What Makes Writing Teen Fiction as a Teen Special a guest post by Lauren Trickey
Writing teen fiction as a teen is different than as an adult. Even at twenty, barely an adult, I can see the difference in my writing from when I was fourteen, and not just skill wise. There’s quite a few scenes in Jack of All Trades that make me cringe now, that make me think ‘oh god! Why would you ever do that?’ But I wrote it when I was the same age as the characters, and apparently the decisions they make seemed perfectly reasonable at the time. If a real-life teenager thinks it makes sense, then surely a fictional one must, too.
I started writing simply because I was daydreaming. All the time. It’s not that I didn’t like school, in fact I love learning, I just couldn’t help myself. I zone out of conversations all the time, not because whoever I’m speaking to is boring, usually they say something that somehow sparks inspiration and suddenly I’m thinking about what I could be writing, instead of focusing on the conversation I’m currently having.
A lot of what I daydreamed about stemmed from being bullied. I was bullied through all thirteen years of school, sometimes by girls I called my best friends, and sometimes by girls I had no choice but to be around because they were friends with my friends. So, I started thinking, what if could be like Valkyrie Cain in Skulduggery Pleasant, or Clary Fray in the Mortal Instruments? What if there was something about me that made me special, something that I could remember whenever these girls were trying to make me feel worthless? And I daydreamed about it, and then because of the support of friends I made online, I started writing it.
A big part of my novel ended up focusing on the fantastical being close to home because of this. Most children and teen fiction has characters either going to a magic school, or someone being able to get out of going to school with no repercussions. They go on these epic adventures and leave their normal lives behind, but that meant the magic was somewhere I couldn’t be. I wanted it where I was. In school. Throughout Jack of All Trades, the main characters are still attending school. Their trainer, Shadow, takes them out of class and teaches them inside the school grounds. The magic happens where they are, right under the noses of their classmates, something I endlessly wished for.
Part of what made writing teen characters as a teen was that some of the problems they face weren’t imagined, but based on my real experiences, however trivial they seem to me now.
Their struggles were my struggles. Aelana wishes for something to make her unique, special. Growing up, my parents instilled in me the value of being an individual and not following a trend just because it’s a trend. However, growing up with social anxiety, it was hard to be who I wanted when that also meant having other peoples’ attention on me. Aelana’s anxiety centres around her friends; she doesn’t care so much about being the centre of attention, but she knows that by branching out she risks alienating herself from her friends. She is stuck between wanting to be unique, and wanting the acceptance of her friends.
Skylar and Phoenix, on the other hand, have that thing that makes them unique already. And are continually bullied for it. Though what they experience is dramatized for the purposes of the story, the intent behind it is the same: jealousy. Or at least, I like to tell myself that’s what it was. it’s nicer than thinking that I was just an easy target. Out of the two, Skylar is the easy target. She doesn’t want to fight back, prefers to pretend its not happening or its not a big deal, while Phoenix stands up for the both of them.
Ash deals with the breakdown of friendships, the awkwardness and arguments that come with it. Something I’ve, unfortunately, had to deal with more than once. Though for myself, it was never clear who started it, Ash is definitely at fault in her situation. And she has to live with that; live with the fact that delving into the world of magic made has made her a different person.
Jade is no longer the perfect student she has been. While I was never a perfect student, I did well enough in school. Until the last couple of years. Ironically, when I tried to focus in class and stopped daydreaming about the adventures my characters could be going on, was when my grades were the worst they had ever been. In Jade’s case, she loses focus, stops keeping track of her school work and lets it fall by the way side.
With these struggles, Mercury, then, is what they aspire to. She has the confidence Skylar lacks, the self-assurance Phoenix tries to hide that she lacks. She is still attending school even when going on adventures, she isn’t afraid of being judged, and has a solid group of friends supporting her. Each of them can find something in her that they wish to emulate. She has all these qualities as a result of what I wanted to be, the kind of person I wanted to grow up to be.
First and foremost, I write for myself, not just the stories I want to read, but the stories I want to be a part of. Its what made me start writing, and its what continues to fuel my writing. The most important thing for me to achieve through my writing is not to make grand statements about the world or my ideals, but simply to provide teenagers with the escape that I craved at that age. If nothing else, I hope my writing can help them to figure who they are and what kind of person they want to be, just as my favourite stories did for me.
About Lauren Trickey
Lauren Trickey is an author living in Sydney, Australia. She was inspired to write her first novel, Jack of all Trades, at the age of 13 and published it at age 20. When she is not writing, she loves to dance and listen to music.
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About Robin Willis
After working in middle school libraries for over 20 years, Robin Willis now works in a public library system in Maryland.
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