Friday, February 10, 2012


I am very excited to be taking part in Christine Fonseca's blog tour for the release of her novel DIES IRAE. I've known Christine for some time as the author of the great series of non-fiction books about gifted kids. They are excellent, and very useful books, but today is about her novel.

I've asked Christine to do a guest post, because I haven't had time to read her novel yet (although I read the first chapter, and am looking forward to finding the time to read the rest). I asked her to write about the difference between writing about teens (as in her non-fcition) and writing for teens (as in this awesome novella). Before I go on too long, I'm just going to let her take it away:

Writing For Teens vs. Writing About Teens

Hi all! Thanks, Matt, for hosting a leg of the blog tour for DIES IRAE. Today marks the end of the first full week. WOO HOO! I hope everyone has enjoyed the tour so far

For today, Matt asked me to write about my transition from writing nonfiction ABOUT teens to writing fiction FOR teens. What a great topic.

A little background is needed to really explain what the transition has been like. I am a trained school psychologist, adapting a cognitive behavioral approach to most of my work. Additionally, I am well versed and trained in integrative or transformational psychology. Basically, that means that I typically take the approach of teaching kids and adults how to change their perspective and reaction to things in life, thereby taking control (to whatever degree possible) over the outcome. Whew, what a mouth full.

Okay, keeping the above in mind, I started my soiree into writing by means of my nonfiction, writing books about the social and emotional needs of gifted children, including gifted teens. The audience for the books was initially parents and educators. Given my personal beliefs regarding psychological books, and my desire to make sure the information in my books was completely accessible to everyone, I chose a writing style that was more conversational and less formal.

With my next nonfiction book, I took much of the same information I had given adults and wrote it specifically for kids, aged 8-12, switching the tone to one that was even more fun and relaxed. My next book will be geared for teens, and the language and tone will reflect that.

With fiction, I’d always intended to write for teens and new adults. As a psychologist, I work with teens every day, so writing stories for them just seemed natural. And, given my tendency towards psychological concepts that speak directly to the specific audience I am dealing with, I assumed that this would be a natural transition for me.

Fortunately, it has been.

That said, there are a few things I keep in mind when writing specifically for teens:
  • Language usage—I am very conscious of my word choice and grammar usage. While I never speak “down” to kids, I don’t want to speak in a way that is too formal either. This is probably the thing I have had to work on the most. Prior to writing books, my writing mostly consisted of psycho-educational reports and technical documents written in a strict APA style. Yeah, that does not work for fiction.
  • Topic—as with nonfiction, I am always striving to fill a void, whether that means filling a specific educational niche, or writing a familiar story in a new way. Topic is something very important to readers, and something I try to keep at the forefront of my thoughts while still keeping true to the artist inside.
  • Cliché—yeah, I just avoid them. Period. At least I try to. My teen group, a group of several teens that serve as a focus group of sorts, is great at helping with this.
  • “Smart” plots—one of the best things about working with teens, I realize just how smart they are. And how hungry they are for complex storylines. My job as an author is to constantly strive to give them just exactly that—a complex storyline that rings true.
  • Authenticity—while all readers demand authenticity from their stories, I find teens to be particularly scrupulous in this regards. Sure, they are more than willing to suspend belief at times, but only if the plot is plausible in some way. Teens are relentless when it comes to characters behaving in an authentic manner, more so than most readers I think. So, I am too!

When I first tackled the topic Matt gave me, I will admit, I was nervous. I wasn’t sure I knew how I made the transition. In fact, I wasn’t at all certain that I had even made it successfully. And I’m still not entirely certain on that point. But, in thinking and stewing about this topic, there is something I am now certain of—the transition really wasn’t much of a transition. The overlap between my genres is much greater than I had previously realized. And other than the things listed above, things I pay particular attention to, yeah…there isn’t nearly as much of a difference between writing for teens and writing about teens. Not much at all.

I guess all of you will be the judge as to whether or not I did it successfully.

Thanks so much, Christine! I find the entire topic fascinating. Before I let you all go, I just want to let you know where you can find Christine, and her books. Before we get to links, though, here's the final cover of DIES IRAE:

Now here are Christine's links:

Her website.
Her blog.
DIES IRAE on Goodreads.
LACRIMOSA on Goodreads.
101 Success Secrets for Gifted Kids
Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students.

That's basically it. Except Christine is also willing to offer two free downloads. The first is for any of you. All you have to do is comment on this post, mention that you would like to win, and provide your contact info if it is not already included in your blogger account. The second download can only be won by a teenager. If you know one, you can enter a second time on their behalf, but they'll need to be willing to supply Christine with their email address, and what type of e-book they need (Kindle, Nook, etc.). Yay for free books!

And one final thing, I'm posting over at Project Mayhem as well today, talking a little bit about what books mean to young people. Feel free to read that too. Thanks, and happy Friday!


Laura Pauling said...

Teens and young teens are so smart. From what I can tell with my daughter and her friends - a lot of middle schoolers read YA and adult, the ones that like to read. They aren't scared away by language.

Natalie Aguirre said...

That's awesome that you have teens to give you advice Christine and to help you be sure you're talking like them. I use my daughter--a captive audience--for help with that too.

I already won one of Christine's contests so I'll let someone else win.

Sarah said...

Fabulous guest post! Christine--I think I'd forgotten you were also a psychologist. Very cool. And I wish you all the best of luck with this novella!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Great post, Christine!

It's important to write according to how teens would approach things, not how an adult, with a life of experiences, would deal with issues. If you do the latter, the story is no longer authentic.

Em-Musing said...

Great post. Wish you all the best. I myself could never get into the head of a teen. I admire those authors who can.

SA Larsenッ said...

Your concept to try and fill a void is one of the main reasons I write. I've experienced much in my life, much which I know could help teens. Times have changed, but our inner needs as human beings hasn't.

Your cover is totally gorg, Christine!! I'm here if you'd like more support. Hopping over to Goodreads now.

Marta Szemik said...

That's a great post Christine. It's good you have input directly from teenagers - I'm sure that helps!

Tasha Seegmiller said...

I agree - teens know when they are being talked down to, and that's the fastest way to make them hate you.

Great advice!

Bryan Russell said...

Do your non-fiction books explain how to avoid being driven crazy by gifted children who use you as a trampoline? If so: Sold.

Michael G-G said...

I tell you one thing. The number of psychologists who are great writers too is impressive!! Good luck with Dies Irae, Christine.

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

With the larger picture of the cover art that Matt linked up that a face in the clouds? I'm seeing a face with very deep set eyes and a nose and kind of a beard. It's about the middle of the painting. It looks very stern but definitely has me intrigued.

Lydia Kang said...

This is high up on my TBR list. Can't wait to read it!

Creepy Query Girl said...

Congrats Christine! Great guest post! Enter me in the running!

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

I'm so excited for Christine. It's interesting to hear about this transition (not so difficult after all!) was for her. I remember switching from adult to YA and it felt so natural.

I think it's great, too, that she has a group of teens reading for her. What a great resource.

Kelly Polark said...

I love that she has a teen focus group. They must give such good insight!
Great post, Christine!

Christine Fonseca said...

Thanks everyone. Yes, my teen group is AMAZING! My goal is to meet with them more often, and mentor more as about half have their own writing goals.
And yes, my NF does talk about how to NOT go crazy from the GT kids in your life.
And SA Larsen - you know I will ALWAYS take any offeres for support ;)

Jemi Fraser said...

Yay for Christine!!! :)

I love the point about not talking down to kids. It's a different style of writing - no less complex or sophisticated, but definitely more relaxed, comfortable - and usually a whole lot of fun!

Jade Hart said...

wow, that' so cool, and awesome to get to know you a bit better. I'm looking forward to reading your book - I love the title ;)

Talli Roland said...

What an interesting post! I made the transition from non-fiction (journalism) to fiction, and I have to admit it was a struggle at times! Glad Christine's went smoothly.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

With fiction, teens don't want to be 'written at.' They see through that ploy.

Jeremy Bates said...

good point about not talking down to the reader... i think that's one of the most important rules, whether teen or adult fiction or whatever!

Michael Ignacio said...

Thank you for posting this. It really helps to understand what appeals to teen agers, especially on the account that I barely remember being one myself. As an experienced author, have you noticed any difficlty from a person transitioning from writing toward adult audiences to writing for teens? Is it harder to do this vice versa?