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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Wright

A Coming of Age Story

As a writer of mainly coming of age stories, my thoughts often turn to this particular genre and its conventions – writing for children or teens about characters with whom they can relate; stories that are adventuresome to them; and slipping a message in there somewhere. I enjoy reading young adult fiction for these reasons and then some. YA, when told from a teen’s perspective, as is often the case, just seems new and fresh to me. I usually enjoy the characters because they are young and impressionable and I find it fulfilling to see them grow by the end of the story. What is disconcerting to me is when I read a YA novel – a coming of age story – that doesn’t fulfill these expectations.

What is the point, if I may ask, of a coming of age story in which the characters don’t develop or change in some way from the beginning to the end? If the characters don’t “come of age,” how can we call it a coming of age story? When I read coming of age stories, I expect there to be character improvement or change somehow, even if it’s only the protagonist admitting to a lesson learned. I also expect there to be some kind of lesson learned.

Maybe the protagonist learns to look at the inside of someone without judging; to walk in someone else’s shoes; to live free of unreal expectations; to accept life’s hurdles; or to love more abundantly. Maybe the protagonist’s “coming of age” is more of a practical nature – he finishes school, he graduates, his life moves onward.

Whatever the case, the coming of age story focusses on characters and their development, making it not only a perfect genre for young adult fiction, but a great exercise for novice writers. If you’re looking to improve your character development skills, try writing a coming of age story.

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