Tag Archives | writing young adult

Story Structure vs Voice in YA

Structure doesn’t sit in a bubble all by itself. Many factors make a story outstanding: emotion, character, voice, premise, the writing.

And they’re all interconnected.

Last summer, I broke down and analyzed ten different middle grade books – because that’s what I was writing at the time. More recently, I analyzed a movie and another mg, Princess For Hire. All this time, I’ve been reading YA, looking for a book that fits the bill when it comes to structure.

And so far I’ve come an interesting conclusion. One I didn’t expect.

But first let’s talk about middle grade.

Almost every single MG book followed the three-act structure perfectly. Some better than others, but it was definitely there. And the books I loved followed it absolutely perfectly. The authors used structure to their advantage to bring out the emotion and inner conflict. Maybe I got lucky with the books I picked?


Younger kids have a shorter attention span and need tight structure. What do you think?

Here’s what I realized so far about YA books: (because I’m still researching.)

  • The books follow structure but it can sometimes be looser, less defined.
  • What a book might lack in structure it makes up for in other areas like voice, premise, humor, or dialogue.
  • Many YA writers follow structure naturally – but they don’t all use it to the full advantage.
  • The structure is there but the midpoint, the climax, or plot points could be stronger.
  • I could careless about the structure I loved the story and voice that much.
  • I loved the character so much I didn’t care if there was a scene with her shampooing her dog.

But some things definitely happen in the YA books I love:

  • Hook
  • Voice
  • Great character
  • Inciting incident
  • As the story continues more is revealed and the tension increases.
  • There may or may not be a midpoint.
  • Second half of the book – the tension is doubled with bigger reveals.
  • Something devastating happens but there isn’t always a true dark moment
  • Climax (And even that depends on if the book is part of a sequel.)

I’m sure there are YA books out there I like that also have exemplary structure. I’m just starting on the journey to find them. (I don’t analyze all the books I read.)

Were you surprised that a lot of YA has less defined structure? Do you think it’s because teens have a longer attention span? How important is structure to you in your writing? I wonder if these YA books I already loved would have been even stronger with great structure. (Who cares other than me?)

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