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5 Simple Rules for Writing YA for People of Color (Part II) + Giveaway!

Doug Miles, Apache © 2003

Doug Miles, Apache

So yesterday, I gave the first two rules of my 5 Simple Rules and if you haven’t read that yet, you should start here.  No, really, otherwise the whole effect is ruined.   So here it is again.

Caught up?  Good. Great. Terrific.  Now you are ready for the mind-blowing conclusion to 5 Simple Rules and it starts with rule #3.

3.  Understand that people of color are not a monolith (sound familiar).  They read all kinds of books.  Yes, some young people of color love realistic fiction set in places that they recognize and filled with characters that are going through similar things.  On the other hand, there are others who want to escape the recognizable world all together.  They want to read about witches or mermaids or aliens.  Some want to read about future dystopias, angels, and demons.  Some want to read about kid detectives and girl geniuses.  The sky is the limit.  (See number 1 for what this means for you as an author.)

Case in point:  I have a cousin who is an avid reader and entering his teens.  This kid reads a little bit of everything: Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Kane Chronicles, Huckleberry Finn, The Dark is Rising.  And he has a dozen friends whose interests are just as diverse, and I know this because they are swapping books all the time.  His tastes are so varied that I can’t wait to talk to him about what he’s reading now.  I started writing my Shifters Novel series because I wanted to write books for him where he could see a character that looked like him in a fantasy book (which is one of his favorite genres).  Don’t believe the hype that says that people of color only read one type of book or relate to one type of story.  People of color read all types of things.

4. Don’t feel compelled to write the book that will save the world. This rule comes less from any impulse that I have as an author and more from the expectations that I have encountered in my authorly travels.  It’s true: people of color face a variety of unique social ills and most of our traditions (if you will allow me to be literary for a moment) have a long history of producing “uplift” fiction that depicts our communities through only the most positive lens, but the times—they are a-changing (have changed a long time ago, if you want to get technical).  If you set out to write the book that you think will address all the social ills and obstacles that young people of color must face and overcome, you will probably end up with something that comes across more like a sermon than a work of fiction.

In my series, I am not particularly concerned with “uplifting” a particular community while demonizing another.   Good comes in all shades in Nate and Larissa’s world and so does bad (kind of like the real world).   A close reader might see that, on multiple levels, the worse threat the twins face comes from within their community and not from outside.  Am I trying to convey a moral here, not really.  Any good book is going to have a lot of layers and maybe even some lessons.  However, that’s not necessarily my central focus; I just want to tell the story.

Last but not least:

5. Understand that people of color are not a monolith.  Get the point?

Of course, my rules are not law (at least not until I take over the world, which judging by today’s efforts, may take just a bit longer).  There are a lot of ways to write a book that will appeal to young people of color.  In the end, as with anything, the most important thing is to write your story and the audience will find you.

Need the perfect stocking stuffer?  

Enter the Shifters Nation Holiday Swag Giveaway! (Click Here)*

*Four ways to enter:  Leave a comment; like the post, follow me on Twitter @ShiftersNovels, and Tweet the blog.  Each thing gives you one entry and contest ends 12/16 at midnight, so that the winner will receive prize by Christmas.

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Filed under Black Sci-Fi 2012, My Writing Process, Writing