LOOK FOR TIMELY TOPICS: Trends can lead the way to a plot. What are statistics telling us about youth culture? Is there a story in the news headlines? Don’t get stuck thinking the only timely topics that can offer up story ideas have to focus on young people. Flip news articles around and think of them from an adolescent’s perspective. Let’s say you’re reading about home-owners losing their houses during a national real estate crisis. Consider the shame that’s involved, which might lead you to a story about a teen whose parents’ house goes into foreclosure. After the rug is pulled out from beneath her, she begins living a lie about her family’s circumstances.
LISTEN TO CONVERSATIONS: Think of yourself as having roving ears, always on the hunt for snippets of conversations. Spend time in a coffee shop located near a high school and keep your ears open. You might overhear someone saying, for instance, that she has a crush on the father of the child she baby-sits. Can you do anything with that?
GO ON FACEBOOK: Young people can’t seem to get enough of baring their souls online. Read what they’re saying on social networks to craft realistic dialogue and garner story ideas.
SPEND TIME WITH YOUR SUBJECTS: If you don’t have any young people in your life, volunteer to work for a youth program.
Excerpted from Writing Great Books for Young Adults by Regina Brooks.