1. MilesTro
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    MilesTro Active Member

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    Flat or Round Characters in Teen Books

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by MilesTro, Apr 7, 2013.

    I heard that some writers said that characters don't have to be complex in young adult genre fiction books. Because it is easy to aim the books at teens, flat characters don't have to be a problem. But is this really true? Teenagers don't care about complex characters, even if they are flat?
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I doubt teens are that monochromatic.

    Wuthering Heights is a book for teens. The characters are anything but flat. I'm sure there are many other examples.
     
  3. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    There is no story without characters who are growing and learning. Flat characters mean a flat story.

    If they meant that they don't have to be as dynamic and complex as they are in adult fiction, maybe that's partially true, but don't underestimate your readers. Young adults are jus that - young adults.
     
  4. MilesTro
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    MilesTro Active Member

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    What about the characters in Twilight for example.
     
  5. Thornesque
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    Thornesque Contributing Member

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    As I've said before: you should never short the quality of your story, writing or characters just because someone tried to convince you that the audience that you're writing for is indifferent. Teenagers (who read, at least) are just as capable of spotting a flat character as an adult. The couple of years between someone who identifies as a "young adult" and someone who identifies as a full-fledged "adult" are not going to give them some mystic ability to decipher between well-developed and under-developed characters.
     
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  6. MilesTro
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    MilesTro Active Member

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    I agree that is also what every writer should be aware of. No reader enjoy characters with senseless motivates. If this is true, then how come some authors can get away with this. Publishers would be wasting time and money on books with unexplainable characterization.
     
  7. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    As poorly as Twilight is written, the characters are driven by clear motivations.
     
  8. Xatron
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    Xatron Contributing Member

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    True, Twilight is a prime example of dumbing down each and every aspect of the book, but maintaining at the same time motives and relationships. No matter how mundane, uninteresting and flat out stupid those motives and relationships might be.
     
  9. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    No absolutely not! I think those are writers who want to be lazy about their characterization and feel teens are too moronic to understand complex characters. This is one of my biggest issues with YA fiction. It always frustrated me as a teenager and I had little desire to read YA fiction for that very reason. I remember jumping from children's books into adult books once I hit about fifth or sixth grade. I wanted to read about characters my age I just didn't feel I could relate to any of them. I'm seeing some promising series and writers of YA fiction who are restoring my faith in YA fiction and I'm glad to see that. I think this notion that teenagers and preteens are incapable of complex thought needs to be discarded immediately. I don't feel this encourages children and teens to be intelligent and to dig deeper within themselves.
     
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  10. Xatron
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    Xatron Contributing Member

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    When you are writing YA books, your aim is not the creation of a masterpiece but to get books off the shelves. And while there are certainly many YA readers that want a little more substance and complexity in what they read, the majority of teens are just starting to read as a hobby and as such prefer to read lighter stuff that is easier to take in.
     
  11. Thornesque
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    Thornesque Contributing Member

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    This is wonderful advice...

    ...if you're aiming to become a bestseller. Yes, we all have the pipe dream. Everyone here thinks he or she is going to be the next Stephen King or JK Rowling. The odds are in favor of us all, I'm sure.

    I'm sorry, but I'm not one of those people. I don't think I'm going to be a bestseller. I just want to write out the stories that come to mind, and there is that dream, obviously, that some day I'm going to get to share that. But I'm not deluding myself. I'm not writing for the girl from my class in High School that said that Twilight was the first book she's ever read and that she's not really interested in reading anymore. I'm writing for the girl that was a two grades below me that I could have a decent conversation with about the different books that she'd read that she either liked or did not like. I'm not writing for the boy in my class that hunted down every movie version of every book his girlfriend was reading so that he could pretend he knew what she was talking about without actually picking up a single copy. I'm writing for the boy in the grade above me who asked me to read some of his favorite books so he could talk to me about them.

    So, I guess I have a different idea about why I'm writing than most other people here. I'm not going to skip quality so that a few idiots that have never picked up a book before can make themselves feel smarter for a few hours because they've actually got a book in their hands. Kudos to them for actually recognizing what one looks like. But when I think "YA readers," I don't think hordes of girls (and their mothers) screaming for Robert Pattinson on the red carpet. I picture a young girl, slung across her reading chair, trying to make her way through the list she made of recommendations from her friends, some of which she'll get through, others of which will be far too silly for her, and she'll put down.

    As I've said - I'm not claiming I'm going to be one of those great writers. Hell, I might be one of the silly books that the girl puts down. But I'm certainly not going to aspire to write the next Twilight.
     
  12. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    But that's the thing, it depends what you want.

    Most people in the market just want to write an entertaining novel, or series of books, that YAs will pick up off the shelves and enjoy. For this, you don't need endless motifs running throughout your novel or have extremely complex characters or challenge political themes or whatever. It needs to be entertaining and relatable/aspiring to. Characters are, as ever, an essential part of your novel, but if you make them likeable and/or relatable to and/or admirable then you've done a sufficient job.

    If you do want to write a masterpiece, the kind of novel that will feature in English Literature lessons in schools across the globe in years to come, then by all means, delve deeper than this. But, really, if you want to write such a novel, you should ask yourself if YAs should be your audience.
     
  13. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Ok, for some reason I thought the thread was about unlikely heroes and heroines in YA fiction. You know, the round boy meets the flat girl. No idea why!

    Anyhow, thinking back to being a teen, I enjoyed novels with characters that had clear goals and ever-evolving relationships. That to a degree requires the characters to be pretty deep. And I wouldn't "dumb down" the books for the young audience. I just read a book review by a junior high student about Metro 2033 by Dmitry Glukhovsky. That's no light reading!

    Someone said Bella in Twilight is so flat (and I think she is) 'cause Meyer wanted her to be a clean slate, someone girls could easily relate to. But I don't like that kind of mentality -- even if it means the books are gonna sell like crazy. Besides, if the character is planned thoroughly, even if you end up showing only 10 % of what you planned, it's likely the character will come across "full."
     
  14. Thornesque
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    Thornesque Contributing Member

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    That's exactly what she did. She also developed Edward Cullen - write him very specifically - so that he couldn't be viewed in any way other than "perfect." If you've ever read the book, you'll see that near ever phrase in which she describes him includes some additional comment about how god-like or perfect he is. There's no objective description of his physical features. You're not given a choice in whether or not you think he's the most beautiful creature in the world.

    It was quite cleverly done. You under-develop the female "heroine" so that every girl can be her, and you fine-tune your descriptions of the male love interest so that, no matter what he does, he can always be seen as perfect.
     
  15. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Oh, true, pretty crafty! Yes, I've read it... :redface: (for a university class on Children's Literature!)
     
  16. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Sadly you describe all the Disney princess stories younger girls are raised on.

    I realize there's been some effort to change these stereotypes with later Disney princesses. Too bad they haven't yet carried that over into their marketing narratives. But I digress....

    When you raise little girls on Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White, it should be no wonder a story like Twilight follows.
     
  17. Xatron
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    Xatron Contributing Member

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    Even Cinderella was somewhat deeper than Bella.
    As KaTrian mentioned, Meyer made her heroine devoid of any good points, skills or character, no merit whatsoever so that she would be relateable by any 12 year old girl (not unlike the Disney princesses). That resulted in an abysmally bad splotch of ink on paper (i won't even call it a book), which the kids and YA audiences made a best seller.

    So the answer to the OP question differs depending on what you want to write.
     
  18. MilesTro
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    MilesTro Active Member

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    I think perfect characters, including love interests, are dumb. There are too many good looking male characters which girls can fall in love with in romances and YA novels. Even the zombie boy in Warm Bodies is handsome, but pale. But I kind of like him because not only he is undead, he is just like any normal guy trying to get a date, but imperfect in a way. The human girl falls in love with him because he starts to act human with emotions that no other zombie has (I didn't read the book yet, but I will soon. I only know some details. Don't spoil it). Should authors discriminate fat and ugly male characters from getting pretty girls who they desire? The movie, Shriek, did that by pointing the middle finger at fairy tail stories. Vampire characters are always perfect because of their powers. They are basically the image of perfect wealthy people living on the lives on poor people. That is until the vampires in 30 Days of Night were made, and they were very scary.

    So I guess it is true that bestselling books don't have to have good characters as long as their motives are clear. Maybe bestselling adult novels are different than YA novels. But mainly it is all about entertainment. If so, I guess either flat or round characters can be entertaining to both smart and dumb readers.

    I don't like books that are similar to other books. Mainly because they follow the same theme with predictable outcomes and lessons which I already learned. Two bestselling books I found, which sound the same, are the Legend book series and the delirium book series. Both the first books focus on a girl who meets an outsider boy who she falls in love with and discover what is wrong with the society she lives in. At the end, the love interests and their relatives sacrifice themselves for the girl characters to escape. Like the Hunger Games, a rebellion is going to happen. So !@#$ing predictable. I don't care if it is okay for writers to write a similar plot, even if it is entertaining. New books with different concepts and new ideas are better to me.
     
  19. Alan Stange
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    Alan Stange New Member

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    I think young adults relate to complex, conflicted characters who show moral development over the course of their journey. The Outsiders comes to mind.
     
  20. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    Miles...stop watching TV and reading comic books and take-up pottery--because you are not going to do well in writing.
     
  21. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    I think this is an inappropriate comment. There is no need to criticize or make assumptions of other users in a discusion thread.
     
  22. MilesTro
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    MilesTro Active Member

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    Not everybody writes good on threads. We focus more on the subject.
     
  23. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    I did not call miles a name or say that he is a bad writer. The facts of writing fiction are that stories are about people--characters--going through crisis, win or loose, and that is what the reading public wants in the novels that they read. (that is what they have always wanted) Miles has a number of times stated that he wants to write about things happening with no correlation to, or how the people that will appear in his stories might feel about what happens to them.

    No one will be interested in reading those kinds of novels.

    So my advise is that he needs to find something that he can be successful in.

    I'm sure all of us would rather he be happy than tormented and unhappy.
     
  24. MilesTro
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    MilesTro Active Member

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    You're still complaining about that? Writing is all I do, and I'm not going to give that up.

    Of course stories are about characters solving a problem and going through a crisis. But I think bestselling stories should have logical characters that readers can relate too, but not too cheesy. Teenagers are complex kids, why not their favorite characters?
     
  25. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    For one - the way it's written it almost sounds like he should take up pottery and quit writing. I understand now that this is not what you meant.

    But you are still criticizing him on his use of time, which is, frankly, none of your business. In fact, there is a lot to learn from tv shows and comic books. They use the same tropes as books, and many of then are well-written.

    I know you just want him to be happy, but his happiness does not have to be the same as your happiness.
     

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