When all else fails, ask the YA character

As a writer of young adult fiction, I want to create characters whose identity development is heading toward healthy, or veering off toward unhealthy, or anywhere on the spectrum in-between. In my YA plotting process, I create what-if scenarios. If my plot outline offers a particular character a choice, I write a scenario that, no matter how difficult the decision, the character takes an appropriate action and as a result is gifted with a new sense of self-trust. Then, I try the opposite, and let the character’s most immature, self-serving, base self run riot. Lastly, I ask the character what he or she intends to do, and sometimes dialogue flows or the character takes a fork in the road that appears not to adhere to my plot outline. I run with the change, at least for a while. Sometimes, the characters know exactly what they are doing. Yes, this is more work than following the outline without deviation. But who wants obedient characters?

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