Monday, August 22, 2011
Where Stories Come From
A while ago on another blog (in a galaxy far, far away) someone wanted to know why people who weren’t young adults would be interested in writing YA. It struck me as 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, 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. How about you? Why do you think you are drawn to the genre you work in? Which of your core emotional themes and issues make it a perfect fit?