To celebrate the release of Rosie Loves Jack by Mel Darbon on March 1st, blogs across the web are featuring original content from Mel, as well as 10 chances to win the hardcover!
How to Write for Teens
by Mel Darbon
Compelling plot, strong characterisation, and engaging dialogue are crucial no matter who is reading the story. Exceptional writing is exceptional writing and that’s your focus above all else when writing for teenagers. I like writing for this age group because it’s very rewarding and satisfying, as they respond to your work with passion, enthusiasm, and curiosity. But as an older writer I’m aware that the way I see the world now and how a sixteen-year-old might view it, are two very different things. My main aim is to make my stories feel real and believable to teens, even though they might sometimes think I’ve landed from a different planet! So here are some tips I gave myself in order to tap into my inner-teen mindset to write for a young adult audience.
- Get input from real teenagers
Luckily my job at a local secondary school means I’m mixing with teenagers, plus I get to talk to my friends’ teenage children. Learning from real-life teenagers instantly makes your book more accurate. Just listening to them talk to each other and understanding the way their minds think, takes you back to their perspective. Find out what they feel and if they think what you’ve done is realistic. It’s important to write what you know for fact, and if you don’t know, find out. It is impossible second guessing, as you’re bound to catch yourself out.
- Think like a teenager
You can’t just have characters who are teenagers, you’ve got to see the world through their eyes. At no point can you look with adult eyes—you have to keep that teen perspective and only see what they can see. This is why so many authors write YA in the first-person narrative and one which I love because you truly look at the world from that angle. Teens want to share that experience and feel the emotion with the character and not just as an observer. Of course, we have all been teenagers and can still take ourselves back to those times and access that information, but at that age we look at the world more naively and can make mistakes because of it. The adult author has to allow their characters to make those mistakes. When the adult perspective sneaks its way into the dialogue the reader is going to feel alienated, because the feelings will be wrong, if not the words.
- Teenage jargon
Avoid teenage slang at all costs! This will only distract your teen reader and estrange them. Trying to capture the precise mannerisms of how teenagers talk is very difficult, and they change so frequently that it’s best not to try, unless you are certain you can pull it off successfully.
- Look at what teenagers are grappling with
Teenagers are often dealing with the big issues. Who are we? Who do we want to be? What should we do, and what shouldn’t we do? In YA fiction the characters can offer ways for the reader to look at the bigger issues that they’re grappling with in their own lives and share the intensity of the moment. We can all remember what it felt like to fall in love for the first time; the secret is how to share that emotion so that it’s universally felt. It is hugely important not to dismiss what young people are feeling. At that age it is all-consuming and the angst of friendships, love, sometimes life and death, must be taken as seriously as it is felt. The decisions your characters make must make sense emotionally, even if their decisions are wrong, then the writing will become authentic to your YA reader.
- Dark and Light
YA books can often be saddled with being called “issue books,” because they deal with matters of contention, which is often true in the sense that they are examining subject matters that can be quite dark. It’s a term I don’t like to use because it suggests that the particular situation or problem in that book is limited; it won’t affect all people. Most YA books are examining, within that issue, universal emotions and areas in a teenager’s life that are very relevant to them, especially since they cannot escape the news or what is happening in the world. So, it is fine to deal with dark subjects such as violence, drugs, suicide, and self-harm, to name but a few, as they are very much part of the teenage world, and although many teens won’t have direct experience of these things, they are certainly exposed to them.
But with the dark must come light, or hope. Okay, not all books have a happy ending and don’t necessarily offer solutions, but most YA authors try to offer hope or an underlying optimism. For me there has to be that light at the end of a very dark tunnel, as life is about finding solutions and a way out—we get through it and are all the better for it.
Blog Tour Schedule:
3/1 – BookhoundsYA
3/2 – Book Briefs
3/3 – Frantic Mommy
3/4 – Word Spelunking
3/8 – I’m All Booked Up
3/11 – Christy’s Cozy Corners
3/12 – A Dream Within a Dream
“The author stays out of Rosie’s way, successfully depicting her protagonist as a person, not a puppet or a platform. The other characters populating the book are realistic, with a striking range of personality traits. The plot is so engrossing that the book is almost impossible to put down. Yes, Rosie loves Jack, and readers are going to love Rosie.” —Booklist, STARRED REVIEW
Fall in love with sixteen-year old Rosie, a girl with Down syndrome who’s fighting for little freedoms, tolerance, and love. A stunning, beautifully insightful debut YA novel from Mel Darbon.
“An enthralling story of resolve and grit… a moving and uplifting novel.” –The Guardian
“They can’t send you away. What will we do? We need us. I stop your angry, Jack. And you make me strong. You make me Rosie.”
Rosie loves Jack. Jack loves Rosie. So when they’re separated, Rosie will do anything to find the boy who makes the sun shine in her head. Even defy her parents’ orders and run away from home. Even struggle across London and travel to Brighton on her own, though the trains are cancelled and the snow is falling. Even though people might think a girl like Rosie, who has Down syndrome, could never survive on her own.
Introducing a strong and determined protagonist with Down syndrome, debut author Mel Darbon gives readers an underrepresented but much-needed point of view with a voice-driven, heartfelt story of finding your place an often big and intimidating world.
About the Author: Mel Darbon spent a large part of her childhood inventing stories to keep her autistic brother happy on car journeys. She won’t mention the time spent with him standing by level crossings waiting for the InterCity 125 to go past, as she wouldn’t want to be labelled a train spotter. Life took her in many different directions working as a theatre designer and freelance artist, as well as teaching young adults with learning disabilities and running creative workshops for teenage mums. She moved to Bath in 2014 with her husband and their dog, Alfie. Rosie Loves Jack is her debut book.
- 1 winner will receive a finished copy of Rosie Loves Jack
- Check out the other tour stops for more chances to win!
- US/Canada only
- Ends 11:59pm ET on 3/21