Thursday, February 4, 2010

TEX-MEX TEEN VOICE - Bettina Restrepo

Fourteen-year-old Nora, an illegal Mexican immigrant searches for her missing father, while living under the radar, in Bettina Restrepo’s debut YA novel, ILLEGAL (Harper Collins, 2011). Bettina is also the author of the picture book, Moose and Magpie (Sylvan Dell Publishing, 2009).

You can visit Bettina at her website by clicking HERE ,and see what she’s working on now.

Writing for Teens.
      By Bettina Restrepo.

Writing for teens is where I am as a writer, not something I aspire to be. Characters drive the stories I write, so I listen to their voice. The voice tells me what they are doing, how they will dress, and what they see in the world.

I write about things that are still on my mind from over twenty years ago. But, when I address the issue – the character gets to relive it in all their glory. They get to right the wrong. They get to go down in flames from turning the wrong corner. They get to fall in love and then decide when it’s over. I love that my characters hold the power, even though they don’t know it.

I have been criticized for lack of physical character description in my writing. It’s one of the last things I put into my book. I believe the teen reader is incredibly smart, and still holds onto the spark of imagination that seems to vanish with adulthood. I want my reader to become the person in the book. If I bombard them with physical descriptions, it’s like I rob them of the full immersion into the story.

It’s just my little way of saying, “You can be anyone you want.”

Here are my simple writing rules:

1. It’s all about the character and their growth.

2. The character must solve their own problem in their own way. They can seek help, but the solution must be organically their own decision.

3. When in doubt, refer to rule #1.


Kathy McCullough said...

I loved this post. Because I love books where I "become the character." Writers who can achieve that are amazing, I think. I can't wait to read "Illegal."

Bettina Restrepo said...

Thanks for letting contribute Randy!

Alyssa Kirk @ Teens Read and Write said...

She makes some good points. I like using my imagination to envision (and become) the character. It's one of the reasons I don't like to see the face of the main character on a book cover. I haven't read this but I'll put it on my list!

I really enjoy your blog! said...

Kathy -- Just wait till everyone meets Delaney. :-)

Bettina is one of the most story-innovative authors I've met. I was lucky enough to read 150 pages or so of her next book, Telenovela (the first portion of which is set in Bogota. :-) said...

Alyssa - I know!

It's one of the reasons I don't like to see the face of the main character on a book cover.

I don't like describing even my main characters' hair color. I want it to be the color of the reader's.

Terry said...

I agree that characters drive the story. Your stories sound good.

Amy Holder said...

Love this post, Bettina!

I think letting a character address issues that are still on your mind from long ago in a way that you wish you would have is one of the best parts of writing.

Also, I love the tip about not giving away too much physical description of your character in order to let the reader slip into his/her role - brilliant!

Lea said...

Fantastic post. I love it when the author allows the reader to really use their imaginations to create the main character. It's more fun to let them look the way you imagine them :) said...

Hi, Lea. Thanks for dropping by!

Lea is, by the way, an "authentic" teen voice.