Six Tips to Make Your Young Adult Story Sparkle

Six Tips to Make Your Young Adult Story Sparkle
by Eliza Brooks


Did you know there are on average more than 30k young adult or teen fiction books published annually? This category is supposed to cater to 12 to 18 years of age. But despite its labeling, 55% are purchased by adults or those over 18 years of age. Even though this genre saw an increase of up to 120 percent between 2002 and 2012, successful teen fiction book authors claim that writing for this category is the same as writing for anything else. It all boils down to how good the writing and story are.

When was the last time you read a book you couldn’t put down? They say you can tell if you’ve read a good book when you get absorbed in the story. It’s when you get to see yourself in one of the characters and be carried away with the surge of emotions the main character gets exposed to as the story unfolds.

It is every author’s dream to create an experience like this for their readers. The greatest compliment a writer can get is to be appreciated for the way they write and tell a story. It takes skill and knowledge of writing techniques to write a great story that makes a mark on its readers. If you aim to reach your young readers in this way, here are six tips that can help you make your young adult story sparkle:

1. Stay True to Your Character’s Perspective

This seems simple, but in reality, could be quite challenging. The characters’ perspectives should remain in their young adult years. So regardless of how old you are at the time of writing, you need to make sure it doesn’t influence your characters. They are not supposed to display any wisdom of an adult. It requires extreme concentration and focus to make sure you don’t slip. It’s also a good idea to specifically look for problems with the perspective when you reach the stage where you’re self-editing your writing.

2. Be Sure Your Descriptive Language Focuses on the Right Elements

Young adult books often have illustrations in them. So instead of describing how the characters look, write about their emotions or actions. Describe what they see, what they feel, or how they move throughout the plot. How they react is an apt way of introducing a character’s personality or purpose in the story. Make sure that you invest time and effort in describing them through your character’s eyes or perspective.

3. Write “Genuine” Emotions

You want the reader to relate to what the main characters are going through. Make sure they can see themselves in one of these characters. According to John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars, he gets several emails a day from readers who claim that they are like the female protagonist in the story. What makes teen fiction books entertaining to read is that they do a great job of detailing teenage or pre-teen experience. By effectively doing so, one gets to genuinely relate to these feelings, which makes the story palpable.

4. Let the Story Flow

As cliché as this sounds, it holds true – let it go. When you allow the characters to decide how to reveal themselves, writing the story can be a magical process. Authors will often tell you that each story has a way of unfolding on its own. Don’t attempt to control it. Let the story flow.

5. End Your Story on a Hopeful Note

Give the readers something to look forward to. Teen fiction books often end the same way. The main character may not have become victorious beating the challenges in the end, but he/she has evolved in a way that made him/her better. It offers the reader a chance to realize that no matter what happens, even when all seems lost, there is something bound to happen that will give meaning and drive change, despite how nominal, in one’s life.

6. Follow the Rules Regarding Word Count

Be mindful of the word count that’s typical for your genre, especially when you are just starting out. Remember, industry standards are often formed because trial and error has taught the experts what works and what doesn’t. Plus, you’ll have a better chance of being published when you follow the rules. After editing and cutting through unnecessary words or phrases, your story will come out stronger.

About Eliza Brooks: 


Eliza Brooks is a passionate blogger who loves to write about travel, books, personality development, lifestyle, productivity, and more. She is currently working with CreedGriffon, which is an incredible book for tween and teen girls and boys. She spends her spare time hiking, camping and reading adventure, fantasy, mystery stories, and teen fiction books. Everything she talks about ends in books!


Review: Briar Rose

Briar Rose
By Jane Yolen
Published by TOR Teen, Tom Doherty Associates, LLC. (August 1992)
Ages 16+

My Rating: 4 stars

I picked up a copy of Briar Rose by Jane Yolen on a recent trip to Play the Game Read the Story. Perhaps it was because of the location (it was sitting on a shelf full of sci-fi and fantasy) and the fact that the book is referred to as a retelling of Sleeping Beauty that I thought I was going to be reading a fantasy. I did read the back cover where it says the word Holocaust a couple of times, but for some reason I still thought it would be part fantasy. It turns out to be more of a mystery, an uncovering of a secret family history and a look at the atrocities of the Holocaust.

Since she was a baby, Becca has loved hearing her grandmother – Gemma – tell the story of Briar Rose. Just before Gemma dies, Becca promises her that she will unlock the truth behind her grandmother’s claim: I am Briar Rose. No one in the family knows Gemma’s real name or where she was born because she never talked about it. While Becca’s sisters suspect their grandmother might have been senile, Becca doesn’t believe this and is compelled to follow the leads that are found in a box kept secret by the grandmother until her death. Becca’s journey to find the truth about her grandmother brings her to Poland where she uncovers horrifying truths about the inhumanity of the Holocaust.

The first part of Briar Rose feels like a good mystery. Who is Gemma? Could she really be Briar Rose? Is the fairy tale real? Yolen alternates chapters to bring you back and forth between the present day and past moments of Becca’s childhood when Gemma tells the story to Becca and her sisters. This helps bring home the idea that the story of Briar Rose is Gemma’s story, whether or not it is truth or fairy tale. It also develops the main character, Becca, as the only one in the family who understands this.

Becca’s questions are answered when she finally finds a man willing to talk about Chelmno, the Nazi extermination camp, which Becca believes has something to do with her grandmother. The man isn’t just any man. He is a part of Gemma’s story, and when the voice of the book changes to his voice, the entire tone turns very dark. We see the horrors of the Holocaust through his eyes.

It is difficult to write about this book without giving too much away, but I will say that the author highlights the fact that there were several groups of people in addition to Jews who were targeted by the Nazis, including Gypsies and homosexuals. I imagine that many would like to censor a book like this, which is eerily ironic given its topic.

While Briar Rose ended up being something entirely different from what I was expecting, I am glad that I read it. Some might say the gruesomeness was unnecessary, but I think it is exactly the point. It is a difficult truth told through the vehicle of a fairy tale, which feels a little strange at times and a little bit genius at others.

The main warning I would have for Briar Rose is that the language complexity of the book felt like it could have fallen within the range of a middle-grade reader, but the content in the second section might be too disturbing for some at that age. I suggest reading it yourself before giving it to anyone younger than the book’s suggested minimum age of 16. It only took me approximately 9 hours total to read, and I’m a slow reader.

One aspect that might have been more developed, is the odd romance that starts to take shape between Becca and Stan, an editor at the newspaper she works for. It feels like Becca has a wall up in most of her relationships – except for the one with her grandmother. This makes sense when it comes to her sisters because it makes her relationship with Gemma stand out as something a little different, but it also makes the budding romance feel almost fake – like it is only there to move her from plot point to plot point. And, it feels like Stan starts to “drive the bus” a couple of times, when it really should have only ever come from Becca and her desire to find the truth.

Overall, I recommend Briar Rose as a read for teens and adults because the possibilities for human cruelty should never be forgotten.

To forget a holocaust is to kill twice.

— Elie Wiesel, Nobel laureate

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