I went to the LA Festival of Books today at USC. There was a stage there dedicated to a panel of Young Adult writers, and I got to listen in. One of the take-aways I got was that in YA fiction, its not the age of the characters that makes the story YA, as it is the issues the protagonists face. Teens struggle with identity, stepping out of their parent’s shadow, and dealing with issues like sexuality, drugs, alcohol, etc. Vampires are just exaggerated metaphors of the danger and allure of the opposite sex. It’s not about the vampire as it is about the girl in love with him.
We turn to heroes for role models, whether it’s spider-man in comics or Harry Potter struggling to defeat a great evil. When I was a kid growing up in the Philippines, my role model was our national hero, Jose Rizal, who fought the corrupt Spanish colonists through his writings. His novels and writings and eventual martyrdom sparked the Philippine Revolution.
I grew up thinking that I could do something great like that too (though not starting a revolution). In away, I wanted to change the world. But while in college, I learned the hard way that as writers, we don’t preach. Show, don’t tell. Give them characters who go through life as they see it. And I think this is the reason why I write. To give role models for the current and next generations.
Throughout literature, as well as popular fiction and non-fiction, we read about people who have gone through life changing events and have learned from them. We look at self-help books and other stories where good triumphs over evil, and we look for role models. So in the end, I’d like to make role models to whom people can relate to, and I should probably start writing it.