Here is part 2 of techniques and tips I’ve learned on writing for the YA or MG market.
1st person can be limiting. It’s a challenge to not break the one character’s POV. With 1st person you must remain in the same voice throughout the story. Check to make sure that only the thoughts of your MC are delivered.
There are benefits to writing YA/MG in 1st person. It brings us directly close to the character, and we all know that kids are self-involved. Second, you can create internal exposition which allows for us to discover what’s going on beneath the MC. Third, it keeps us in suspense as we can’t see all that is going on.
Tip: Use dialogue scenes to give us other character’s POV without breaking from 1st person voice.
Writing in 3rd person can also be limiting. It doesn’t present the opportunity to give us all of the MC’s thoughts. The benefits are that you can hold back secrets and we can see the story from different angles. It can create suspense as we can see other parallel events happening that the MC is not aware of.
Tip: Pull off books from your book shelf and see how characters are introduced. Does it work for you? Copy what that author did.
Exercise: Write a passage where you introduce a character.
On Creating Character
Don’t name two characters starting with same first letter. For example, David, and Deena. Or Jack and Jill. “Jack and Jill ran up the hill to kill the zombie.” We laugh instead of feeling scared for our characters because their names are so silly.
And please don’t use any of these names: Fred, Ted, Ed. “Howdy,” Fred said. “Howdy yourself,” Ted said.” You get the issue here.
Have the MC describe how he sees or feels about other characters. In doing so it reveals his own character.
Show us character in the details the MC sees. The hardness of a chair beneath him, how he feels about an object, a photo the MC carries around, or the smell that reminds him of his dog back home, etc.
Stay away from clichés such as labeling a character a bully. Go deeper than that.
Simple gestures can say volumes. For example, “Josh took two steps back while Amy took two steps forward.”
If writing in 1st POV, how does the MC see the other characters through his eyes? This tells us volumes about the other characters and also about the MC.
Exercise: Write down your major and minor characters then list how they would describe themselves through their own eyes.
Exercise: Describe something from your MC’s perspective.
Make sure your language is appropriate for the age. Try not to write “trendy” language. For example: “That’s fat. Cool. Rad.” It could make your book outdated later.
Exercise: Revive memories of being the age of your YA characters. Draw a picture of the neighborhood you grew up in, pin pointing details. Remember what you saw, what you felt, and how you reacted to events there.
Tip: Take a scene and strip out all words but the dialogue to see how your character’s talk. This reveals the beat of character’s words and speech. Then flow it through your book.