The Writing Skills You Can Learn From 5 Popular YA Novels.

My earliest memory of reading was going to the library with my mum when I was a toddler to pick my books for the month. My mum is an avid reader and she encouraged our love of reading. The trip was always the same, an hour in the library picking out books, then a play in the park opposite, followed by a picnic. These are some of the most vivid and enjoyable memories I have of childhood.

The love of books has stayed with me throughout my adulthood. When I heard we were to be on lockdown for weeks the first thing I thought of was what books am I going to read. I chose to read the Song of Ice and Fire series. As an avid fan of Game of Thrones and never having had time to read the books, this was my ideal opportunity. Now at the end of the day, when the real world has become too much, I transport myself to one of my favourite fantasy worlds.

My childhood was littered with many classics. The Secret Seven and Famous Five ranked in my top five and so did The Magic Faraway Tree. There were, however, some children’s books that I came to as an adult. These hold as much wonder for me as an adult, as they would have, had I found them as a child.

Little did I know at the time that this reading and analysing of text would help me as an author in later life. The book I have started writing this month is a young adult, dystopian. A large amount of my reading in adult life has been young adult, dystopian. Each of these books has taught me a different skill for my writing.

Harry Potter — Character Building

I didn’t become a Harry Potter fan until the fifth book. The hype for the Order of the Phoenix started, so I read the first four and joined in with the hype for the rest. I was glad I did it was like joining a special club. I can also say I was there when a book became so popular, people slept in the street until the shops opened. Before, this had only happened with games such as Call of Duty, but never with a book.

Harry Potter is as popular as it is because of the quality of the writing. JK Rowling can not only build amazing new worlds but has a talent for writing characters. Her characters are so multi-dimensional you only meet part of them. There is so much below the surface that we do not know about the characters. During an interview, JK Rowling stated she had books on the back story which never made the novels. This extra care to detail makes the books such as success.

Care to detail is an essential part of any writers life. There should be far more to a character than you show in your story. You should live with your character and know all their likes and dislikes. Whether this makes it to the story is irrelevant. What it will help you do though is have multi-dimensional characters that appeal to the reader.

Hunger Games — World Building

I can’t remember when I first heard about The Hunger Games it was before the films were announced. I remember thinking what a great Catniss, Jennifer Lawrence would make. This was how I knew that I read them before the film hype.

Hunger Games broke the mould for me. The author wasn’t frightened to display an awful world and characters that were flawed. There are times that you want to shake all the protagonists. It is because of the flaws that you learn to love them. Whilst watching them overcome their demons and develop, you learn to love them more.

I do not believe there is another dystopian world better than Panem. Suzanne Collins developed such a dynamic world and government system, you are completely invested in the journey. As much as I admire JK Rowling for her character development, Suzanne Collins is a master world builder.

Like all good books, The Hunger Games is close enough to the world we inhabit to keep us thinking. There are ideas of communism, greed and class systems that are evident in the world today.

The action in The Hunger Games starts almost in the middle of the story. Panem has already been divided into districts, The Hunger Games is on its 74th year. Everything that has come before the novel has been planned, but not written about. This detail in her world-building is what makes the stories so compelling. It has also provided her with material for other books, including the prequel to The Hunger Games.

Inkheart — Pure fantasy and Imagination

Some of you may have heard of this trilogy. There was a film made of the first book, which was awful and didn’t do the story justice in my mind. The story is about a Meggie whose father has a unique talent he can read characters out of books. For bookworms, this book is a must, as it combines childhood favourites such as Ali Baba with the unfolding story. Each chapter has a quote from a childhood classic, which added to my love of the book.

The story is pure fantasy. With this novel, the author is not afraid to make the story as magical and strange as possible. The writing quality makes these fantasy ideas come together in an amazing adventure journey. The author has not been afraid to push the limits with this book.

It is a quality many writers should take on, the skill to write in a way that even the impossible seems possible. As writers, we should not be afraid to push the limits of our reader’s imagination. Using our skills in writing we can make the unbelievable come to life.

Through the Never Sky — Design Your Own Technology

Through the Never Sky is another trilogy set in a dystopian world. The inhabitants of the world interact with each other through a virtual world. Every person has an eyepiece they wear all the time. Through this eyepiece, they can be transported to many different places. The explanation of the technology is so complex that every reader can relate to what is written.

Veronica Rossi has designed a world full of technology. Although it seems very far away from the world we inhabit now. The writing makes it believable. Recently I have thought about this book. The world describes a virtual world that the characters interact through. In a world of lockdown where I am looking for a way to teach students virtually, this book has been in my thoughts. We are closer to this world now than we have ever been before.

Divergent — Never Sell Your Book Out

I remember when I first found Divergent. My foster son brought me back an exert from it when he went to watch The Hunger Games. He had seen that it was similar, knowing how much I loved those books, he thought I might like this one. I read the first two chapters and knew I had to read the rest.

Divergent is like the other books in the fact it builds a world similar to our own. Unlike a true dystopian, it sets the action in Chicago. A Chicago however, that is so removed from the one we know the book is dystopian. All three books were as good as each other. I couldn’t devour them quickly enough. The ending of the trilogy was unpopular with many fans, for me it was perfect and extremely brave. Killing off a key character at the end of a book is a brave move by any author. JK Rowling was not afraid to do this but didn’t go as far as killing her main character off.

As a writer though, it is when these books went into film production that we can learn. The author lost control of the books. As the story progressed, the films got further away from the original material. The last book was made into two films as the production company tried to make more and more money. How much of this the author had a say in, is unknown. What is known is that JK Rowling kept control of the movies throughout production. Veronica Roth didn’t have this say and so the last book was split into two films.

The last film was so badly done, that it bombed in the cinema. The second half of the final book was never made. There was talk of it becoming a TV movie, but none of the stars who signed up was willing to go into TV. The actress who played the main character, Shailene Woodley was said to be so disappointed she thought of quitting acting. Ironically, she now stars in a TV series so whether it is true she refused to star in a TV movie, I am unsure.

As an author, the ultimate high is having your book made into a film. Whether you take the money and run, or ensure it does your book justice is down to personal preference. I for one would hope I have the integrity to see my book through to a successful conclusion.

All these books taught me about writing young adult books. The biggest impact they had, was to open a new genre of books to me. After Harry Potter, I devoured as many as I could find. The hype of Harry Potter attracted me to so many more young adult books. I found some real classics, books I fell in love with. To this day I love young adult fiction. Many authors may have not have had the success they did if JK Rowling had not led the way.

Having read in the genre widely I now know that my next book will be aimed at a young adult genre. Putting the tips I have learnt from these writers in my work is essential.

If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or tools) to write. — Stephen King

I want to write the type of book that transfers between generations. Young adults can read it, but parents also have a good time when they read it. My love of reading as a child, led to me reading more young adult books. As an adult, I am now writing the type of books that entertained me as a child. Inspiration can come from anywhere. Writing a genre you know and enjoy is the most important tip for any author.


Sam H Arnold is a UK writer and mentor. To support her writing, check out her mentoring program or read her fiction work visit Patreon. To follow all her work find her on Facebook or join her Email List

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