Pizzimenti, an educator and mother of four, believes all teens share characteristics such as resilience, idealism and a concern for justice. As authors we must consider these commonalities when addressing our young readers. For example, by giving them characters who deal with tough subjects many teens today grapple with (gangs, bullying, peer pressure, violence, divorce, drug/alcohol addiction, concern for their futures), we give them tools to face the problems in their world.
That world is increasingly connected via social networking (both in person and electronically), so your YA plot better connect your characters as well. Pizzimenti recommended mapping out your characters and how they are related to one another. You can create a bio to understand each one, though in the final story you won't necessarily include all that information (such as why so and so divorced his wife).
Pizzimenti also discussed "edgy YA," which addresses subjects that used to be taboo, aimed at older teens. In these, it is the main character that confronts the big issues head-on: abuse, cutting (self-harm) or considering suicide, for instance. "Consider creating a younger sidekick to the main character for less mature readers to relate to, especially when addressing the tougher social issues."
Other advice includes:
- Listen to teens talk: Keep dialogue simple--short and quick--but don't dumb down the vocabulary. Don't include jargon that can date the book, and avoid diatribes. Be honest.
- Talk to teens: Find out their fear, hopes and dreams. Learn from them.
- Read YA books!
- Get involved with youth: volunteer. Pizzimenti is the advisor to the Redwood Writers Youth Writing group in northern CA.
"Writing for young adults can be healing or ignite excitement for topics you love," Pizzimenti said.