Creating decent and likable characters in young adult fiction is no easy feat. In fact, most young adult novels fail primarily because they create irritating and rather insufferable protagonists. And if readers cannot cheer for your protagonist, they have little chance of actually enjoying your story.
Young adult fiction authors should not write as an adult looking back. This genre of writing requires putting yourself inside the mind of a teenager and often not caring much at all about the adult world. Creating characters that mirror teenage triumphs and struggles and deal with relevant issues (drugs, teenage pregnancy, bullying, etc.) is a must in order to tell a relatable story. Your goal is to appeal to young readers who desire to see themselves in the heroes they are reading about.
Writing Relatable Young Adult Fiction Characters
What are the most relatable characters to write about in young adult fiction? This question isn’t that difficult to answer if you understand the psyche of the average teen and the trials they encounter. Here are 5 relatable characters you should consider crafting in your story if you want to appeal to the young adult fiction audience:
1. Secretive Characters
No young adult fiction novel is complete without characters that are harboring secrets. Secretive characters make for very intriguing reading. They give young readers exciting puzzle pieces to unwrap. Think about every young adult book you have ever read. Most of them kick things off by introducing a handsome or beautiful stranger to the story whose alluring appearance is balanced by the dark secrets of their past. Most teens can relate to such characters because of their own tendencies. They identify themselves by the secrets they hold and those they choose to share them with.
2. Characters with Identity Crisis (Contradictions)
Characters that are contrary are very alluring in the young adult fiction genre. They add the sort of complexities that most young readers encounter in real life. No one is ever truly just one thing. Most people are a mixture of several shades – all struggling for domination. This is especially true for teens who spend so many years trying to determine their identities and playing with the different personas within themselves. Characters who are contradictions, who might be cruel yet funny, shy yet shockingly rude, add complexity to a story. Contradictions add layers to characters which in turn makes them seem much more human.
3. Vulnerable Characters
No protagonist is quite complete without a sense of vulnerability. Vulnerability is what makes characters relatable. It forces them to shed their tough exteriors and endears readers to them. So if you want your readers to gravitate towards your characters, you need to inject a sense of vulnerability that they can latch onto. Allow your characters to display an element of weakness that can resonate with readers and their own senses of weakness and vulnerability.
Some of the best characters you will find in the young adult fiction genre are essentially observers. Rather than actively seeking adventure, adventure happens to them. They have no control over the shenanigans that overtake their lives. Observers are crucial to most young adult novels because most readers feel like they are observers. Life happens to them and they can only react. In this regard, they can put themselves in the shoes of these characters that are similarly struggling to make sense of events they have no control over.
5. Active Participants
When including an observer in your story, it’s a good idea to flip the character into his/her counterpart. Why? In unsuccessful young adult fiction novels, observers sometimes fail to attract sympathy because they never seem to do anything. Instead of moving into action, they sit back and watch as the world goes to hell around them. Many times they are unwilling to participate in the events playing out before them, even when their passivity might lead to a loss of life. Active protagonist characters actually do things as opposed to waiting for things to be done to them. Though the observer may be easier to identify with, the active facet of the character will create a powerful “I Can” spirit. It’ll give readers a peek into the psyche of young men and women who are willing to forcefully take control of their lives, regardless of the sacrifice.
It is worth noting that most readers have very varied ideas about what makes an interesting and relatable character in the young fiction adult genre. The best young adult novels understand the importance of avoiding extremes and instead create a cast of balanced characters that can appeal to as wide an audience as possible.