One of the things I love about writing contemporary YA fiction is that it can be real. I can write about things that might and do happen – about people who might and do exist.
In fact, I get to know my characters so well that they become real – even when they’re based on someone totally fictitious.
I know so much about my characters, that they even start talking to me (fortunately, just in my head). I know what foods they wouldn’t serve up to a starving dog – and I know which celebrity they’d choose to go on a date with.
All good, so far! Right?
The stumbling block comes when I have to be mean to them – I’m not talking about make them eat Brussels sprouts kind of mean – I’m talking about really mean.
In a writing for Young Adult’s course I took with author, Sherryl Clarke, she advised that in Young Adult fiction you have to ‘think of the worst thing that could happen to your character – and make something even worse happen to them’.
GULP! That’s like having to do something awful to your own children – of course you wouldn’t do it.
BUT in a book, you have no choice! You have to have conflict. You have to give your character a BIG PROBLEM. You have to think about the flaws in their personality that contribute to/cause the problem – and the attributes that take them through the story and get them out the other side.
GULP AGAIN! Here’s my dilemma. I’m right in the middle of my new YA novel Street Racer – and I’m at that point. The moment when I have to ‘do it’ – make something happen to my character that is going to make him really unhappy.
So far, I’ve managed to find plenty of diversions; breakfast, lunch, school pick up, piano practice, cricket training etc. I’ve even revisited a really old Picture Book that made me laugh when I first wrote it.
And since I got all that over with, what have I been doing for the last week? Research of course. Essential for every book – but probably not the thing you should be doing when you’re on the brink of………………………your main character.
But now there are no more excuses, I can’t put it off any longer – even my kids are getting impatient. “Have you done it yet?”
I’m just going to have breathe deeply and forge ahead – like my character, I’m going to have face the event and the consequences ‘head on’.
Wish me luck. And if you have any comments/tips about how you handle this particular dilemma, I’d love to hear from you.