Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Why YA?

I always intended to write grown-up science fiction. I don't

How did this happen?

It started with a question: What if magic were real? The answer isn't as important as what the question meant to me. 

You see, I live in a world where magic is real. I don't call or think of it as magic, but it's essentially the same thing—an unseen agency by which lives, circumstances, and worlds are changed. It's hidden in plain sight, overlooked, misunderstood, ridiculed. 

I had a question, a premise that meant something to me. Part of my answer was that magic would work through ordinary abilities, common talents that are also overlooked and frequently unused. Talents that sometimes cause more trouble than they're worth. Talents with which I had some experience.

I could have made my characters my own age—about thirty—but if anyone were going to develop supernatural talents, it would be younger adults. Eighteen-year-olds. Maybe a little earlier or later, but there's something about eighteen. It's transitional. Pivotal. Vital.

And I'd never forgiven myself for being eighteen. Silly thing to say, but that's what it came down to. I acted like a teenager, and the memories—not so much of what I did as what I thought and how I felt—still made me cringe.

Working through a young adult novel helped me finally understand and forgive my past self. I also learned that who I am today isn't as far from who I was then as I wanted to believe. And I'm okay with that. For all my mistakes, I also did a lot of things right.

Why do I write for young adults? Because I have something to tell myself, and only the eighteen-year-old inside me will understand.

9 comments:

  1. Nice post Ben. Interesting observation about why we write what ages. I write for older YA (my MCs thus far are out on their own for the first time) for a similar reason, I think- that's when I made the most mistakes, learned the most, set my life on it's present course. I hadn't wondered at the reason before.

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  2. Thanks. I think I wondered about it because there aren't as many men writing YA. I still don't know why.

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  3. Speculative Fiction without the science element is at the heart of us all: - What if and How.
    I write MG - the upper end - this is where most young people realise there are questions although most are not sure what they are. Age 10 is the start of uncertainty but the heart of hope.

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  4. I laugh at my 18 year old self and say what the heck was I thinking lol! Great post!
    ps left you a blogger award at my blog :)

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  5. Elaine, that's so true. All of it.

    Kerri, I wish I had your sense of humor. And thanks!

    Christina, I felt pretty clever after I wrote it. A little too clever, perhaps. Don't encourage me. ;)

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  6. Well said! I especially loved the last line. I'm still trying to forgive myself for things I did when I was a teenager, too. It wasn't anything horrible but, like you, it makes me cringe. Wonder if everyone walks around wishing they could either redo or forget their teen years?

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  7. Re: Why there aren't more men writing YA...

    My thoughts on this are un-PC, but I'll say them nonetheless. BECAUSE THAT'S HOW I AM. And this is just a theory. But it seems that many writers of YA are married women, spending most of their day at home doing no job or part-time jobs, and so they can afford to write. Most men just don't have that time. There's more to this theory, as to why the women write YA versus other things, but it starts to get downright insulting.

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  8. I think there are more people who wish they could forget than are willing to admit it, Caryn.

    Thanks for saying what I've always thought but didn't dare say, Jaimie. I admit to being a little jealous, at times. I have to get up and write before work. But my wife also gives me time on weekends, and I'm grateful for that.

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