Creating Colorful Characters in YA

Whether reading or writing, we all want colorful characters. People who will jump off the page and make us care. When writing for young adults, the extremes seem to be:

Typical, everyday teens = not so interesting

Teens with supernatural or paranormal skills = not all that likely

There’s more to it, of course. For instance, most of Sarah Dessen’s characters seem pretty typical on the surface. And everyone knows how successful Stephanie Meyers has been with her vampires. Yep, they attend a regular high school.

But if you look closely at Dessen’s characters, they aren’t all that typical. They have special skills, unique problems, and/or interesting challenges. ¬†And the Twilight vampires are also firmly grounded in a very real love story.

So where’s that middle ground? Think of it like a college application. Not that all characters need a 4.0 or top SAT scores (boring!). But what they need is passion. For something. Or several things. They need to be colorful, and interesting.


Anna, from Stephanie Perkins’ ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS: passionate about films (and about a certain cute guy with great hair)

Lucy, from Cynthia Jaynes Omololu’s DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS: passionate about covering up an incredible family secret

Andi, from Jennifer Donnely’s REVOLUTION: passionate about her music and about the history she escapes into

These teens are definitely far from typical.

But it doesn’t mean they need to be vampires.

0 thoughts on “Creating Colorful Characters in YA

  1. Great post! My students and I talk about this very thing: that fiction people need to be a little more interesting than regular people, a little more impulsive and over-the-top. Otherwise, they can fall flat on the page. In ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS, I not only liked Anna’s character, I also loved the love interest; he just felt so real!

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