Monday, September 13, 2010

Where Stories Come From

A couple of weeks ago on another blog someone wanted to know why people who weren’t young adults would be interested in writing YA. It struck me as a bit of an odd question, because I’ve never had the sense that writers were only propelled by their own demographic for their stories. But it is also a legitimate question in a broader sense, and it got me to thinking about why we write and where our stories come from.

My own theory is that our richest, most authentic stories come out of our own traumas and heartbreaks. Not necessarily in a direct correlation—I was beaten as a child therefore I will write about child abuse. But rather the core emotional issues, the wounds and scars that have shaped us, will also shape our stories. And the nature of those will in turn help determine what age group we write for.

Stories are the psychological equivalent of pearls, if you think about it. At some point in our lives, we receive this grain of sand—some horror or trauma or huge obstacle that becomes a permanent part of who we are. And then the magic begins to happen. Time passes, we move on, we begin to heal, scar tissue forms, we begin to grow again, only this time our growth encompasses those painful experiences. And if you are lucky enough to have a creative outlet, those painful experiences cannot help but shape what you create, much in the same way the shape of your hand determines the way you play the piano or the choice of medium affects what your artwork looks like.

My childhood and teen years were my most emotionally tumultuous, one great big stewing pot of dysfunctionality. It tapered off toward the ends of high school, but it was too late. The scars and wounds I’d received in childhood were so much a part of me that they radically affected every aspect of how I viewed the world and how I interacted with people, thus ensuring high school was hard and not the glowing ‘best time of your life’ that so many adults think of it.

So it is no surprise that when I write, that is where my stories come from. That place. And yes, even though I am well, (WELL!) past being a young adult, Not only was that the most fertile for me story-wise, but the thematic issues I am drawn to explore lend themselves best to that age.

Once I hit adulthood, I got lucky, found unconditional love, got married, and had kids. My life has been pretty great so far. Not exactly smooth sailing, raising kids is never smooth sailing, but there have been far fewer traumas and upheavals, and very little scar tissue and lots of lessons learned.

Which is why I write for kids and young adults.


andalucy said...

That is an interesting, if odd, question. I wonder who would write for kids if adults didn't.

You always have such great insights. I would never have thought of that particular reason for wanting to write for children or young adults, but it rings true. The best and most interesting stories would, of course, spring from a powerful emotional source. And the emotion would come of conflict, fear, trauma.

Mel said...

Well said!
A person I know once said to me that if you have issues you want to deal with you go to a therapist.
If you want a cure you become a therapist, or you write.
That always make me laugh.

Mae said...

And I'm only eleven, but when I feel like it, I write tragedy. Sometimes, I have this 'stormy night' idea, and it becomes tragic. I mean, a thirteen year old heroine with a serious death wish? Her motive- extreme grief and love- is something we all can identify with. Doing something because nobody else will- that we can remember. She's simply the extreme rebel who can- oh, I need to get a blog. When I get FIRE published (which is NOT the book I was talking about), I'll have a blog for the website. By the way, if you're curious about that book, I can give you the basics of the plot.

Robin L said...

Lucy, I think she thought only people who were young adults, like 18 to 24, would be interesting in writing YA. And I'm glad the idea rang true for you. It's taken me a long time to figure that out...

Mel, interesting! I have heard people compare writing to therapy before. For the record, I don't think writer's should work out our issues in our books so much as that we have to figure sh#t out in order to make it work for our characters.

Mae, you sound VERY accomplished for being only 11! And interesting that you are so drawn to writing tragedy. Your character sounds very compelling!

Mae said...

Thanks- it's actually just a little obsession with one aspect, the death of friends leading to a death wish. Her name, in my opinion, describes her perfectly- Kestrel Rangress.