A Brief Guide to Shaping the Next Generation

What lesson do you think kids (we’re talking teens, tweens, and drama machines) these days need subconsciously taught to them? Is it something you remember neglecting when you were a little one yourself and regret wholeheartedly? Or maybe it’s something you were never taught! Writing a YA novel can open a door in a young adult’s mind which will start them on the road to success or down a path of self discovery.

One thing to remember in writing a story for a younger audience is you want to tap into their emotions. This is a time in one’s life where they’re channeling all sorts of feelings: some old, some new. They’re trying to sort things out and maybe, just maybe, your book can assist them along the way.

You know what else teenagers are trying to sort through? The latest trends. You don’t have to be a genius to know this one. You were a teen once, right? Remember how you wanted to go and grab the most popular pair of shoes or learn every word to the number one hit on the radio so you could scream along with your friends and not feel like an outcast? Utilize teen culture to cultivate your world, your characters, and your readers. Don’t rely on trends too heavily though – it’ll make for a bad YA novel. Mainly because you’ll hear in the back of your head, “Mooooooooom!/Daaaaaad!” in a whiny tone to stop trying to be cool. You want to be able to speak to your audience, eye-to-eye, and connect with them.

Speaking of an audience, know who you’re targeting! You should that for any book before you start writing but it’s easy to write a book about young adults rather than for young adults – catch my drift? For example, Stephen King’s IT is about young adults, tweens, whatever…but it’s written for an adult audience. Don’t aim for adults: know how your audience talks (don’t go crazy with slang either, it’s not that important), what they like, what issues they may encounter. You want to be able to relate, not have your reader feel like you’re talking about them to another adult right in front of them.

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Oh, and stereotypes. Tropes. Get rid of them. Or if you’re going to use them, please make the idea original. Please. The future leaders of the world are begging you to.

Antagonizing Antagonists

Purpose. Almost every antagonist has a purpose.

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Are they trying the “take over the world” tactic? What got them to this point? Evil isn’t born from the black; it’s molded and crafted by life’s doing. If you’re writing a classic villain – give them the unique back story to give them epic purpose.

If your story is that of the everyday, then where is the bad guy? Are they standing right next to the main character? Are they in the cubicle next door? Are they after the same goal as the protagonist? The opposition is what gives the antagonist in this scenario purpose.

Here’s another one: your character is going against the government, or any large institution, “1984”-style. Why did this entity grow to be the way it is Why is the protagonist going against it? There shouldn’t be a “pure evil” motive because that means there’s someone behind the whole thing. It starts to blend in with other potential antagonist. Don’t confuse yourself! But there’s always…you guessed it…purpose behind the institution.

A new favorite and trend we see in writing is the internal antagonist. This mostly revolves around characteristics of the character and being held back by these traits. For the first time throughout this piece, purpose is stripped from the “antagonist” and comes to fruition out of some event or comes to light. These become more realistic because it may be an accurate portrayal of life itself.

So…take to the books and get writing your perfect, purposeful antagonist. Alright, we’re done using the ‘p’ word.

Jumping Through Time

A story can include one of two things: flashbacks or skipping to the future. We don’t think recommending the two is a great idea but if executed cohesively…sure! Why not! Let’s discuss.

Sometimes, writing flashbacks can help a story flesh itself out. Readers understand the plot better, the character better, ANYTHING! But what happens when a flashback becomes more than a flash back? Meaning, what happens when a brief moment takes up a whole chapter? Is that acceptable? There isn’t any reason why it shouldn’t be acceptable – other than not being written properly. Make sure flashbacks are quick and easy. They’re meant to be memories triggered by people or items or occurrences surrounding the character or plot. Here’s an idea: it doesn’t necessarily have to be written in the perspective where the character is brought back to a moment in time…but rather, induces a feeling, an image flashed in the character’s thoughts. Something like that.

Skipping ahead in time is also a way to get the story moving along. Readers don’t need all filler details and a story doesn’t deserve that either! A few months can pass in the story in a matter of words, as long as the reader is caught up with the characters and ongoings in their world, what else is needed? Questions should never be left unanswered, too. If they are, there better be good reason for it. Did something happen prior to the time hop that wasn’t resolved during the time not mentioned? Well, it better come full circle because then the reader will not be happy (they’ll scream, “PLOT HOLE, PLOT HOLE!” and write a whole review about how the plot hole ruined the story for them.)

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So, now that we’ve lectured about time and the relationship it has with your story – let’s build a time machine and have some fun!

Mood Rings

We’re not going to talk your ear off about how mood rings are real and they need to be taken more seriously…no, instead, we’re going to talk your ear off about colors and symbolism in your writing.

Using colors to accentuate the mood you’re trying to convey in your scenes may help your form of story-telling improve. It could be your main character can now see surrounding characters’ auras and the auras tell your character how a particular person is feeling. Or quite possibly there are colors within a room to set a mood in which your character is about to enter.

Use this color bar image we found on the great, big internet to give you a start on what sort of colors to use in your writing!

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Head Count

We’ve talked about killing off characters more than once on this blog…but today we’re discussing how many characters you should keep ALIVE to complete your tale.

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First of all, you need your protagonist. Usually there is only one of these but sometimes there are more. It takes a certain type of writer to have more than one protagonist.

Character count: 1

Next up, we have the deuterangonist. Or more commonly known as the sidekick. Let the confusion start here. Limit your sidekick to a single being, or two. To this we say: have fun. They’re very important characters who need to be just as well-crafted as the protagonist. If you’re still getting the hang of writing, stick to one.

Character count: 2

The antagonist becomes our next character to focus on. Don’t be fooled though; the antagonist doesn’t always have to be another person. Your protagonist could have very real inner demons they can’t shake like struggling with mental health, addiction…and so on. This should almost always be a single thing. Think of it as your target that you’ve zeroed in on and need to destroy. Your protagonist would think the same thing.

Character count: 3

Love. If your character finds their love along the way, there’s another character to include on your list. The love interest character could cross over in being a deuterangonist. There’s one less character you have to flesh out!

Character count: 3-4

If your main character is on an epic journey for the books, a mentor is always a plus. Most characters aren’t all-knowing and if they are in your book…well, this is about to get awkward. Keep a mentor down to one…they usually get killed off at some point.

Character count: 4-5

Secondary characters matter, as well. Two of these slightly developed beings in your story would be enough. Your subplots usually revolve around these characters and they contribute to the main plot line with the protagonist.

Character count: 6-7

Last but not least, we have the tertiary characters. These are the characters that aren’t really talked about in great detail but they’re still contributing to the protagonist’s journey the number to this is subject to the kind of story you’re writing.

Then you’ll have flat characters that aren’t too important at all. These are the characters your protagonist comes across in passing.

How many characters do you limit yourself to in your writing? How many do you think is appropriate?

The Bubble Has Burst

We’re talking about the creative bubble bursting. If it has, this may be a bad sign. PSA: this is not okay.

In the situation where your creativity has run dry, we have a few kind words to send your way. Take a step away from your computer, notebooks, or brainstorming station. It’s time for you to recharge your creative energy in hopes of coming back with a bang.

Creative spurts or waves…they come and go. That doesn’t mean you have to exhaust your brain and learn to hate what you once loved.

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Why Three Is NOT A Crowd!

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It’s common in the writing community to have more than one pair of eyes editing your work. Some editors catch certain details, whether it’s proofing, copy editing, structural editing, or developmental edits. But what if you haven’t gotten too far into your writing career and you don’t have a team behind you quite yet? We have another option and idea for you: A WRITING GROUP.

Sounds very old school, maybe something you thought only existed on TV or in slice-of-life movies, but they’re very real and sometimes very necessary in a writer’s career. You’ll get the similar appeal from an editing team towards your writing, but a tad bit nicer and less cut-dry. A group will provide the outside perspective you need to help tie up the loose ends you may have missed. If your group (or partner) chooses meet-up times, it’ll boost your accountability with your writing and improve your relationship with your ability to write. Last but not least, you’ll get unconditional support from your peers, which you might need on those days you aren’t feeling confident.

A step beyond that: you’ll find friends. Friends who will love and support you (and your writing career but let’s get back to the sentiments), to push you in the right direction.

A Different Hunt

Instead of being a creature of malice, this week we are diving into a human-turned-keeper. Keep reading to find out some interesting facts!


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Herne the HunterEngland

“The antlered spirit of a hanged man that guards Windsor Forest.”

Basic Facts:

  • Truth be told…Herne was probably based off of a real keeper of the forest.
  • Story goes: the hunter made a pact with the Devil, forcing him to be doomed to hunt forever.
  • He rides at night, mostly but is found during storms.
  • Herne is said to wear horns, rattle chains, blast trees and cattle BUT…is not commonly seen by mortals.
  • Our beloved hunter had an oak tree, which is rumored to be where he haunted most of the time, was torn down…but Queen Victoria came to the rescue and replaced it with another oak.

Tread Lightly

Recently, we’ve been seeing the writing community discuss the anxieties pertaining to writing minority characters. A lot of authors and writers tread these waters lightly. At the end of the day, when one person writes a race that isn’t their own, it can easily be turned against them. We want to remind that: it is possible to write another race. You shouldn’t feel discouraged!

Don’t ever forget: people are diverse. Not only in skin color but in personal experience. Not one experience will ever be the same. Your character’s bio should have the “deep and complex” experience which helps them grow throughout the duration of the plot. This can easily be influenced by location, demographic, how their family dynamic is built…all those details. Every writer knows this but here’s a friendly reminder…do your research.

One of the biggest concerns is encouraging stereotypes. For anyone, stereotypes in books alter the reality of how we see other races. Take the jokes and heavily controversial bits that you’ve heard out of your writing. Instead, apply the research you’ve done to your racially-diverse characters.

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Keep in mind: you’re not going to please everyone. People will not like your character because it doesn’t reflect their exact life experience. People won’t like the textbook relation of your character to the audience. Your character is your character; they’re an extension of you and your work. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters.

 

The Three-Headed Hound

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CerberusGreece

“Multi-headed hellhound that guards the entrance to the underworld.”

Basic Facts:

  • Prevents the dead from leaving the Underworld.
  • We know the Cerberus as a three-headed dog, but most early depictions show the Cerberus as a regular-sized dog with one to two heads.
  • Described to have a serpent for a tail, snakes protruding from parts of its body, and mostly a hound.
  • Cerberus was rumored to have surfaced on Earth but returned by its own will to the Underworld to serve Hades.
  • Cerberus’ name derived from the Greek word “creoboros,” which translates to “flesh-devouring.