Saturday, December 14, 2013

Finn Finnegan by Darby Karchut Guest Post #2

Writing Books for Teen Boys

Have you ever dreamed of writing a book? Maybe a book for boys and teen boys? Well, this coming year will be your year to write some magic.

Publishers are always looking for the next Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson and the Last Olympians), John Flanagan (The Rangers Apprentice), R.L. Stine (Goosebumps) or J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter).

Having written five novels for tween and teen boys, I thought I would share some of the elements that go into writing a “boy book.” I have created this list through reading hundreds of books, all with male protagonists, and through eleven years of teaching and observing 7th and 8th grade boys at Cheyenne Mountain Junior High School.

Elements to think about when writing a boy book:

  • Have a male protagonist (of course!)

  1. Duel protagonists are popular right now
  2. m/m or m/f; teen/adult
  3. Side kicks

  • Make sure “boy” questions are asked and answered 

  1. How do I position myself with other boys?
  2. How do I become a man, whom do I model myself after?
  3. What do I aspire to do and to be?

  • Include action, but not action for action’s sake

  1. Internal
  2. External

  • Write up, not down (honor their intelligence)
  • Use smart humor: body fluids/sounds can only go so far

  1. Appeal to their sense of mischief
  2. Make them laugh, especially after an intense scene

  • Explore life-expanding appeal (ideas worth discussing/arguing/defending

  1. What is real power?
  2. How do you do the right thing even when it’s hard?
  3. Does good always overcome evil?
  4. What makes a real hero?

  • Weave in the ups and downs of relationships with friends, parents, siblings, girls

  1. Explore the jockeying for position in various peer groups
  2. Pulling away from parental figures, especially father-figures
  3. Awkward scenes with girls should be balanced with more positive scenes with members of the opposite sex 

  • Have your character ask himself:

  1. Whom do I trust with my feelings?
  2. Whom do I trust with my hide?

  • Always include at least of the two of the senses on every page:

  1. Smell, taste, sound, sight, touch
  2. But also temperature and/or dizziness/balance  

  • Emphasize physical reactions to emotions

  1. his gut clenched, sweat broke out on his face, etc.
  2. I always start at the top of the head and work my way down, then choose an area of the body 
  3. Remember: boys act and talk side-by-side, girls face-to-face

When people ask me for writing advice, I always encourage them to do three things: First, read a lot. Read hundreds of books, both within the genre you wish to write and outside of it. Second, write the sort of books you enjoy reading—do not chase what is popular right now. By the time your book is published, that particular fad will have faded away. Third, write every day. Train yourself to pound that keyboard or scribble in that notebook anytime you have a fifteen minute window. Since I still teach full time, that is the only way I have managed to keep up with my publishing schedule. If you can write even a page a day, then by year’s end, you will have written a book. Now, there’s magic for you!

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