Young Adult Fiction’s Universal Appeal

by Kristen Hogrefe

There’s something irresistible about a young adult on a mission, whether it be saving the world, conquering a coming-of-age crisis, or embarking on a journey of discovery. As I’ve transitioned from the young adult to adult age bracket, my interest in this genre has only increased, and I don’t think I’m alone. Why? There are a few trademarks qualities of the young adult fiction genre that contribute to its universal appeal.

#1: We all love an underdog.

Have you ever read a young adult novel where the teenage hero or heroine is on top of the world? Even if page one opens with that scenario, you can expect that moment to get snatched away, and the character to spend the rest of the story fighting to restore or reclaim what’s rightfully his.

In Nadine Brandes’s Fawkes, the story opens on the eve of Thomas’s color ceremony where he will finally receive a mask from his father and earn his honor. However, his father is a no-show, and Thomas plummets to destitution on a quest to find his father and find out why he didn’t come. You better believe I’m cheering for Thomas and want to see him succeed.

#2: We all experience setbacks and “square-one” scenarios.

Let’s be honest. Teenagers aren’t the only ones with life crises. Adults encounter career, relational, or homelife obstacles that often blindside us. Perhaps a relationship falls apart or the boss pushes a white slip our way. Those young adult insecurities resurface with fury when we find ourselves facing the unknown all over again.

Young adult fiction is full of unknown. In my novel The Reactionary releasing in February, my heroine Portia doesn’t know if an international ally will help the Brotherhood’s tenuous government fight off attacks from a global dictator or stab them in the back. But like the other relationships in her life, she must make herself vulnerable and attempt an alliance, because love and liberty are worth the risk.

#3: We all enjoy imaginary road trips.

Young adult fiction has a corner on the speculative fiction market. Speculative fiction is a fancy term for a story that asks “what if?” What if society were two hundred years in the future? What if dragons existed? What if Narnia were real?

The beauty of imaginary road trips is that they can teach us something about real life. In Emily Golus’s Escape to Vindor, her heroine Megan becomes trapped in the imaginary world she created as a personal escape from the real world. As a result, she must learn to confront her very real fears if she’s going to save Vindor and be able to return to her regular life.

#4: We all want a good story.

The bottom line is that well-written young adult fiction offers compelling storylines that make us care about the characters and often reveal truth about our own lives.

When people ask me why I write for young adults, I tell them that I write for young adults and the young at heart. I’m including myself in that second category. Regardless of life stage, this genre offers a universality that resonates with all ages.

Click to Tweet: Young adult fiction isn’t just for young adults. Learn why adults enjoy this genre as well in a guest blog by Kristen Hogrefe, author and teacher.

Writing Prompt/Story Starter: A road is just a road, isn’t it? Until it becomes…


Kristen Hogrefe

Kristen Hogrefe is an award-winning author and life-long learner. Her books include The Rogues trilogy and Wings of the Dawn trilogy, and she also enjoys speaking events that allow her to connect with students, readers, and other writers. A Florida girl at heart, she says yes to most adventures involving sunshine. Connect with her online at KristenHogrefe.com

Kristen Hogrefe Amazon Author Page

Genre Month: Horror, Part One

By Cammi Woodall

Ho, ho, horror! Not your typical December greeting, is it? My topic for today is horror literature. The first part of this article focuses on classical horror, up to the 20th century.

We are all scared of something. Maybe your fear is something concrete – spiders, clowns, darkness, thunder, taxes. Maybe you are scared of intangibles – loneliness, death, imprisonment, hatred, racism.  A typical definition of horror is ‘a painful and intense fear, dread, or dismay.’ Horror writers attempt to make some sort of sense of the senseless, bring order to the chaos, and scare the daylights out of you!

Horror in literature actually dates back to ancient Sumer with tales of a supernatural being called Emikku who could inhabit dead bodies. Its roots began in early Church essays describing how to combat witchcraft and devil worship. Works such as Dante’s The Divine Comedy took these essays and put the Church’s warnings into a fictional account of the atrocities of Hell and Purgatory.

William Shakespeare might be an odd choice for an article on the horror genre, but the Bard’s work has several overtones of horror – the Weird Sisters of Macbeth, the Ghost of Hamlet’s father running around plotting and encouraging revenge, Hamlet’s slow descent into madness.  Alas, think of poor Yorick! Hamlet stands in a cemetery speaking to the skull of his dead companion while he contemplates the finality of death. It doesn’t get much creepier than that! His macabre elements still inspire authors today.

The first true horror book is often credited to Horace Wadpole.  His Gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto, was published in 1765 and contained the elements that would become standard for Gothic novels to come. A creepy mansion, underground passages, maidens in distress, ghosts, and mistaken identity depicted a supernatural fantasy at a time when most authors strove for realism. Critics considered the story in poor taste, but the public loved it.

The early 1800’s saw the rise of horror’s most well-known author, Edgar Allen Poe.  Poe’s use of short, staccato sentences and use of first-person view throughout his work heightened the tension, drawing the reader in to the terror happening on the page. Stories and poems such as The Fall of the House of Usher, The Cask of Amontillado, Annabel Lee, and The Tell-Tale Heart still enthrall readers today. Who can ever forget the epic poem The Raven, never flitting, still sitting, and the ever lost Lenore?

The 19th century saw a turn away from Gothic elements to what is considered modern horror. Tales such as Jane C. Loudon’s The Mummy, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and H.G. Well’s The Invisible Man relied less upon creepy atmosphere and drew inspiration from science and alchemy. Many of the novels during this time went on to become iconic classics immortalized in film, stage, and television.

No article on classical horror would be complete with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Both are available as public domain books, so no true sales figures exist, but together they are considered the highest selling horror novels of all time.

Frankenstein is considered by many to be the first modern horror novel, as well as the first science fiction novel. During a bout of bad weather and boredom, Shelley’s companion Percy Bysshe Shelley a contest for best ghost story. Mary was fascinated with galvanism, a scientific fad at the time of using electrical currents on animals and convicted criminals to stimulate muscle contractions. Study of her journals also reveal that she constantly thought of a baby she’d lost a few years earlier. Her emotional state helped her craft a true tale of horror, with both Dr. Frankenstein and his creation.

Bram Stoker spent seven years writing his masterpiece, Dracula. Many believe he based his story on Vlad the Impaler, and that is was the first vampire story. Actually, Transylvania and its famous nocturnal inhabitants had been popular in literature for many years. Stoker just took these basic elements and crafted a true tale of horror and suspense. His influence lives on today, with popular vampire stories like Joe Hill’s Nosferatu, Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, and Stephanie Myers Twilight series.

Horror even spilled over into tales for children. The stories written by the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen have been sanitized for today’s market, but children gathered around their mother’s knee or tucked into their cozy beds in the early 1830’s were familiar with very different versions of these beloved tales. The Little Mermaid suffered excruciating pain with each step, her feet bleeding, till she flung herself into the sea after her prince married another woman. The Evil Stepsisters cut off pieces of their feet to make the glass slipper fit, only to have their eyes pecked out by birds at Cinderella’s wedding. The Wicked Queen is forced to wear red-hot iron shoes and dance till she dies at Snow White’s wedding.

Click to tweet: Horror writers attempt to make some sort of sense of the senseless, bring order to the chaos, and scare the daylights out of you! Find out more about the genre known as “horror.” #horror #amreading

Not exactly the Disney versions, are they? Where are the grouchy lobsters or birds who help clean house? These stories often served as cautionary tales for children, much like modern day warnings of the Boogey Man.

The next part of my article tomorrow will focus on the 20th century. Stay tuned!

Writing Prompt – It was a dark and stormy night.

Myths and Merits of the Romance Genre

by Bonita Y. McCoy

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So, you think you want to write romance. I don’t blame you. The romance genre holds many wonderful opportunities for writers. Within romance, you can do serious, funny, suspenseful, or quirky stories, and the real plus, the readers always want a happily-ever-after ending. My favorite.

However, there are some myths about the genre that are floating around like bubbles on a sunny day, and they need to be popped before you settle on this genre as the one for you.

Myths

  • The Romance Genre is the easiest genre in which to write.

Wrong. All the same grammar rules and industry standards apply to the romance genre. It is no easier or harder than any other genre being written in the market today.

What should determine your genre of choice is what type of stories you love to read? If you love romance and stories that have a romantic subplot then you are a great candidate for becoming a romance writer, but if you lean more to adventure or science fiction and skip over the romantic sections, you won’t enjoy writing it any more than you do reading it.

  • With Romance, you only need to develop two characters.

Again, wrong. You may only write from the two main characters points of view, but just like any other genre, all the major characters need to be fully developed and well thought out.

Another aspect of romance writing that we forget is world building. If you write small town romances, you as the writer will have to build the small town. If you write about a character’s apartment or place of work, you will need to map out these places, so you can easily describe them in your novel.

  • The plot is not as important in a romance as the characters.

Do I need to say it? This too is a myth. No matter what type of story you write both the characters and the plot need to be believable. Though some genres are more character driven while others are more plot driven, both must run like a well-oiled machine. No holes, no clogged parts, no missing pieces.

  • The love will carry the story.

Emotional tension is the essence of good story telling, but the love in a romance can not be the only conflict or tension in the story. Your characters need baggage. Emotional, physical, mental, and any other type in order to make them real to the reader.

The love story should be powerful, but there must be more depth to the characters for the reader to be willing to go on the journey with the hero and heroine. Be creative in this area. Bring in something new and different for your characters to deal with in their daily lives. A handicapped relative, a retired parent, a critical diagnosis from the doctor, a crisis of faith, something that your reader may be dealing with in their own lives.

Now, that we have looked at the myths in the genre, let’s look at the merits. There are several advantages to writing romance.

Merits

  • It is the largest genre in the industry.

According to a Bookstr article in January 2017, romance was the number one best-selling genre clearing somewhere around 1.44 billion dollars. It is a large pond and plenty of room for newcomers to join in the fun.

  • Sub genres and tropes make the difference.

Another positive about writing in the best-selling genre is that there is a small sub genre for almost any trope you would like to write. If you want to write matchmaker romances, there is a sub genre for that. If you want to write billionaire romances, there is a place for that one too.  How about cowboy, boy next door, or fake relationships? They all fit as well.

  • Hope can be found in romance novels.

One of the best aspects of writing romance revolves around the encouragement romance writers give to their readers. Romance novels give hope. They uplift, encourage, rally, and entertain the reader through hard places in real life. They transport the reader to a place where even when its tough love conquers all. And for some, that is a place they need to visit to find a seed of hope for their own lives.

  • A Bond develops between the reader and the writer.

The romance genre weaves the threads of lives together to create a lasting bond, not between hero and heroine, but rather between reader and writer. Romance writers have a sacred trust with their readers. We will write a story that meets readers expectations of hope, love, and a happily-ever-after, and our readers will be loyal to return again and again to go on the journey with us. Romance readers are a loyal band.

Writing romances can be demanding just like any other genre of fiction, but the rewards far outweigh the frustrations. Once you’ve identified the myths that surround this genre and embraced the truth that any writing is work, you can better decide which genre is the right fit for you and your goals as a writer.

Remember, there are myths and merits in any genre. However, if you adore a sweet romance and you can’t wait to see how the hero and heroine end up together, then you might just be a romance writer who has found her home in the fiction world.

Click to tweet: The romance genre weaves the threads of lives together to create a lasting bond, not between hero and heroine, but rather between reader and writer.  #romance #amwriting

 

Writing Prompt: Maggie felt a little blue. She knew the next two weeks during Christmas would be hectic, but she consoled herself with the thought of the books she would take with her. Her own private world tucked in her suitcase.

Heart of Christmas bookAnnouncing five new stories filled with faith, hope, forgiveness, and of course happily-ever-afters. Each story focuses on an element of the Nativity, from the angels to the wise men. Be swept up in the love of the season and the promise of forever that the Christ child, the true Heart of Christmas, brings.  Available on Kindle and in Kindle Unlimited.

 

Genre Month at Inspired Prompt

An Overview of Genre

By Jennifer Hallmark

We’ve all heard the term and struggled to pronounce it. I personally try to say the word “genre” with a French accent but my natural Southern one makes it come out all wrong. 🙂

So what exactly is a genre? Vocabulary.com says “A literary genre is a style of writing.” Your favorite literary genre might be science fiction or romance, for example.

The word genre means “artistic category or style,”…When you use the term literary genre, you make it clear that you’re talking about books and writing. Bookstores sometimes use literary genres as a way to separate books into different sections, like “classics” or “mysteries.” The word genre is French, and it means “kind, sort, or style.”

And then there are sub-genres which are simply subcategories within a particular genre. The academic mystery is a “sub-genre” of the mystery novel.

Here’s a partial list of genres in literature.

  • Action/Adventure
  • Chick Lit
  • Classic
  • Comic/Graphic Novel
  • Contemporary
  • Crime/Detective
  • Dystopian/Utopian
  • Fable
  • Fairy tale
  • Fanfiction
  • Fantasy
  • Fiction narrative
  • Folklore
  • Historical fiction
  • Horror
  • Humor
  • Magical Realism
  • Mystery/Cozy Mystery
  • Non-fiction
  • Science fiction
  • Southern
  • Steampunk
  • Suspense/Thriller
  • Tragedy
  • Western
  • Women’s Fiction
  • Young Adult/New Adult

    Fairy Tale Re-Tellings

I try to read a variety of different genres because I believe it will make me a more well-rounded writer.  Some of my favorites are women’s fiction (especially stories based in the South), mysteries, and fantasy. I just finished a Southern fiction book collection that I loved called A Southern Season-Stories From a Front Porch Swing.

I’ve also read a Steampunk book by Edie Melson called Maiden of Iron: A Steampunk Fable. Steampunk is a genre (or perhaps sub-genre) of science fiction that has a historical setting and typically features steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology.

For a combination of Classics and Mystery, the latest series of books I’m reading are by Georgette Heyer.  She also writes Regency romances, a sub-genre of romance novels set between 1811-1820 with their own plot and stylistic conventions.

So you can see there are many genres and sub-genres. And I’ve not included a mishmash of genres, where a writers mixes two or more genres. The problem with mishmash is when it comes to finding your market. Let’s say you mix historic romance with science fiction. You’ll need to find a reader who likes both and that could prove difficult.

We at Inspired Prompt want to hear from you. What’s your favorite genre? sub-genre? List it in the comments below and tell us about one of your favorite books within that category.

Click to tweet: What is genre? sub-genre? Mishmash? Find out at the Inspired Prompt blog. #genre #amreading

Writing Prompt: Lillian ran down the street and pushed past the crowd into the library. Her favorite author had a new novel out and she had to have it. It was a…