After grading two large stacks of junior high creative writing exercises today, I had an epiphany. About teenagers. Be impressed, because it only took me six hours to come to this conclusion. Are you ready?
Teenagers (both male and female) are intensely interested in the opposite sex.
No duh, Sherlock.
The stereotype of boy-crazy teenage girls held (mostly) true, but the same could also have been said for the boys. About half or more of the boys’ submissions included a love interest, and obtaining that love interest seemed to be either the character’s sole motivation or part of their character arc.
I know it seems obvious, but SERIOUSLY. These kids are obsessed with “getting the boy” and “getting the girl.” I think that it may be what’s keeping their hearts beating and probably what makes the world turn and the sun come up each morning. Save the teenager, save the world.
I want to be clear: I’m not making fun of teenagers. In fact, even though it was a “duh” moment, it’s still something of an important revelation for me, since I write for teenagers and read the same books they read.
I’ve heard it expressed (I’m keeping it intentionally passive here, no need to name names!) that boys aren’t as in touch with their emotions as girls. I’ve seen boy characters criticized for being emotional or for *gasp* thinking intuitively (a boy wouldn’t notice the color of his love interest’s shirt!). But if what I saw today is true, the teenage boy is also pretty in touch with certain emotions. Not all boys, and not all in the same way. But as writers, we would be doing boys and teenagers a disservice to say that they aren’t emotional and they aren’t thoughtful.
Each character will be unique. For example, a writer I know is currently working on a boy character who works in a very feminine industry. I support this character wholeheartedly (I am his #1 Fangirl). His profession fits in with the circumstances of his life, which helps him seem real to me. People hardly ever fit in a box, and I don’t think characters should either.
And I know another writer who has a girl character in a traditionally masculine profession. I also wholeheartedly support this character. It’s almost funny to me that it’s a talking point in literary circles when a character bucks a stereotype, when in real life it happens all the time. I mean, we’ve stopped gawking at male nurses by now (or we gawk at them for different, more pleasant reasons).
And maybe, though this wasn’t the point of the post, that’s why I like the Hunger Games so much. I like that Peeta is the romantic and that Katniss is the stoic. I like it because I like that Peeta is a person, not just a “boy,” and the same goes for Katniss. I think teenage boys can be romantics. I think that teenage girls can be tough as nails. And I think that YA is the best genre because more and more it’s embracing a spectrum of characters in a variety of circumstances. So let’s write like it.
If you’d like to hear more about some of the creative writing gems I found today, message me.