Please, Please, Please, Give Your Protag Friends, a Sibling, Parents
I often hear beginning writers complain that they’re not sure what happens with their protagonist next. That they’re stuck. Often part of the problem is that their book does not have enough relationships in it. They’ve left out the parents, made their protag an only child with no friends. The only other characters are the love interest and the villian. And none of the characters are coming to life because they’re only in the book for one reason: to be the Love Interest, to be the Villian, to be the Protagonist.I'm rather fond of the relationships in books myself, not just the romantic ones, but all relationships of the main character to family and friends and the world around them. It's a part of what make them complete. It's one of the reasons I loved The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder so much. It was full of relationships, most notably for me, the relationship with her mom, because so many YA books leave parents out of the equation all together. I definitely try to think about relationships in my own stories, not just romatic ones, but the entire spectrum.
There has to be more. You get the more by complicating things. Let’s say the protag’s best friend is the villian’s sister. Already that gives both the protag and the villian another dimension: their relationship with their BFF/sister. Both characters suddenly became a lot more interesting.
And those romantic relationships that are most interesting to me are not the first-love, getting-to-know-you variety, though I don't mind seeing that in the beginning. I find it more interesting to see how a relationship grows past initially lust and lovey dovey feelings to something more deep and complex, the state of a relationship after the newness wears off, which is also something you don't see much in YA especially, but also a lot of fiction in general. I would like to see a lot more variety of relationships and kinds of romatic relationships in books.
Racism in the Books We Write
It is almost impossible to avoid writing work that can be read as racist. If you’re writing about people, you’re writing about identity, and a huge part of identity is race.She goes on to explain how her own books have both helped and harmed readers regardless of her own intentions. I recommend reading the entire post.
We are all seen through the lens of race. We all see through the lens of race.1 Whether we’re conscious of it or not. If you’re a writer you really need to be conscious of it. Because if you don’t think you are writing about race, you can wind up writing things visible to your readers that are not visible to you.
Often that is a not good thing.
[Cross-posted to my website.]