Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Why Do You Write/Read YA and Not Adult Fiction?

I'm posing this question to the general population of YA writers and readers. Why write/read YA when you're (very likely) an adult? Was high school so awesome you want to relive it in your stories? Was high school so terrible you hope to fix it or see it fixed through fiction? Being a teenager sucked, in a lot of ways--stuck in school, abiding by other people's rules... So why?

I'm a YA writer. I choose to write fics based on teens. A couple of times I dabbled with writing something a little older--someone in their early twenties. But I always find myself unable to finish or just coming back to YA. Why?

Well, first of all, writing YA is just plain easier. I don't know a lot about a lot, so writing adult fiction is nearly impossible for me. For example, I wanted to write a fic once that took place in a hospital--but I don't know anything about hospitals or being a doctor/nurse/etc. I wouldn't even know where to start. That fic died before it even started. (I know "Get a crash cart! Code blue!" - but that's about it.) I know a bit about marketing, but don't ask me anything about figures or marketing surveys and analytics, because I couldn't tell you much. I know my hairstylist cuts my hair, but I don't know anything about how mixing chemicals for cutting works, or how to determine what style will look good on someone. And as an adult, that's a very important thing, don't you think? You spend so much time at your job it's next to impossible to write an adult fic where you don't touch on that at least a little.

There are endless resources out there for learning about other jobs, but unless you've lived through it, it's unlikely you can write about it without it sounding weak. You could job shadow someone (ala Castle!) but if you work, that's also going to be impossible. Plus, if you call up, say, a police department and ask to shadow someone, I doubt they're going to say yes.

So--YA is simpler. But other than that, why write about what is, for a lot of people, the worst time of your life?

Here are my reasons--I'd love to know some of yours.

Why I Write Young Adult Fiction:

  • High school sucked for me until I left and went to a junior college for Running Start. Then it got insanely better. I like the idea of being able to "fix" high school.
  • There aren't any responsibilities as a teenager, at least there weren't for me. I didn't have to work ("Studying is your job. Get good grades!" -- my dad) and I had everything provided for me: a modest allowance, a car, a cell phone. Being a teen is "easy."
  • When you're a teen, you love wholeheartedly. There's a quote from Family Guy while they were spoofing Dawson's Creek, and the comment was, "There is nothing in our lives that will ever be as important as what's happening right here, right now, in front of these lockers." It's a total joke, but to a teen, it's more than true. EVERYTHING is important when you're a teen, even a note a friend passes you between classes.
  • Freedom. Parents work. It's a fact of life. Unless you've got a stay-at-home parent, you're going to be on your own for many hours of the day. Plenty of time to have tons of angst.
  • Teens have their whole lives ahead of them. They are not set in their ways. They're constantly changing and evolving. They think they know who they're going to be in ten years, but they're wrong. Absolutely wrong. And that's exciting.
  • Character analysis. Who didn't stare at the "popular" kids and think to themselves, "Wow, you're seriously not as cool as you think you are..."? Who didn't listen to inane chatter and think, "Is it really possible to be such an idiot? Or is this just a show?" These are all things you get to explore in YA fiction.
  • Camaraderie. Maybe you were miserable in school. Maybe the person reading your book/story is, too. Suddenly, they're not so alone anymore.
  • Fantasy. Your characters are alive and breathing and full of their own expectations and hopes and dreams. Now you can live through that, too. (And who doesn't love a good fantasy?!)
  • Innocence. Kids and teens are innocent creatures. They don't know what the world has in store. And, frankly, there's no smutty sex scenes (which is not my cup of tea myself. I know some people dig a good trashy romance novel, but I think I'd get uncomfortable writing or reading one).
  • Lessons. "Here's what you can learn from this." I love when you get a subtle lesson from a book. Something that says, "Oh, I bet I could do that, too." Or, "This is a new way of looking at it..." I used to love books where I would learn something, even if I didn't know I was learning it at the time. I'd read a book, and then later find myself in a similar situation and go, "I wonder if this person is thinking what the character was thinking..." And a lot of times, it worked in my favor to wonder that.

There are more reasons, but I can't think of them all. Maybe in my mind I'm still a teen--even though now I have a steady job, bills to pay, and a husband. But I love YA fiction, both reading and writing it, and I'm so curious why adult writers want to write YA, too.

So, let me know: Why do you write/read YA fiction?


Katie Klein said...

Awesome list! I have nothing to add: you covered it all! :)

I also linked your post to my blog: http://katiekleinwrites.blogspot.com/2011/03/yaindie-links.html


L. j. Charles said...

I write Young Adult because I like teens. And because it's just plain fun to write for a younger audience. I love the faster pace, and the freedom to explore my characters from new perspectives.

Also, there's something pure and unspoiled about first love that's a pleasure to experience through my characters.

Lucie j.

Vivian Marie said...

Thanks, Katie! <3 *huge hugs*

Lucie--I agree completely! I don't like to get caught up in the details, so the faster pace of YA is definitely for me. And I'm totally with you on the unspoiled first-love... There's something just so romantic and wonderful about writing that. <3 Thanks for commenting!