our survival of it. (Eric)” ― Shannon A. ThompsonMinutes Before Sunset

~SAT

My Thoughts On: Young-Adult Fiction

10 Apr

21 days until the Minutes Before Sunset release 😀

So I’m trying out a new topic, “My Thoughts on,” because I get asked (mainly in my every day life when people find out I’m a writer/author) about my opinion on certain aspects of the publishing industry, and I think it’s a topic worth exploring.

Today I want to talk about young-adult fiction for two reasons: it’s a very popular genre, and I write it (so I obviously love it.) But I also wanted to explain why and what I don’t like.

1. Language: Many complain about the simplicity of language within young-adult novels, and, honestly, it’s one of my biggest pet peeves. Of course it’s simple. It’s marketed towards readers as young as 10 years old. (I am not talking about New-Adult Fiction, which is marketed towards 18 to 25 year olds, but is often mistaken for YA Lit. I don’t blame readers for this, however, because many booksellers haven’t adjusted to this change in the market, and numerous novels blur the line.) But (::breathing break::) I still believe the language is allowed to be simple in both, not only because of the readers, but the characters, which are generally younger and (probability speaking) have a simpler vocabulary base.  It honestly depends on the speaker.

2. Characters: Again, this is probably another complaint about readers and their analysis of characters. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read “the protagonist is incapable, whiny, stupid, naïve, etc.” I don’t understand this complaint. Most protagonists in YA Lit are teenagers. Of course they don’t have everything figured out. Most adults don’t. So why do we expect a fifteen-year-old to be this perfected virtuous hero? I’m unsure. When I read YA, I never expect the character to be all that capable. Instead, I expect them to learn throughout the novel and possibly grow (not always) because that’s how real people work, and I find believability in characters when they have human faults (just like we do.) Nevertheless, I hear this complaint about YA Lit more than adult fiction, and this astounds me. I will get into more depth when I post “My Thought On” specific novels. If you’re interested in a certain piece, such as Twilight or Fifty Shades of Gray, please post below, and I’ll talk about it.

3. Plot: Personally, I enjoy the simplicity of relationships and life. You have friends and girlfriends/boyfriends, and then their world flips. I like the equation. It isn’t distracting. I’m not waiting for the protagonists to sleep together (because they are so young) and, honestly, I feel super awkward when that happens in YA Lit. I realize it may happen in real life, but, considering the audience, I feel like we are pressuring that audience to abide to societal expectations of sex when we place things like that (which should be an adult matter) in YA books.

4. Movie Adaptations: I generally love them. I’ve talked about this before in a previous post, Movie Mention: The Host, when I elaborated on how different kinds of art brings different aspects to the table. I never expect it to be the novel. If movies were like that, they’d be hours and hours long, full of narration, and I don’t think I’d enjoy watching something like that. Instead, I go for the cinematic experience, normally glad I read (so I can understand some things that are lost) but I try to take it in as art standing on its’ own—basically, I try to pretend there wasn’t a novel, and the movie is new. That way, I don’t get caught up in the little things while watching, so I can reflect when the movie is over.

I realize this may have been a general post, but I made it that way, so my basics are out of the way when I analyze specific pieces in the future. Every post is an encouragement towards a healthy debate, rather than my personal opinion of whether or not I enjoyed it, and I’d love to hear what you’d like to discuss.

Comment below! 

On my Goodreads page, you can look at my bookshelf, which includes a lot of novels I’d be able to discuss. I think I have an array of adult and young-adult fiction, along with poetry and nonfiction, but if you see something that isn’t on there, let me know.

Just an example of one page of my Goodreads bookshelf.

Just an example of one page of my Goodreads bookshelf.

~SAT

Movie Mention: The Host

4 Apr

Website Update: I hit 6,000 followers on ShannonAThompson.com. Thank you for all of your continuous and loving support 😀

27 days until Minutes Before Sunset release!

I’m going to be super careful with this review, because I think it’s necessary.

The Host is the movie adaption of Stephenie Meyer’s novel, The Host, which I wrote about my post December 21: Relax: The Host. So I’ve read the novel before seeing the movie, and I think that’s REALLY important when seeing this movie. I say this because there are quite a few people I’ve talked to who saw it (and didn’t read the novel) that enjoyed the movie.

imagesI have to admit that I was ultimately disappointed. But I want to clarify that I remain VERY open when it comes to movie adaptations. I understand that novels cannot be exactly transferred to the screen, just like any art. I like to remind myself of “Girl with a Pearl Earring” — first a painting, then a novel, then a movie. Every type of art brings a different viewpoint to the table. And I wasn’t annoyed with most of the things changed in The Host from book to movie. I was actually more disappointed with the overall acting and directing. It took me out of the film quite often. For instance, the boys often reminded me of a boy band (which I did not picture in the book at all) and it seemed visually ridiculous.

Nevertheless, I was entertained. It wasn’t necessarily a bad movie, but it was a bad adaptation. I consider the novel to be really well done (especially in the different worlds described), but the movie wasn’t very special.

I really hate to say things like this, (I normally don’t review the bad movies I see) but I wanted to be honest, especially since I recommended the novel. I still recommend the novel (as long as you’re a fan of young-adult lit), and, if you didn’t know, it’s been announced that it is a trilogy, but Meyer has yet to write the last two books.

I’ll be sure to look out for those, but I’m not sure I’d see the movies if they were ever adapted by the same actors and director.

Sigh.

I feel so sad to have such a depressing review. So I’m adding pictures of Bogart below. Happy Thursday!

~SAT

April 6: Publishing Tips: Introduce Extras.  

These pictures were actually taken on the same day. Little Bogart & fat Bogart. Who knew cats could have a flattering side?

These pictures were actually taken on the same day. Little Bogart & fat Bogart. Who knew cats could have a flattering side?

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