Mindy Hardwick's Blog

Author Mindy Hardwick Muses about Writing

Fathers in Young Adult Books

on June 14, 2013

There is a great blog post on the STACKED blog today: Complicated Father Relationships: A YA Reading List.

Kelly J writes….

There have been a lot of really good dads, especially in contemporary YA lately. 

But, father’s day conjures up less-than-awesome feelings for those of us who didn’t grow up with cool dads or even present dads. Some of us like to read books where the relationship between the teen and his or her dad is complicated, troubled, or absent all together.


The following are recent releases — published in the last couple of years — which feature those fathers who aren’t winning dad of the year. And it’s not that they’re all villains (though some are). Some are just missing. Some are not good at developing relationships with their teens. Sometimes they become better in the end and sometimes they don’t.

You can see the post, Complicated Father Relationships in YA here.

This post caught my eye because my own book for tweens (ages 9-13), STAINED GLASS SUMMER, is about a complicated Father/Daughter relationship.

Stained_Glass_Medium_72dpi

In STAINED GLASS SUMMER, Jasmine wants to be an artist, but her Dad’s shadow follows her at every turn. Dad has set the bar high for Jasmine. He’s a successful, award-winning photographer and works for the Art Institute of Chicago. Jasmine wants nothing more than to be like Dad and believes that in order to call herself an artist like Dad, she must also win awards. However, Jasmine’s Dad and Mom have a tense relationship, and when Dad leaves Jasmine and her Mom, Jasmine must find out how to call herself an artist by her terms.

Cheryl Klein in in her talk, “Essentials of Plot” references two types of plot: The Action Plot and the Emotional Plot–both of which should be in stories.  (Cheryl Klein is an amazing editor at Scholastic and has a wealth of information about writing for children. You can find talks she has given here.)

The Action Plot: The external action or conflict; what physically changes for your characters in the course of the book. The action plot is easy to identify in a book because it is the “what happens.”

The Emotional Plot: The internal action; or, the moral and emotional development of your characters as a result of the external action. The emotional plot is not so easy to identify, but at the end of the book, it is the arc of the character and how they internally change. How does the character see the world differently at the end of the story than they did at the beginning? How has the character grown? The emotional plot is also what motivates your character to make the choices they do in the action plot.

In STAINED GLASS SUMMER, the action plot is Jasmine’s move to the island, learning to live on the island, and becoming an artist.

The emotional plot is the letting go of the illusions she holds about her father and discovering how to call herself an artist by her own terms.

When I read a book, it often falls flat because the emotional plot is missing. The book may have great action, but without that key emotional plot of how a character changes, the story doesn’t work for me.

What is your action and emotional plot of your story?

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