Author: Leah Meahl

Inside the Head of Your YA Protagonist: What You Need to Know

 

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Last week, I was sitting around a conference table with an enthusiastic group of writers. They passed out their copies and we all took turns offering gentle but constructive feedback. Before I go on, consider joining a critique group; it’s key if you want your writing to grow and your story to be the best it can be.

An older gentleman in the group read his piece, and I was intrigued by the fact that his main character was a 16-year-old girl. The feedback that followed focused on how his MC sounded more like him than a teenage girl. How can he help that? How can you?

Here is a list of details you should keep in mind when writing in the perspective of a YA:

  • Teenagers are in the beginning stages of finding themselves. Even the most mature teenager probably has many underlying insecurities. If it’s not body image, it’s peer pressure, or bullying, or not feeling understood. If you’re writing contemporary YA, you also have the growing amount of mental illness among young people to factor in. It’s not cliché, it’s real life for them.
  • Your characters shouldn’t act too logical or mature. Young adults are still learning about handling conflicts. They are infamous for acting out of emotion.
  • Just like with adult men and women, young adult girls think different than young adult boys. If you’re writing in the perspective of the opposite sex, one of the first details you should research is the mindset of that gender. That way, you won’t impose too much of your own thinking on your character.
  • Seek to understand what abstract concepts look like to young people. What do they fear? Do they have hopes? What does victory look like? How would they describe love? The fears I had at 15 are on a completely different spectrum than the fears I have at 26. And I’m still peeling back the layers of love. Capture that, and your youthful readers will relate better to your characters.
  • Understand your time period. Some of these traits are universal for teens, but some details change depending on the generation you’re exploring. For instance, Generation X seemed to be very keen on getting their driver’s license the day they turned 16, but Gen Z seems less motivated, possibly due to the many rideshare apps. Consider these subtle generational changes when you write.

Now that you have a whole lot to think about, how do you go about answering these questions?

  • Crack open the child psychology books. Rudimentary knowledge of brain development at that age can make a world of difference. Even if your character doesn’t suffer from them, learn about mental illnesses and how they affect emotions and relationships between people that age.
  • Interview your young connections. Sit down with friends and family members, a high school class, or a church youth group and really hear their words. You will get a real visual and auditory understanding of them as well as a peek into their mindset.
  • Find younger beta readers to look over your work and give them questions to focus on regarding character authenticity or plausibility. They may have good feedback that you can include in your manuscript.
  • Research trends, not only in fashion or ideals, but also in how young people are treated by bullies, parents, peers. What responsibilities are common for the age group in question?
  • Most importantly, remember. Remember your adolescence, your struggle, your journey, and your growth. Doing so will provide the heart that your story needs. The research will only enhance your experiences. As the writer, you can confidently give your young adult characters the arc that they need to make a compelling journey.

How do you like to tackle the mind of your YA MC? Let us know!


Leah Jordan Meahl is an up and coming Christian author. She loves to journey with new adults and Christians alike with her blog. Check out her full Bio.

10 Reflections from a New Author

 

This past year has been a special one for the books (pun intended) because I published my first book! As you know, the process is anything but quick, but you can bet that the experience has been rich with lessons that will carry on into my future projects. My brief takeaways might just work as a reminder for you while on your writing journey.

 

  1. Dedicating your work to God makes a world of difference

Writing a book is a daunting task that involves more than just hashing out 300 pages. You have the task of giving a reader an experience, good or bad, influential and entertaining. Praying over my message, my chapters, my ideas and more helped me surrender, knowing God will help, inspire, encourage, and take the book where it needs to go.

  1. Don’t marry your words

This idea comes from one of my writing professors. We writers can get so attached to our words that we fail to receive criticism. When it comes to crafting your ideas effectively, the best practice is to be open minded and flexible.

  1. Your audience is more important than your ‘dream’

I’ve always been so focused on “writing the book” that it hindered me from thinking about who I was writing for. Becoming a writer may have been the dream that got us started, but our attention to our readers allows us to bear good fruit, which is ultimately more fulfilling.

  1. Editing never ends

You can go through your manuscript a hundred times and still find something to tweak. I had several sets of eyes go through my work and I went through in a variety of formats, but the final product still has a few errors. Learn when to let go before you let the editing process keep you from ever publishing.

  1. Rejection doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer

I thought that I would be a mess when I received my first rejection. To my surprise, I had prepared myself enough to be confident despite each “No” from the industry. Publishing houses and literary agents reject for a number of reasons: length of the manuscript, criteria of the publishing house, market need, etc. Let them roll off your back as you continue to learn and grow.

  1. Your work is not less significant if it’s self-published

I always went along with the stigma of self-publishing. Obviously, it meant that the writer wasn’t good enough to get really published. Fortunately, I don’t feel that way now. Though some self-published books are less than good, self-publishing is a great way to learn about formatting and design. It’s also effective in building a readership that publishers ultimately admire.

  1. Don’t skimp on quality

In reference to self-publishing specifically, you are the one with the final say and the same goes for quality. Have editors but don’t rely on just their edits. Go back through yourself. Don’t try and design a cover if you have little to no experience as a graphic designer. Those details will scream low quality and end up hurting your readership. Cost effective solutions are out there, and you’ll be thankful once you have that stellar looking book in your hands.

  1. Marketing is a game: win or lose, you still have to play

Many writers hear the word ‘marketing’ and cringe. Growing your inner marketer is part of the job, and it will include trial and error. Read the books, try new things, get people excited about your work. Marketing is necessary, so bite the bullet. Seeing your platform growing, your calendar filling, and your books selling will make it all worthwhile.

  1. Doubt is part of the territory

No matter where you are in the process, I bet you’ve experienced doubt. I had many doubts right up until my release. We tend to doubt our story is as good as what’s out there. We doubt if anybody will truly enjoy reading our work. The list goes on. But don’t let those feelings keep you from doing it anyway. Keep writing, keep querying, keep advertising, and keep editing. You’ll be glad you did.

  1. Practice makes perfect

This is a lesson we all learn at a young age and it’s no different for the writing and publishing world. The more we read, write, edit and worm our way into the industry, the better we will get. I look forward to the day I can look back at my first book and praise God for how far I’ve come.

What’s something you’ve learned on your writing adventures? Is it on this list or is it something different? Please share with us!

Write on, friends!


Leah Jordan Meahl is an up and coming Christian author. She loves to journey with new adults and Christians alike with her blog. Check out her full Bio.

5 Messages Teens Desperately Need to Read

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It’s 2020! Never has it been so clear that we are living in a completely different world with a completely different set of rules. Each generation is reared up with other influences, more distractions, and a whole new set of problems.
Since we have accepted the call of God to write for the growing generations, we must now pay attention to their needs. If you’re wondering what to explore with your upcoming projects, these 5 crucial concepts are just some that teens desperately need when they open their next book.

1. Good vs. Evil

This concept isn’t lost on storytelling. Any good versus any evil can be found in just about any book. But I’m getting at the nature of good and evil. More stories need to focus on what causes good and what causes evil. We need to promote the biblical fact that we all have a fleshly, evil nature, even if we’re the protagonist. The fight may look different when we realize that good is caused by God and evil by Satan. But the victory might be just what someone needs to hear for their own life.

2. Hope in Mental Illness

We have an epidemic of mental illnesses on our hands. I read that nearly 1 in 5 people are dealing with some type of mental illness. The coming generation is plagued with depression and anxiety. We must write freely about it in order to spread awareness, but our words need to reveal hope and a means of help. I believe more than enough people will relate better when our stories show that we see, we understand, and we offer comfort in a hopeless mindset.

3. Authentic Love

If you’re like me, you like a good old-fashioned love story. But I’m not talking about writing more love triangles and epic romances. I’m talking about demonstrating through our words, the love Christ has challenged us to show. For example, what does it mean to love an enemy? A bully or an undeserving family member? What does it feel like when people fail at showing that love to us or worse, when we fail at showing it to others? A world of possibilities will follow when we take the time to unpack true love.

4. God’s Intentions

Culture has made it easy for young people to decide what they think of the world and what it should be like. Unfortunately, culture’s agenda hasn’t been kind to God’s ways. With a velvet tongue and a delicate hand on the keyboard, we need to nudge our readers to question the views of society just as they are taught to question the views of faith. We need to give them a glimpse of hope through family, marriage, service, and morality in a way that points them back to God.

5. Independent Faith

In reference to the last idea, it’s good to question your faith. The idea is to not only take for granted what has been given to you, but to also discover for yourself the deep well of truth ready to be explored. If we aren’t encouraging our readers to understand and live out their faith, what are we doing but providing entertainment which they get just about everywhere else in the world?

 

It’s easy to look at these messages and say, “Well, looks like you got yourself a good recipe for a cheesy, Christian read.” Not so.

Just because these themes are necessary for our audience doesn’t mean our stories need to be safe and boring. The youth is confronted with a harsh world every day, so we don’t need to shy away from the harsh truth. Pay attention to these felt needs and your writing will live on in the young hearts of those who read them.

Happy writing!


Leah Jordan Meahl is a Christian author who enjoys journeying alongside you through faith with her blog. Visit her full bio on the Bloggers page.

How to Survive the Sinking of the S.S. CHRISTIAN MARKET

Image from Pexels by Johannes Plenio

 

The high seas of the writing industry are tumultuous at best with raging competition and a strong current of marketing demands. Within the last few years, one of these waves has taken the Christian fiction market to a low. As a result, publishing houses are merging or narrowing their acquisition criteria, Christian brick and mortar stores like LifeWay are closing, and self-publishing is becoming all too tempting.

But don’t fear, fellow Christian writers! We have the ultimate Life Preserver. Yes, it’s Jesus! With a few simple truths to remember, He will help us refocus in order to navigate even the bleakest of waters.

Truth #1: Remember Who called you.

While we are all different, a common theme among us faith-based writers is the belief that God called us to write. After all, He gave us the skill, the desire, and the message to do so. While that calling doesn’t give us the liberty to do whatever we want with it, we can be certain that God wants us where we are until told otherwise.

And while we’re trusting in The One Who called, we can focus on constantly learning and producing quality work. Jesus understands the obstacles we’ve faced to get where we are, and He will see us through the obstacles heading our way.

Truth #2 Remember the Why

If we believe we’ve been called, we should also believe in the reason we’ve been called. God has cultivated in us His wisdom and His message and we have been charged to reveal it the best way we know how, creatively.

We have a genre, a target audience, and a need that have a special place in our heart. If you’re reading this, that audience might be YA, MG, or children’s books. If you’re like me, the needs of emerging adults inspire your writing. We long to make a positive impact in the lives of our readers and one that goes deeper than just a good story. Let the ‘Why’ be a driving force in your work even if the vehicle changes from time to time.

Truth #3 Remember the Priority

As Christian writers, we don’t just spill words on a page just because. Writing not only scratches that inner itch, but it also helps us communicate to a world that will always need someone to point them to the truth of Jesus. Though the market may seem low, I believe the spiritual demand is at an all-time high. The world is consumed with entertainment for entertainment’s sake. The next generation is growing up with fewer morals, fewer role models, and fewer reasons to be close to Jesus. If we use our words to entertain, educate, and encourage people for Jesus’s sake, we will be providing a worth that cannot be matched.

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When you feel lost in the sea of rejections, when you can’t keep up with the new tide of trends, or when the culture drowns your ambitions, you know what to do. Let the culture and the industry do what they do, ebb and flow as always. Fix your eyes on Jesus, The One Who calms the sea, and He will make sure you stay above water.


Leah Jordan Meahl writes Christian fiction and nonfiction for new adults. Click here to learn more.

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