from Poŝtmarkoj el Esperantujo.

When I wrote The Third Time’s the Charm (available via Water Dragon Publishing), I didn’t think too much about genre. That is, it was “just” a fantasy story. But when the story came out, my editor asked me whether or not it was “young adult” (YA). And I honestly didn’t know.

I’ve read about a number of authors, particularly women, who are angry that their work gets pigeonholed as YA. I admitted I didn’t really know, but that I was fine with whatever he wanted to go with. So it got marked as YA and I didn’t think too much about it at at the time.

I’m now working on sequels, some that have darker elements, and so I was a bit concerned that perhaps there are limits that I should stay clear of. So I followed up with my editor who said, “Personally, I think the boundaries are pretty wide.” And sent me a link to a SFWA post. I found a statement by Stacy Whitman about “Edgier YA” to be particularly helpful:

Some break down YA further into two fuzzy categories, young YA and edgy/older YA. […] Edgier YA won’t shy away from more graphic depiction of sex, won’t shy away from using strong language, and will sometimes be gory in violence. Edgier YA characters will often be older teens, but not necessarily.

Under “Further Reading” there was a link to an article by Cheryl Klein: Theory: A Definition of YA Literature which has a helpful list of characteristics to situate YA:

  1. A YA novel is centrally interested in the experience and growth of
  2. its teenage protagonist(s),
  3. whose dramatized choices, actions, and concerns drive the
  4. story,
  5. and it is narrated with relative immediacy to that teenage perspective.

Now that’s the stuff.

I’m not quite sure why “story” is on a line by itself. I guess to exclude some literary fiction — or maybe slice-of-life stuff?

But the key takeaway for me is the focus of the story: is the arc primarily about how the character changes? Or is it primarily about other events in the world changing in which the character is a player? It’s the role of personal transformation that seems key.

This really brought into focus some choices I had made (unknowingly) but that make the stories fit better in YA than other alternatives. This will help me situate the sequels so that they stay in the genre and don’t wander off.

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