Editor’s Note: I’d like to welcome Traci Kenworth to Two Drops of Ink as the newest monthly contributor. Traci has written guest posts for several years, and I look forward to learning more from her, whether it’s about her YA books, her perspectives on life, or her often interesting take on writing.
By: Traci Kenworth
Why I Picked The YA Genre
People often wonder why I chose Young Adult. As if it’s an inferior genre compared to other genres. Writing for teens is something I treasure. When I was younger, there wasn’t a whole lot of YA genre around. There wasn’t even a YA such as it is now. It’s something that evolved slowly.
I’m honored to write for teens. I think about how I would’ve loved to read books about Katniss or Isuelt and Safiya or the girl who became a Queen in Heartless. And so many, many more. I think YA writers are some of the best in the business and not to be downgraded because they write for younger audiences.
Yes, there are a lot of movies being made from these books today. That should say something. We need the Katsas, the girl from The Bear and Nightingale, and the Library Jumpers of the world. Because these characters become so important, they touch lives. Not that adult characters DON’T, but the characters from Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse series and Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series can pull teens through tough times, give them hope, and a reason to wake up another day.
Isn’t that something to admire? To give the younger adults a reason to hope. I think it is.
How Does Having Kids This Age Help My Writing?
I have “life, reality, and does this make sense editors” living with me. I can run situations, language, and attitudes by them. Clothing. Slang. Habits of teens etc. I can peer into their lives and bring reality to my characters. They help me to see beyond the ordinary to the extraordinary.
I’ve been closer to them in recent years than when they were first going through their teens. At that time, we were at odds with one another. Writing my characters, I try to bring that conflict into play when necessary to show the depth of what the character’s going through.
Now, don’t bring back the fashion, the hairdos, or the makeup you had when YOU were a teen. But the situations you went through. It brings you back to what they may or may not be suffering through because those feelings and thoughts don’t change. That viewpoint helps to understand your characters.
- You’ve been through breakups.
- A serious fall-out with friends.
- A car accident.
- You’ve experienced rejection – the football team, cheer leading squad, or debate team.
On and on. You just have to recall how you felt at that time and bring it home in your characters. This is how we can identify with a male or female character. Heck, even a dog. There’s no limit to who we can be. Or what we can be. Is your character an alien? They have emotions just like us. They might suppress them more but they still feel pain, experience horror, fail at their job. It’s all a matter of perspective. Don’t let anything hold you back.
How Much of Your Writing is Reflective?
Reflective writing depends on the character. In my first series, it was much more reflective even though the main character was a teenage boy. I could identify because he wanted to be what I was struggling to be: a writer. Yes, clue, Stephen King. I very much imitated King in that respect. A protagonist who wanted to be what the author wanted to be, it didn’t work out for my poor lad anymore at the time, than it did for me.me.
Many, many years later, my second series is about a girl fighting for her family against the antagonist who also happens to be her father. She’s a lot different from the earlier series and the least reflective of me. To a degree, there are experiences from my life that I’ve used to bring her alive, but these are minimal. She is her own character and wholly formed as far as her life goes.
My newest standalone has a female protagonist. There are situations in her life reflective of mine. Obviously, I don’t know what it’s like to be her, from another time, and humanity, but there are similarities because of experiences. I think that happens to a lot of writers. They use bits and pieces of themselves in each of their works. It’s how we relate to our characters, how we breathe life into them. If we didn’t plant a seed of ourselves in them, they wouldn’t become beloved to readers. They’d fall flat. They’d drown in quicksand before someone could pull them out. It’s a strange dance between author and characters, one step here, two steps there, and viola a legend is born.
How Are Your Characters Different or Similar to You at That Age?
Alan was a fledgling writer at seventeen. Although I had written for many years before I was seventeen, I didn’t officially call myself a writer till I was eighteen, broke, and returning from college, I thought in defeat. I had envisioned so many dreams for my future and they were all disappearing. Before I left college, I watched a movie called, Stand by Me. In it the young protagonist was struggling with writing. When his friends tell him to go after his dream, I felt like he was talking to me. I grabbed writing whole-heartedly and began my journey. Alan was different from me because his path would turn from writing to becoming a pastor. He still wrote of course, but not for the same reasons. We both shared faith and a deviation from writing (kids, bad marriage) but he wrote to unlock the maze of his life. Well, I suppose I did that too, that’s how I get through my bipolar nightmare when needed. Ergh, yeah. I guess this character is more similar to me than I thought.
Let’s try Caressa. She was misunderstood and grew up way too fast. Way different than me. While she was trying to escape forced marriage at the age of sixteen, I was struggling to figure out who I was, what I wanted to do with my life. She banded together with a group of outsiders and helped them bring about a victory. She became someone she thought she could never be. Through all my struggles and concerns, I’ve found that I’ve done the same.
How Are My Kids Different or the Same from My Characters?
There are pieces of my characters that are like my kids. My daughter, for instance, had to grow up faster than I liked, due to circumstances beyond her control just like Greta. From the same story, her brother, Baradon, is like my son in the way that he wants things to remain as they are and not shake the status quo. He’s protective and kind even when he doesn’t understand those around him. My daughter has Alison’s trait of shyness and also not wanting to upset the balance of the characters around her. But she is brave enough when she has to be, to try to do so.
Chalee’s kindness and truth stand out as my daughter. Rick, brave but pressured by those around him, tries his best to fit in and to explore things, but he often hits a stumbling block like my son. Yes, pieces but not the whole of them.
I hope you can see from this why the YA genre is close to my heart. It is a genre I am proud of, and I hope to accomplish many things through my writing.
Bio: Traci Kenworth
Traci Kenworth writes all genres of YA as well as the occasional historical romance. She lives in Ohio with her son, daughter, and four cats, chasing snippets of whatever story she’s working on at the time.
She has been writing since she was old enough to hold a pencil. Writing saved her during a dark period in her life.
She is forever grateful to God for this way out of the darkness and into the light. That’s the type of hero/heroine she writes about, survivors and those they love. Her writings show others a way back when they think everything is lost.
Her character’s stories give the reader that most welcome gift – hope. Some other things she enjoys: genealogy, riding horseback, and, of course, reading.
Follow Traci on her adventures of getting published.
Find out what Traci is up to on Where Genres Collide Traci Kenworth YA Author & Book Blogger
Contact Info: firstname.lastname@example.org
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