Random Inspirations

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Emo YA: Making Your Highs and Lows Work for You

on September 19, 2013

Young Adult fiction is full of epic highs and crushing lows, much like the teen years themselves. It is highly dramatic by nature, radiating with vivid emotions.

As I’ve written my own YA fiction, I’ve realized something that other writers might find useful: The mood of the author, and the circumstances in his / her life, will influence the moods of the characters and the atmosphere of the story. Therefore, if a writer is having a particularly turbulent or extremely happy time in life, he / she should try to have the characters’ lives mirror this, as it will paint a more vibrant emotional picture.

And sometimes, a writer may not even have to try. Often, writers may incorporate their highs and lows into the characters subconsciously. This was exactly what happened when I wrote my contemporary YA novel, which will be released in a matter of months.

Just like the skyscrapers of a great city (here, San Francisco), life has its highs and lows. Make sure to use them in your writing!

Just like the skyscrapers of a great city (here, San Francisco), life has its highs and lows. Make sure to use them in your writing!

In the novel, Aubree, the fourteen year-old heroine, starts out on top of the world. But a move to a new city and a huge, super-competitive school undermines her self-confidence. At a writing conference last year, I learned that one of the most important page-turning traits of all fiction, especially YA, is to really torture the heroine. The main character has to face a seemingly never-ending series of problems to keep readers engaged.

Since I was going through a rather difficult time of transition, stress, and emotional upheaval myself, I found it easy to translate my mood into the story. Aubree certainly was tortured as she navigated a maze of family, social, boy, and identity crises.

For me, torturing the heroine was therapeutic. I was able to pour my own strong and rather dramatic emotions into the tempestuous teenage heroine, and in the end, all that powerful passion translated into art. My mom told me that sometimes artists have to suffer for their art, and I truly believe that other writers going through hard times should use writing as therapy…and create a high-tension page-turner in the process!

As my own real life sorted itself out, so did Aubree’s fictitious one. It was easy to reconcile Aubree’s problems because my own life was also reconciling. The concluding chapters of the novel are decidedly more light-hearted. Aubree will always be a dramatic character, but her mood is more stable, as befits an ending.

So the take-away is this: When the going gets tough, the tough write fiction. If you’re feeling a little emo, write a story with high emotion!

But before you go paint the town with words, I should conclude the post with one caviat. It’s great to infuse your work with passion, but at times it may get a little too emo. At times like that, I recall a conversation that I had with my dad when I was about four and we were listening to Mozart. My dad told me, “Mozart’s music is so perfect because he never takes it too far.”

Take-home message: If you’re feeling a little too rambunctious, vent another way or you’ll take it too far and cross that fragile line into the melodramatic. It’s all about moderation. And furthermore, writing may be therapeutic, but it should never be used as sole therapy. Emo can backfire. So make sure to infuse emo into your writing responsibly. 😉

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4 responses to “Emo YA: Making Your Highs and Lows Work for You

  1. Nice post! Turbulence in moderation adds excitement 🙂

  2. Thank you Antonio! You’re right about that — in fiction and in life.

  3. Fox says:

    This is so true!! I will have times where I know I have to work on a specific scene, and I just can’t bring myself to do it because I’m not in the right mood for it. (Partially why I have playlists for all my characters and can put those on to help create the mood 🙂

  4. Glad it’s not just me! Character playlists are an awesome idea by the way. 🙂

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