Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Writing Advice #3: Creating Adult Characters in YA Fiction

Every YA novel features a young adult as its protagonist. The storyline and related issues, emotions, and conflicts are those of a teen. But unless you’ve created a world in which the protagonist and other YA characters are orphaned or abandoned or living in a world in which adults have somehow been obliterated, there are going to be a few grown-ups somewhere in your story.

So what about those adults? If you’re a YA writer focused on depicting teen angst, you might think that you should invest all of your energy in developing your protagonist and teen characters, and just gloss over the adults you’ve stuck in the murky shadows. After all, adults don’t matter in a YA novel, right?


If adults are present in a YA novel, they matter a lot. They might not play as large of a role as the protagonist’s friends or boyfriend or sister; however, adult characters—especially parents—do matter.

Parents, the home they have (or haven’t) created, their opinions, psychological issues, biases, and background all affect how the protagonist sees the world.

It’s important to develop parents into real people. Teens don’t necessarily view all adults as clueless, so they  shouldn't be portrayed that way. Treat your adult characters with as much respect as your teen characters. Figure out what makes them tick. You would do this when creating a teen character... so do it for adult characters, too.

As Peta Jennath Anderson states in her article "Absentee Parents in YA: Yes-Yes or No-No?" ( “ depth to a parent is like giving depth to a villain—it adds depth to a book, and is often the difference between a good story and a great one.”