Friday, May 31, 2013

Guest Post: Fantasy is Easy, Teenagers are Hard by Clay Held author of The Warner Grimoire Book One: Bad Apple

The Warner Grimoire Book One:  
Bad Apple
by:  Clay Held
Published:  May 1, 2013

Blurb: 14-year-old Simon Warner isn't having a very good October. To start with, he drowned, and then the real trouble started. Next thing he knows, he's back among the living, and face-to-face with an ghoulish-looking man who kidnaps his adopted father. Enter Nathan Tamerlane, a bonafide wizard, and soon Simon is deep in the hidden world of the supernatural, walking among the Freemancers: a secret society of wizards, and the stewards of all magic on Earth. 

Soon the truth is revealed: Simon's birth parents are wicked sorcerers who betrayed the Freemancers years ago before going into hiding. Making matters worse, a cruel and xenophobic warlock named Silas Darrow is gathering his followers (some would say worshipers) to lead an assault on the non-magical world. Now, if Simon ever wants to see his adopted father again, he's going to have to join Darrow's cult. Easier said than done. All it takes is one moment of weakness, and a powerful evil will infest Simon's soul forever.

Fantasy is Easy. Teenagers are Hard.
by Clay Held 

There’s a certain irony in the fact that while I have never cast any magic in my life, the act of writing magic is infinitely easier than writing a teenager, which I have actually had the experience of being.

Perhaps it’s because magic has an internal logic to it, where teenagers are walking piles of chaos running around in designer jeans and tapping into their smartphones.

Before I sound too much like a doddering old man, let me express my complete appreciation for my own teenage experience. It was when I grew up, not just physically, but figuratively as well. The search for identity is a theme that every teenager confronts at least once, whether it’s at school, or home, or even all alone, tucked away in a world of their creation.

These are the years when we become who we will be the rest of our life. For many, we encounter external pressures--get good grades, be popular, learn to manage stress. For many still they suffer with issues about body image, mood swings, and this not only impacts their emotional health, but it can leave them feeling utterly powerless.

Teenagers are undergoing the first real trials of their lives, and they need good art to help guide them and give them strength.

Good fiction can give teenagers the coping tools they need. It can be their escape, their refuge when they need to unwind. Good fiction can give them a role model, or guide them, or teach them the most important lesson of all: there are monsters in the world, metaphorically speaking, but these monsters can be slain.

Good fiction can ennoble the faintest hearts, can show them that even in the darkness, they are where others have stood and persevered. Whether peer pressure, or high parental expectations, these are the monsters of their own inner narrative, and good fiction teaches them to grow and to change and most importantly, to accept the demons and the challenges they bring. Good fiction makes them bold. 

It starts by being honest, and by drawing characters that are honest, even unflinching in their portrayal of the teenage experience. Teenagers are getting their first small taste of stress, they’re in transition out of childhood, and nobody is perfect. It’s like learning to walk, but this time, it’s an emotional and mental triumph. Those first few steps--they will be flawed, there may even be a few missteps, or several, but it’s absolutely critical to show them this is not just normal, but expected, and never shameful. Good fiction gives them these examples, these flawed, complex examples to follow, not just through their failures, but all the way to their successes.

There is no roadmap. It is purely an instinctual response, but you know it when you see it. The flawed character, the developing person in a situation that not only compels change, but demands it. These are the avatars for teenagers, and you owe it to them to create an authentic experience.

If only writing them was as easy as writing magic.

About this author
I'm a refugee from wild world of video game testing, currently a project manager passing my days in the wild (and very flat) plains of Central Illinois. Once upon a time I was the editor for Grassroots Literary Magazine at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, where I earned my Bachelors of Arts in Creative Writing. Today I help make sure software ships on time, and at night I'm busy making things up and writing them down.

In my spare time (what is that again?) I like to read and cook and play with my cats and maintain my blog at When the weather is right, I go storm spotting. Illinois is good like that.


  1. Great guest post! I completely agree that anything to do with teenagers is never easy.

    1. I thought it was really great to. Thanks for stopping by.

  2. What a great post! I'm not so sure I would do so well writing fantasy but teenagers are never predictable. Though I tend to draw a lot from my own experiences and that's the only way I'm able to write a teenager, I become one. Again. In my head.


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