In case you haven’t been a teenager for a while, let me remind you – the teenage years can be tough. There are hormones, important exams, the shifting sands of friendships and parents who sometimes forget what’s important. And that’s on the good days. On the bad days there can be challenging mental health issues, unreasonable expectations and a world political scene which looks a lot like everyone’s lost the plot. The pressure on teenagers is huge.
This is where fiction can help. It can inform, enlighten, embolden, invigorate and inspire. The range of teen and YA books available in the UK for our teens is truly wonderful covering a variety of issues and stories. So many teens are helped by reading about someone in a similar situation, or given the insight of empathy. They are all needed. But not every writer writes every style. After years of writing, I have realised that what I repeatedly write is feel-good fiction. Flicking through my ‘positive comments’ folder (kept for moments when I need reassurance) phrases such as heartfelt, feel-good, sense of hope, light-hearted and fun keep cropping up, so why has it taken me so long to acknowledge that is what I write? Why did I think for so long that I was going to ‘graduate’ to writing ‘serious stories’? I’m not sure exactly. Recently several people have said they ‘raced’ through my story, and it got me thinking. I wasn’t 100% convinced that this felt like a compliment. Was it because my story was too simplistic? Maybe it didn’t go into enough depth or didn’t need much stopping to think about? (Welcome to writer’s brain, where even a compliment has to be examined!)
It has taken me some time to figure out my feelings about this and this is what I have concluded. If a story of mine provides a teen with a few hours of happy escapism, with maybe a happy-cry included, then I will have done my job. If it renews their belief in friendships, gives them hope that things will work out, puts a drop of happiness into their well, makes them giggle a bit when they should really be sleeping/revising, then I’ve done what I set out to do.
As a recent writing exercise, our writer’s group was asked to describe our writing. The example was given of a French feminist’s writing being received ‘like a meteor landing in your back garden’. Did my writing arrive like that? No. Mine’s more like your best friend turning up. And she’s brought cake. And I’m okay with that.