Archive for July 2nd, 2010

Friday, July 2nd, 2010 by Rosemary
Balancing Act

When I was a kid, for a few weeks every four years, I would want to be a gymnast. It never lasted very long, but my brother actually took gymnastics. *I* was not was because there were high up things, and I have the grace of a gazelle… a gazelle on roller skates. *I* was in ballet, but there, the farthest I could fall from was the height I could grand jeté. Which wasn’t very far.

But here’s what I know: Toe shoes or balance beam, no one can teach you balance. It’s very internal and subjective, and the only way to learn it is to try until you stop falling down.

Writing is all about finding balance. Weighing narrative against dialogue, exposition against example, interiority against action… all while juggling plot elements.

YA is particularly precarious because the audience itself is sort of straddling a line of their own, between kid-hood and adult-hood. We have to weight our books equally to both sides, to keep the balance.  For example:

  • World building: Descriptions have to be sufficient to set the scene for a reader who may not have the experience to form a point of reference… But many teens are impatient with description and want to get on with the plot.
  • Independence: Your teen characters have to have enough independence from the adults in their lives to make them the driving force of their own story… but not so much independence that the story becomes implausible.
  • Racy content: too much and it seems like sensationalism… but too squeaky clean (depending on the target age), and it seems saccharine and Disney-fied.
  • Current culture: You want to sound up to date… but not like you’re trying too hard to be hip. (And you don’t want to date your dialogue, either!)

But here’s what else I know (because I was so bad at it in ballet): Balance comes from the core. When you tighten those abs and “pull up” from your center, as Miss Kathy would say, you can stay on pointe.

Or on point, to carry over the analogy. Stay true to the core of your story. If you know what story you want to tell, and what you want to accomplish in telling it, you will know how to strike the right balance, whatever you’re audience.