Writing lessons from young adult literature – by Kitty Felde

There’s a wonderful quote in Lisa Scottoline’s review of the new novel “Plugged” by Eoin Colfer. She says, “like any great fictional character, he is what he does.” Boy, is that true for drama!

I’m as guilty as most, my characters do more talking than doing. Not to say they need to scale mountains and fight wizards onstage. But they need to constantly be doing something emotionally. What do they want and what are they doing to get it?

I know Eoin Colfer’s work from his young adult novels. We read ”Artemis Fowl” in my Book Club of the Air for Young Adults, a show that ran on LA Cable 36 where a trio of middle schoolers discuss YA literature. (http://la36.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=26&clip_id=1000Great fun.) In “Artemis,” Colfer’s characters were always DOING something. But he also created an entire universe, with its own rules and villains and quests.

I really like YA literature. David Almond’s “Skellig” is one of my favorites. He creates a character in a ramshackle garage that may be a cranky old man. Or an owl. Or a bird. Or something else. The young hero of the story keeps the creature alive with beer and take-out Chinese food. He decides he HAS to as his way of keeping his prematurely born little sister alive. Such invention! A real page-turner! And full of rich, emotional depth.

Which makes me think about expanding my universe of writing inspirations. I read and see as many plays as I can every month. But rarely am I truly blown away, transported to a really imaginative place where I cry and laugh and am haunted by words and images for days. That happens often when I’m reading YA literature. Why is this? Is it because YA books are short, to the point, aimed at an audience that demands to be wowed, an audience whose raging hormones make emotional outbursts a daily fact of life? That’s what I want to capture and put onstage.
Which is why I’m heading over to the YA section of the library to see what’s new.

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