When Characters Don’t Follow Your Rules

I’m starting a new project, a New Adult paranormal horror, I think. I’m still wavering between YA and NA. According to JJ at St. Martin’s, New Adult “is about young adulthood, when you are an adult but have not established your life as one (career, family, what-have-you).’ I also like Kristan Hoffman’s definition of New Adult: ‘There’s a period of time where adulthood feels like a new pair of shoes. The expectations of independence and self-sufficiency are still new, still being broken in. New Adults are the people who have just begun to walk in those shoes; New Adult fiction is about their blisters and aches.’

For me, this category is about young people struggling to figure out how to become responsible adults. New adults have the freedom to drive wherever they want, vote however they want, drink as much as they want. This is a life stage where people have to rely on self-motivation to do what needs to be done so they can do what they want to do. It’s learning to set boundaries and suffering through the consequences when they’re too lenient.

Initially, I thought ‘Project Z’ would be a YA project, but the Main Character keeps showing me snippets of her in college. Her mindset and behavior also lean more toward a ‘twenty something’ than a teen. I’m not sure whether her strong sense of independence stems from her situation or her age. She is New Adult, against my wishes.

Currently, a limited number of publishing houses accept this category, which leaves me wondering if I’m doing myself a disservice if I let my character have her way? I pretend like it’s a question when we all know what’s gonna happen. Ivy will get her way. She doesn’t care about the market.

Do your characters challenge your wishes? How do you handle it? Do you make them comply? Let them have their way?

Related Articles

Young Adult vs. New Adult vs. Adult Fiction
In Support of New Adult Fiction

Interview with New Adult Author Lynn Rush + A giveaway of her 3 books


15 comments on “When Characters Don’t Follow Your Rules

  1. tangynt says:

    We talked about this the other night. How Caleb started out twenty something, then wound up being shoved back to 17 because of the parameters of YA. Still, the characters will not be silenced. He’s starting to give me a headache, bemoaning the loss of his legal age to drink.

    • I feel your pain. So many life lessons can be learned in those few short years between 17 and twenty something. The level of independence and self-reliance jumps a few notches as well.

  2. My characters do what they want all the time. 😛

    As I read this I realized my current WIP, Come Back, that I have listed unofficially as YA is probably really NA. My heroine is 17 when the novel starts, and she’s 19 when it ends. It’s set in the mid- 1850’s, so she’s marrying age and will marry before the novel ends. She’s also living on her own, left behind by a wagon train at the beginning of the story.

    Have you checked out the blog NA Alley? The ladies over there have a lot of information about NA. There are agents and publishers who are interested in it. In fact, one of my crit partners just signed a book deal for her NA book.

  3. I haven’t heard of New Adult before, but it sounds like a much-needed category. I know a number of people who write for that age-group and have heard discussion on the blogosphere about where their stories should be aimed – YA (which is a little too young) or Adult (which isn’t quite right either) so I’m glad to hear of this emerging middle ground.

  4. lbdiamond says:

    It’s important to be aware of the “market,” however, time and again I hear the same advice: Write the story that you want to write.


  5. Yeah, you can’t really force the characters to do something that they don’t want to do, but you do have some options. You can work with them, try to get a compromise, see how that works out.

    Or if you have no other choice, you can fire the main character and cast a replacement. This is not an option for the faint of heart though. 😉 On the other hand, if your character is telling a story that you want to write, why not let them take the lead and see where you end up?

  6. I am in the middle of a massive rewrite because I decided to change the ages of my MC’s from 18 to 16. I did this per the recommendation of three literary agents. NA is tough to sell, unfortunately. But I do love writing it. Good luck deciding yours!

    • I’ve heard this, too. And you’re right, it would require massive rewrites because the age difference is more than just a number. It’s a whole different way of approaching life and relating to the world around the character.

  7. Sorry, Natasha! I was out of town last week and missed this post. I’m so excited to hear that you’re considering NA! Let me know if you have any questions about it. 🙂

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