Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Was It Really That Bad?
Looking through my journals, I'd have to say yes, it was. Or at least I thought it was based on what I wrote down. I started writing in a diary when I was 8 years old, one of these awesome Nancy Drew diaries with a lock and tiny key (pictured at left), but most of the entries were literally, "Nothing happened today." When I turned 12, I became more serious about my journal, and I spent much more time tracking my days. I kept writing through high school and college, although those later volumes are closer to my 8-year-old entries - "Went to party at Sigma Chi, saw ### and ###." Nothing very deep, other than a few random song lyrics decorated with paisleys.
But in the middle, I hit my stride. I wrote long detailed paragraphs with dreams and desires. It was 7th through 12th grade, and I wanted to be everything that I wasn't and nothing that I was. But did I only write the bad parts? Did I skip the funny, exciting and awesome stories because I was too busy living them?
I think it is be safe to say that the less exciting days meant that there was more time to pull out the journal and write. So these records of mine may be inaccurate, or at the least incomplete, in that they only show me in my glass-is-half-empty mood.
As a writer targeting young teens, I now spend hours staring out the window as I type, trying to describe what it was like to be 14, 15, 16 years old. I know I have forgotten probably more than I remember, but I have strong visions of those first romances, the notes we passed, the phone calls, and the daydreams. I also remember the angst and the inner turmoil that fueled my desire to read books and watch movies that took me away from myself. What was it about those stories that gave me comfort, made me feel like I could get through another day? I think it was because sometimes the characters were in worse places and had much bigger problems than I did. But other times, they were doing and feeling and thinking exactly what I wanted to be doing and feeling and thinking. (A list of books and movies that got me through high school will have to wait for another day...)
How can I tell which version is the one that teens want to read?
I guess what it comes down to is that it doesn't matter what my experiences were. What matters is if I can use them to tell a story that fills a need. And the more universal the need, the greater the appeal of what I write. It's really that simple.
I stopped by the library today and checked out a few books. Like I mentioned in my earlier post, I am on a quest to read the new dystopian fiction listed in The New Yorker. So my first effort will be with Carrie Ryan's The Forest of Hands and Teeth. I have loved that title since the first time I saw it, so I'm glad the article I read motivated me to finally check it out.