Storymaker notes continue, this time with Janette Rallison (who also writes as CJ Hill). A night of only 5 hours of sleep was catching up to me at this point, but I think I got the meat of what she was saying.
Remember that kids tend to read up. Write about issues that teens care about. Many of these include fitting in, growing up, and dating. But whatever the issue is, make it important to the teen. Keep the novel fast-moving. Don’t put in too much beautiful description or you’ll bore your audience. Often YA novels will end up being somewhere between 200 and 300 pages. Write it in a voice teens can relate to.
THINGS TO REMEMBER
- Your MC should want something they don’t already have.
- Their goal should be something worthy.
- The best goals are important and urgent.
- Goals don’t always have to be achieved. (aka they realize something they want more along the way)
- All the main characters in your novel should have goals. (realistic support characters will be doing things for their own reasons and should)
YOUR CHARACTER MUST HAVE STRONG MOTIVATION
- Don’t let your character wander around the story without motivation.
- Don’t make your character an idiot. (Seems obvious, but don’t have them doing things that your readers will scream is stupid at the book.)
- Characters should have both internal and external motivation and goals.
- Conflict is two dogs & one bone. (They want something someone else wants just as badly).
- Conflict is not the same as arguing.
- Any conflict that can be cleared up with a 2 minute frank conversation between characters is not a conflict.
- Your characters should come to every scene with a goal and conflict.
Have a strong antagonist, but realize that the antagonist doesn’t always have to be a villain. And when it comes to YA novels, you can’t have an adult solve the teen’s problem. That’s often why you’ll find YA stories about orphans (Harry Potter) or who have useless parent(s) (Hunger Games).
The reader needs to know the dire consequences that will befall the main character if he/she does not reach his/her goal. Otherwise they won’t feel the tension in what they’re reading and may disengage.
And as Dwight Swain says each story should have a problem, character, goal, antagonist, and disaster. Write down each of these categories and make sure you can define each of these when it comes to your novel.
Any tips you would add? Have you found places where you were ruining motivation when you could have been using it? What do you do to make sure you give your characters motivation and conflict in every scene?
One more thing on ruining motivation. In earlier iterations of my novel, I had a main character who started as a great conflicting force for my MC that essentially disappeared for the rest of the book after being in the first few chapters. It took me several rewrites to realize I was killing some excellent motivation for my MC. Now that character doesn’t disappear and I think things are much improved. Scour your own novel and make sure you’re not killing off good conflict before it comes to grand fruition.