Adoption Option Guide

Your guide to a new parenting challenge.

04 Jul

Teenagers Respond Better To Certain Messages

Posted in Uncategorized on 04.07.13 by Merlyn

trbAs you get to know these young people, their lives will suggest characters and plots. Of course, you must respect the privacy of the real teenagers you know. Consider making your characters composites of real people. As you write, they will take on their own identities. Ideas for plots may be triggered by real situations, but truth is sometimes unbelievable. Try to shape any real-life situations into the kind of plots that will succeed as fiction.

When writing in any genre, your best bet is to build a plot around someone facing significant problems. Your character should be willing and able to take action to bring about the final events of the story. Don’t allow acts of God or luck to solve your character’s problems; such a resolution will not satisfy. Consider the following when you’re choosing your protagonist:

* Which character tugs at your heart and fascinates you?

* Which character will be on stage for most of the story?

* Which character has the ability to solve the story’s problems and bring about a satisfying ending?

* Which character has the most to lose?

* Which character will have changed by the end of the story?

What if, after all this, you still want to write from the point of view of more than one character?. A few wonderful books do this successfully, and you will learn much from studying them. In Gary Paulsen’s Sisters/Hermanas, for example, the chapters alternate between the viewpoints of two fourteen-year-olds: Rosa, the young Mexican prostitute, and Traci, an aspiring beauty queen from the suburbs. Paulsen’s artistry makes us care for both girls, and we soon realize that, in many ways, they are indeed sisters.

In her early drafts of Children of the River, Northwest writer Linda Crew wrote from two viewpoints: seventeen-year-old Sundara, struggling to belong to her new culture in Oregon while holding on to her Cambodian past, and Jonathan, the American boy who loves her. Eventually, Crew decided to rewrite the entire book in Sundara’s viewpoint. By doing so, she gave up the chance to write a book that would appeal equally to male and female readers, but Sundara’s character gained great power.

Give your character a secret

gycsThe most believable characters have a secret–a gut-wrenching secret. Graham Salisbury’s main character Sonny, in Blue Skin of the Sea, cannot admit his fear of deep water to anyone. Since Salisbury’s character lives in Hawaii where diving and fishing are integral parts of everyday life, this fear is devastating.

In Alias, Mary Elizabeth Ryan’s character Toby knows his mother is running away from something in her past. Yet, he knows he must never give any personal information to strangers:

Whatever story Mom made up, you went along with it. If Mom told the landlord we were gypsies from outer space, you put a scarf on your head and did your best Martian imitation. If you came home from school and there was a new junker parked in front of the building, you went upstairs and started to pack.

Travis, the tough guy in S.E. Hinton’s Taming the Star Runner, writes stories and poems. Although he’s actually finished a novel and sent it off to an editor, he thinks no one else will understand his need to do something so uncool. In Sisters/Hermanas, Rosa, an illegal immigrant, sends money home to her mother in Mexico–money she earns working as a prostitute on the Houston streets. But she separates her two lives:

She wore a simple brown dress on Sunday with straight lines that did not show any of what the men would have liked the dress to show and a black head scarf…. She did not like to wear anything the same on Sunday that she wore for work.

But today was not Sunday….

In “Hello,” I Lied, M.E. Kerr’s character hints at his secret (he’s unsure he’s really homosexual) in the first chapter.

I was seventeen going on eighteen. After school was over in New York, I’d be living there [on Long Island with his mother] full-time too. I was going to help out, do odd jobs, and five nights a week I’d be a waiter at Sob Story on the Montauk Highway. Help out, hide out, cool out, come out–all four things at once. That was the trouble that summer. About all I was sure of was my name: Lang Penner.

Develop a believable voice

Have you been listening, really listening to those young people you’re getting to know? Do you hear their voices? If your main character comes across as a real person, your book will reach out to teenage readers.

If your character has a secret, his voice will reflect it. Listen to Toby recount his nightmare in the first lines of Alias:

I am on a train, like the ones in the movies, with paneled compartments and old-fashioned seats. The train takes a curve, and I see out the window that at the edge of the track there’s … nothing. I grip the edge of the seat, knowing if I move an inch, the whole train, the whole track–everything–will fall off the cliff, into black emptiness: the end of the world.

What else can we do to give our main character a convincing voice?

Write a bio. Tom Birdseye, a writer of several popular books for young people, fills out elaborate questionnaires every time he begins a book. By the time he starts to write, he knows his characters’ hobbies, favorite foods, worst fears, best friends, favorite music, and astrological sign.

Conduct an imaginary interview. Sit down with your character and ask questions–questions that don’t have easy answers. Listen and take notes. Find out what your character’s hopes and dreams are. What frightens her? What does she love about her parents? What does she hate about her best friend? Where does he see himself in five years? Ten years? Twenty years? Which question makes him squirm? When does she suddenly stop acting so cool? When do you notice his hands get very still?

Ask your character to write journal entries. This may be so successful you may decide to write your whole book in journal form. Karen Cushman did this in her prize-winning historical novel, Catherine, Called Birdy. Birdy’s first entry is on the 12th of December in the year 1290.

I am commanded to write an account of my days: I am bit by fleas and plagued by family. That is all there is to say.

In spite of the 13th-century setting, any teenage reader today will warm to that feisty voice and will understand and sympathize. It’s clear that Birdy’s not getting along well with her parents either.

Write in first person. Sharon Creech in Walk Two Moons did not use journal entries as her book’s format, but she used such a strong first-person voice that at first we think we are reading Sal’s diary. Listen to Sal, a modern-day thirteen-year-old, in the very first paragraphs of the book:

Gramps says that I am a country girl at heart, and that is true. I have lived most of my thirteen years in Bybanks, Kentucky, which is not much more than a caboodle of houses roosting in a green spot alongside the Ohio River. Just over a year ago, my father plucked me up like a weed and took me and all our belongings (no, that is not true–he did not bring the chestnut tree, the willow, the maple, the hayloft, or the swimming hole, which all belonged to me) and we drove three hundred miles straight north and stopped in front of a house in Euclid, Ohio.

“No trees?” I said. “This is where we’re going to live?”

Notice how much information Creech gives us in just a few words. Besides that delightful voice that tells us Sal is country-bred and opinionated, we instantly have information about her age, background, hobbies, and best of all, her problem. She’s been taken somewhere against her will, and she blames her father.

Make trouble. Place your character in a tense situation. Watch for body language and speech mannerisms as she tells someone off. Listen to him as he defends himself against a false accusation. Watch her as she discovers something unbearably sad. Step back and write down what happens as someone evil dares him to do wrong.

S.E. Hinton wrote a strong voice into the very first lines of Taming the Star Runner. We go instantly into Travis’ thoughts:

His boot felt empty without his knife in it. It didn’t matter that he had never had to use it (sure, he’d pulled it out a couple of times to show off, but the times he could have really used it, he’d forgotten about it and used his fists, as usual); he was used to feeling it there next to his leg. Please look here for more info

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