Canteen, pith helmet, bug repellant, gun = Diary, journal, memoir, notebook.
Taking notes of your own life is an act of writer survival. The jungle of emotion, of achievement and failure, that is high school becomes a life-long fascination for most American adults. We all were there.
Some writers are there now. A quick glance at some of the touchstone work of American authors reveals masterwork novels:
SUMMER OF ’42,
THE LAST PICTURE SHOW,
and movies AMERICAN GRAFFITI, REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, BOYZ N THE HOOD, PRETTY IN PINK, CLUELESS, BREAKFAST CLUB, FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH, HEATHERS, BRICK, RUSHMORE… well, the list is endless.
What do these outstanding works of fiction, whether originally as breakthrough novels or as stand-alone movies, have in common? They were written by adults.
Meanwhile, a large number of talented young writers in junior high and high school are ignoring the jungle all around them to imagine more fantastic and/or paranormal fictional settings. No argument that these settings and scenarios of created worlds hold magic for all of us. But, so does high school. And so does junior high. The real ones.
How old do you have to be to have written CATCHER IN THE RYE or TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD? How many foreign countries and major American cities would you have to have visited to have written RISKY BUSINESS or FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF or AMERICAN PIE?
There is a novel in every last year of junior high.
Is anyone who is actually there writing one? I wish more young American writers would give it a try. Even if you throw in a sparkly Vampire or shapeshifter now and then.
The best works about high school, though, are just that: stories about high school. If you choose not to write about high school or junior high now, about the summers between class years, at least take notes. Trust me, you’ll need them later.
And, if you’re thinking about being published in hardcover while you’re still a teenager, don’t overlook Kody Keplinger’s wonderful high school novel THE D.U.F.F.