Researching for a Young adult novel…or…

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Melissa
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Researching for a Young adult novel…or…

Post by Melissa » January 14th, 2010, 9:54 pm

Researching for a Young adult novel…or…What I learned from watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Whenever I heard about people researching for a book, I always thought of them spending days and nights in libraries crouched over countless books, visiting archeological digs to learn about a culture, or spending endless hours talking with people that lived through significant events. Little did I know that my research would include watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

To be clear, I have invested a small fortune in young adult novels this past year to get a feel for the genre but overall, I think many of those stories have some of the same features that I noticed in Buffy. Having avoided the show when it originally aired, I was able to watch the entire series over a few weeks in an ongoing marathon each evening. It made me appreciate why the series became so popular and why people were so upset when it finally went off the air.

The side benefit of claiming it was “research” was that I could justify watching the show to colleagues who would have otherwise thought I was regressing in my mental capacity to stay up late watching multiple episodes of a teenage vampire series each night. ;)

So what have I learned?

First, the inaccessible love interest. Ah, Angel. How can Buffy be with anyone else but her first real love? Alas, challenges kept getting in their way (like Angel’s happiness causing him to turn evil…oops!) However, I doubt the show would have been as interesting and successful if they had stayed together once they were in love. So, what does that mean for me? Well, it makes me wonder what I can do in my stories to authentically keep the couple I *want* to see together from immediately falling in love and being disgustingly romantic from the get-go. After all, isn’t there supposed to be teenage angst in the story? If the girl gets the guy right away, where’s the challenge?

Second, the “bad guy”, Spike, was a more interesting and complex character (to me and other Spike fans) than many of the others in the series. Reading the Buffy message boards (for research of course…yeah, research) some people were upset about the extent that Spike took over the series towards the end. But, there were reasons why he had such a presence. To have a character that was originally perceived as bad struggle with his identity and ultimately save many lives was more interesting than if he had simply been portrayed as “good” or “bad”. Plus, Spike was definitely easy on the eyes. (Hmm, perhaps that last line was a bit off-topic.)

Third, the characters had plenty of other challenges going on in their life that they had to deal with in addition to finding love. They didn’t simply wait around to find the girl or guy of their dreams, they had to face down their own demons (or vampire, werewolves, zombies, etc); grow up and find jobs; and handle enemies that didn’t forget them just because one episode ended and another began. Just like I don’t want a one-dimensional character, I don’t want to have a one-dimensional story either. Teenagers have a lot going on in their life: family/friend issues, challenges at school, and other personal crises. They have to deal with multiple things going on at the same time and so should a realistic character.

Fourth, Good friends, a wooden spike, and holy water can come in handy…Well, maybe I should just stick with the first three things I learned.

Your turn – tell me what you’ve learned from your research.

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Emma
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Re: Researching for a Young adult novel…or…

Post by Emma » January 14th, 2010, 10:13 pm

I actually really enjoyed this post. To be perfectly honest I was embarrassed the second I realized I still have my Buffy DVD in the drive and paused mid episode. I had stopped it when I decided to write an entry for this contest. I actually found out a lot about myself while writing my first YA novel. (Still unpublished but I am hopeful.) I even found out from my father that some of the topics I was studying that somehow seemed familiar to me were things I had studied as a child. Yes, I was one of those children who was permanently attached to a text book... right up until it came time to do school work. I think that research can help a person learn any number of things and even find new things they enjoy that they may not have realized. Great entry!

Sincerely,
Emma Michaels

Thena Smith
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Re: Researching for a Young adult novel…or…

Post by Thena Smith » January 14th, 2010, 10:49 pm

This was such a fun read and also had some helpful advice-do your research.

Very nicely done!

Melissa
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Re: Researching for a Young adult novel…or…

Post by Melissa » January 14th, 2010, 11:28 pm

Emma wrote:To be perfectly honest I was embarrassed the second I realized I still have my Buffy DVD in the drive and paused mid episode. I had stopped it when I decided to write an entry for this contest.
Lol - My Buffy DVD's might not be in my drive...but they aren't too far away (don't tell my coworkers). ;)

Andrewauthor
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Re: Researching for a Young adult novel…or…

Post by Andrewauthor » January 15th, 2010, 4:32 pm

Ah... would that I could get the same humorous, yet compelling style of Joss Whedon manages with his television shows

Sophie Minter
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Re: Researching for a Young adult novel…or…

Post by Sophie Minter » January 15th, 2010, 6:16 pm

Well, like you I’m writing for YA and did research as well. I read several--several YA books and found like you did that my characters would need conflict especially in love. Which, okay, I get it, you have to have conflict they can't be happy--all the time from the get go like you said right? But here's the deal, life is full of real conflict in love and when we write we want to make our stories the way we would want life to be right? Bare with me, I'm going to make a Twilight reference--you've been warned. Take Edward and Bella, in New Moon, major conflict, and almost everyone’s least favorite book of the series (mine included). Why? Because we (yes we) hated seeing them a part. The best book--Breaking Dawn worked better because Bella and Edward were not a part but together and faced the Volturi together as a team. So, what I learned was that even though my YA book must have conflict--even in love, it doesn't necessarily have to be between my two star crossed lovers.

Melissa
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Re: Researching for a Young adult novel…or…

Post by Melissa » January 15th, 2010, 6:58 pm

Thena -thanks!

Andrew - I so agree about wishing to have Whedon-esque abilities. (Maybe by the time our novels are made into series we'll have that talent.) =)

Sophie - Good points! There certainly can be a lot of challenges even if characters come together and stay together - whether from within the relationship or from outside issues. So, I guess the challenge is to figure out authentic challenges whichever way you decide to write your story. So, I can believe that Edward might be soooo worried (in New Moon) about Bella getting hurt that he wants to get as far away from her as possible in order to protect her. His rationale seems to fit with his character that was established in the first book. However, If instead he had found another love interest in book 2 that kept him away from Bella, that would not be authentic since it was already well established how incredibly special Bella was to him. (I'm sure Stephanie Meyer would be happy to know that I approved of her choice of conflict, right?) I really appreciate you sharing your thoughts! It gave me some good ideas to ponder for my own stories! (Although I am sorry to say that I am one of the ones that liked New Moon better than Breaking Dawn...don't hate me.) =)

Sophie Minter
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Re: Researching for a Young adult novel…or…

Post by Sophie Minter » January 15th, 2010, 8:01 pm

No, I don't hate you, I'm just wiping the sweat from my brow because you read them too. Although, a Buffy fan/researcher must have good taste in YA books. P.S.--Spike was always my favorite.

rose
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Re: Researching for a Young adult novel…or…

Post by rose » January 17th, 2010, 2:29 pm

I love you YA authors. You keep young love alive for the rest of us.

Note to self: Rent Buffy.
Charge to research budget.

rose
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Melissa
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Re: Researching for a Young adult novel…or…

Post by Melissa » January 18th, 2010, 3:53 pm

Sophie - Anyone that likes Spike, must be pretty cool. =)

Rose - Too funny! I wonder if my Buffy DVDs can be a tax write off...
=)

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