re: Writing YA Historical Fiction with a Reflective Adult Narrator

posted 11/2/11

Dear Editor…

I am in a quandary about a historical novel I’ve started. I want to show how one woman was captured by the Shawnee, rescued, and married her rescuer. But I also want to show how another woman has a burden for her brother and the fate of her tribe at that time. Ultimately I imagine the women meeting again 20 years later. I feel there are 2 ways of life to show. Is it best to write about them from an older age looking back or to take them from youth when one was captured at 14 and the other was about 20? I am old (75) and wonder if I will be able to capture their young voices and feelings.

—Jane

 

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Dear Jane…

Adult narrators who reflect back may fall into the trap of filtering their teen experiences through their adult sensibilities. That is, now that they’re wiser, they’ll comment on why they or others chose to do what they did. That’s more likely an adult book than YA. Teen protagonists aren’t that mature yet, so if you write your ladies as young people, they’ll be more likely to just judge, act, and react, without considering their or other characters’ true motivations first. They’ll mature by the end of their adventures, but they won’t start out that way. You can save their eventual meet-up for an epilogue.

Happy Writing!
The Editor

P.S. For more on this topic, read Narrative Voice, Point of View, Teen/Middle Grade Fiction
Comments to "re: Writing YA Historical Fiction with a Reflective Adult Narrator" | Add a Comment
    1. Bill wrote (on 11/04/11 at 2:26 pm) :

      I would agree. You could have the adult voice at the beginning, but after the initial reflection on their lives as kids, you’d have to switch to the kids’ voices. Think of “Stand By Me”. An adult narrator, but when he’s a kid, it’s the kid’s voice we hear, not the adult.

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