Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Narrative Mode ~ #3 Coming of Age

The Coming of Age format is often used for YA novels because the main character is often a young character, usually on the verge of coming to terms with the difficult realities of life.  It is also not unusual for the main character to be an adult, one with a rather innocent view of life.  A writer can certainly make numerous tweaks to this narrative mode, but below is a fairly standard plot.
  • The young character finds his/her current life is understandable and carries demands that can be managed.  There may be struggles, but these are challenges to be expected and he/she is prepared for them.
  • A sudden event changes everything.  This can come in the form of a death of a parent, the loss of economic stability, grave illness or injury, any major tragedy of which the child (or innocent adult) cannot negotiate easily.
  • This young person has personal strength and a strong sense of self and the rules of his society.  But these beliefs come into questions as he/she works through the rising difficulties.  People he counted on may fall short.  Rules long reliable may lose power.  Places always safe are not.  He/she must revise the solid set of values that have been a part of life for as long as he/she can remember.  Consider Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Huckleberry has believed and followed the law of slavery.  He views slaves as a subgroup that are appropriately under the control of their slave owners.  As a result when he comes to know an adult slave he has always viewed as lacking intelligence and sensibilities, he must questions these recognized laws.  In fact, as he spends more time with Jim, he finds him a caring man, a substitute father, and unexpected life guide, limited only by opportunity and education. 
  • Negotiation of the often negative demands of the new order become a necessary action of the main character.  In some way, the character must come to terms and establish a new sense of ethics or hold the original ethics as inviolate.  Huck had to make a decision: live by the rules he has always accepted or proceed to break those rules knowing what the consequences will be.  He chooses to view Jim as a human deserving of the same rights he has, and he works to give Jim a chance to acquire those rights through getting him into non-slave territory.  He knows he is working against society and the laws of his group, and he accepts he will be punished for this.  He was guilty of treating Jim as less than human, but he has learned the true value of friendship and promises.  He has come of age.
Well, I am still thinking about what will be next week's narrative mode.  I'll let you know then.
The Little Handbook of Narrative Frameworks available on Smashwords and Amazon.

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