A recent tweet-at-thon on Twitter (kind of like my Cheers, where I hang out and everyone knows my name) revolved around our high school selves. Participants would tweet something along the lines of the following:
Dear High School Self: He’s not worth it, and you are so going to use him as a character in your future YA book. #gimmeacall
The thread took off, with just about everyone I connect with throwing in their two cents (mostly women, because that’s just how we are. I figure that in high school, most of the guys had their minds on two things – getting nookie and getting something to eat. They weren’t too concerned about looking back at their whole experience).
Now, the whole Dear High School Self thing made me think of how important those high school experiences were to what we are doing now — writing stories about the pain, pleasure and pursuits of youth. We’ve walked in the moccasins, tasted the fruit and experienced what it’s like to be some of our characters first-hand. How else would be we know things that touch on the hearts and minds of our readers?
Yes, we can research the dealings of our characters. Or model some of them after friends and foes (especially that mean girl, Lisa, who grabbed you by the necklace and slammed you into the bike rack). But when you get down to it, you are the very best source for reality in your young adult stories.
Breathe yourself into your characters, allow your experiences to saturate their minds and deliver the promise of a realistic tale to your readership. They’ll relate and, if you’re lucky, remember the impact your story had on their own interesting and unique young adult experiences.
P.S. Thanks, Lisa. I can always count on you when there’s a mean girl in my stories!