Friday, March 16, 2018

Emotional Battlegrounds

The topic for blog posts this month is battlegrounds. But I’d like to focus on emotional battlegrounds. Don’t get me wrong. Actual battles are important for YA writing. Conflict needs to come to fruition since stakes can’t be hypothetical, meaning there needs to be a payoff. An emotional battleground informs YA writing, though, because characters need stakes and goals, as emotional layering is ultimately the last aspect of writing that authors need to master. For example, a writer can improve with imagery, voice, and dialogue, but might not understand the emotional aspect of YA fiction.

To help give an example of emotional battlegrounds, I’d like to mention my YA Fantasy novel IN THE NAME OF MAGIC (which is forthcoming from NineStar Press with a tentative release date of June 11, 2018). I don’t just have intense action, there’s also a lot at stake emotionally, and not just for my main character. One example is my main character, Maximillian, who hides his non-magical best friend, Katherine, when Queen Vivian wages a campaign against non-magical people. The obvious implication is Maximillian and his parents risk life or death by giving Katherine shelter. And while that fact is true, there’s more. The emotional layer is that Maximillian is always in a heightened state. The concrete detail (hiding Katherine) informs how he feels in any given moment since he needs to navigate life carefully. Stefan and Anastasia are another example of illustrating emotional battlegrounds. They have their own reasons for hating Queen Vivian (their older sister), and that fact informs their choices and feelings throughout the novel.

Depth is also important for emotional battlegrounds, and I’m not just talking about what is at stake for one character. I’m also referring to when an issue pops in YA fiction. With IN THE NAME OF MAGIC, said issue is oppression against non-magical people. Obviously, oppression and bigotry is wrong. However, I don’t want the issue to be cartoon-like, which means I need a character to take Queen Vivian’s side. And that character is Taylor. Just like in real life when people are on the wrong sides of issues, Taylor is also on the wrong side of oppression against non-magical despite how he’s dating Katherine (a non-magical person). Furthermore, I give Taylor a real reason why he would be on the wrong side of oppression, i.e. he’s not a flat character since his family has been having financial trouble, and that’s why he supports Queen Vivian—she’s offering the snake oil of fixing Magnifico’s economic problems.  

Another way to look at emotional battlegrounds is banter. A scene doesn’t always have to be life or death to provide stakes. The former ABC television show Revenge might be TV as opposed to YA Fiction, but still illustrates the importance of emotional battlegrounds. The main character, Emily, always has intense banter with her enemy, Victoria, even when weapons aren’t present. The banter between Emily and Victoria goes beyond melodrama. There intense verbal confrontations are always rooted in concrete facts as opposed to only trading insults.

Anyway, I hope the above discussion about emotional battlegrounds helps, and informs your writing!!!

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