Megan Miranda: Writing the Adult and Young Adult Perspectives
Before writing my debut adult novel, All the Missing Girls, I’d written several thrillers for young adults. When I began writing, I found myself thinking about the big events that happen during adolescence when characters are just finding their place in the world. I was interested in exploring how these events not only test a character, but also allow them to discover what they’re capable of for the first time.
But I found that, while stories end for me, characters tend to linger. And I began thinking about whether the big events that happened to these characters as teens also shaped the people they would become as adults. This was one of the leaps that took me from writing young adult fiction to writing adult fiction.
In All the Missing Girls, the key characters are all in their late twenties. But ten years earlier, when they were teenagers, one of their best friends disappeared without a trace. Within the mystery, I was also interested in exploring how the different characters either have or have not moved on with their lives. Whether it was truly possible to escape the past—or other people’s perceptions of them from the past. It was a story with the same type of core, but approached from a different angle.
One of the questions I’m often asked now is whether there’s a difference in my approach to writing young adult versus adult fiction. And as I’ve thought about this, the answer has been both yes and no.
When it comes to the writing process itself, the answer is no. Whatever story I’m writing, I start with character, giving the story over to their voice and letting them lead the way. This has remained the same for both my adult and young adult projects.
But it’s also this process that provides the main difference in my approach, as well. By nature of the character age or experience, the story will be filtered through their unique perspective, told from a different angle.
In young adult fiction, the main character is often experiencing things for the first time, so there’s an immediacy to the voice that can feel very immersive, especially in times of major emotional events. In YA, it’s often these two things that I’m trying to convey through the character’s perspective: the events, and also an emotional understanding, a way to make sense of the world around them—and their place within it.
But in adult fiction, in place of this immediacy is instead all this perspective that gives the characters a context for the events. In writing through the adult perspective, I found I was often trying to convey different elements instead: the filter of their perspective—the years and experience lived to that point—alongside the events themselves.
The story always follows the character for me. The process, in that way, remains the same. But it’s the point of view that shifts, the lens the story is filtered through.
The perspective changes, but the heart remains the same. At the core of any story, it’s the people that matter most.