Well, have we?
A lot of writers struggle with balancing action and suspense with realistic development and emotion. I've received a couple emails about concerns that in writing physical struggles at the forefront, internal conflict plays second fiddle.
In many ways, characters vs. plot or even the conflict in pleasing your readers vs. pleasing yourself.
We get caught up in all the little opinions - agents condemn certain features and talk about the importance of "emotion" and issues relevant to the YA audience, and critics on sites like Goodreads can be absolutely brutal about their preferences. We as authors have a tendency to reconsider our choices and our work in their desire to be relevant and pleasing and, well, good.
But it's all about balance.
And I do mean action-oriented and not action-packed.
All plots have a sense of urgency to them, and that pacing is absolutely vital. It's important not to forgo that in the mistaken belief that it's action-action. With action-oriented YA, growth doesn't become irrelevant, the character arc is a bonus, not the point. I don't know about you, but I crave pure action. As much as internalised dialogue and reflection has its place, I very much prefer to witness a character's arc through their finding out a way to deal the madness that is thrown at them.
This is where I tell you that Bella should've figured a way to overcome her situation and thus discover her ability to function and flourish independent of a significant other. Much as Katniss probably should have transcended her selfish struggle between martyrdom as the mockingjay and her desires.
But above all, you need to write the book you want to write.
Kiersten White recently did a post on the most sought-after information in our industry, the so-called Secret to Getting Published. And her advice was "Write the best book you can. Write it as best as you can". And you know what? You can't do that if you're trying to please everyone but the person who is in an extended relationship with the story. If you're going to eat, breathe and sleep with this thing, you have to not only like it, you have to love it. And if you're sacrificing everything you want and love in a story to do that, it's not going to go anywhere.
And again, I'll stress that it's all about balance.
Just like emotional and descriptive scenes, action scenes tend to get repetitive. And I think this is where the adventure and thriller novels have lost readers' faith. You can't constantly rehash the same conversation without rubbing people up the wrong way, just like you can't apply cinematic storytelling to all of your action sequences.
Films are not the same as novels. As someone who makes both, I can honestly tell you that if you try to translate one into the other, you're going to lose a certain je nais sais quoi. And you'll bore your reader. Can you imagine reading Rosie Huntington-Whitely screaming "SAAAAAAM" every ten pages, separated by the same enormous robots jeering at one another and destroying the city a la Godzilla? No? Well, neither can your reader. And that's why those cinematic adrenaline rushes don't satisfy your reader - it just makes them want to hurl your book across the room with significant force.
Action and suspense and thrill will only incite actual adrenaline if your reader feels the stakes are relevant, if they care about the stakes. And in YA, it's all about how your audience is struggling for their identity. Your novel has to be an outlet for them. They need the thrill of watching people hunt demons and fall in love, or figure out conspiracy in the middle of a space opera, or fend off spiders and neo-Nazis while climbing to the centre of the Earth.
We haven't seen the end of action-oriented stories in YA. Not at all. But it's important that we see how inexorably it's entwined with how our characters discover their sense of worth.
How about you? Please yourself or please your future readers? How do you find the balance between character growth and action-oriented storytelling?