Jennifer Pickrell

YA Writer

RTW – We are family*


Another great RTW topic at YA Highway this week:

What themes, setting, motifs, scenes, or other elements do you find reoccurring in your work?

As funny as it sounds, since I write realistic stuff and am scared of things that go bump in the night:

  • Ghosts

Although I mean mine more figuratively, as in ghosts of the past have a way of catching up to my characters and creating all sorts of havoc.

  • Instability

There are no perfect people in my books, not even close.  I like that moral ambiguity – well X happened first, does it justify the Y response that is so seemingly f’ed up?

  • Family/Friends/Love

These all go together in most of my WIPs.  One is about a group of friends (not YA – gasp!) and my MC is like a surrogate mother to everyone.  She listens to their problems, makes snacks, and is really supportive.

In my YA stuff, parents poke their noses into things, as parents do.  I’ve got one set who are addicts and regularly screw up, but the one thing that remains constant is the fierce (almost too much so at times) love they have for their kid.

  • Laid-back/I was born in a small town

I grew up with backyard haircuts, hand-me-down clothes from boy cousins, and swimming excursions to “the lake.”  I’m used to people sitting on porches and saying things like, “I reckon so” while having a few beers.

Most of my characters grew up in small towns (or moved to a small town and experienced culture shock) and everyone is fairly ordinary.  They drive beat-up cars, work retail, and hang out in parking lots when there’s nothing better to do.

So I think all my themes add up to this:
I try to write real people/places with all their imperfections and quirks…with the hope there’s something relatable about them, because no matter if you’re from a town of 200** or a city of 2 million, some things are universal, like family and love and finding that little place you belong.


*Sorry if you were expecting Sister Sledge
**My town is considerably bigger than this; about 14,000 people, in case you were wondering.  Or, if not, it’s a fun little stat.  Yay, stats!


Author: Jennifer Pickrell

I write YA contemporary filled w/ romance, angst & family drama. Things I like: cats, snacks, baseball, green tea, taking pictures of trees & movies so bad, they’re good.

25 thoughts on “RTW – We are family*

  1. Small towns and ghosts sound good to me!

  2. I have to agree with you regarding the imperfect character. I’m not into the Mary Sue cliche, though I won’t deny I may fall victim to other cliches. Real people aren’t perfect and whether it’s a regular person or a supernatural, can’t let characters be one dimensional with perfection.

  3. Love the video! I was born in small town Indiana, like John, so I can relate. Rural settings are often in my books too.

  4. I really love when small towns make appearances in books. I think a lot of writers think cities are more dramatic, more versatile, but they miss out on the atmosphere and intrigue a small town can create. And now that song is stuck in my head.

  5. “…some things are universal, like family and love and finding that little place you belong.”

    I think this speaks so perfectly to YA literature in general. Very well said!

  6. Ghosts is interesting as a reoccurring theme.

  7. Ooh, I like your recurring themes/settings! And I picked out the same quote as Katy—really well said. Stories don’t have to take place on Mars or inside a computer to be riveting.

  8. “There are no perfect people in my books, not even close. I like that moral ambiguity – well X happened first, does it justify the Y response that is so seemingly f’ed up?” I love this, and any writing that makes the reader question shifting ethics.
    I also love that song.

  9. Ghosts pop up in my manuscripts, too. I’d love to live in a small town.

  10. I’m going to keep an eye out for these themes while I read 🙂 I love books that feature small towns.

  11. The ghost in my first book are real and physical! But my second book is set in a small town in the foothills of California’s Sierra Nevada. The MC is kind of a summertime visitor, so it’s interesting to have her view of things as well as how full-time residents view the town.

    • “Townies” vs. “Summertime” – sounds great; I live in an area that gets a lot of fall-colors tourists and since I’m so used to seeing it, sometimes I forget how “wow” it can be to someone for the first time.

  12. I’m all about the small town. And real people. And Mellencamp. Well done!

  13. Love imperfections and flaws…they’re all over my characters. Except I have a tendency to make several of mine clumsy (maybe because I am?)

    Great post!

  14. I’m from a town of 108…I’ve got you beat! Can you believe it? It’s called Chilcoot, CA. Glad to be living in the real world these days, but my small town did manage to sneak its way into my novel.

  15. I love small town stories, or even stories about small communities. Something about groups like that bring out tons of amazing quirks.

    Also, that song will be stuck in my head for a week now. Thanks a bunch, Jen! 🙂

  16. I write a lot of stories (almost all of mine) are overcoming intense circumstances – rarely brought on by the protag themselves. I see this happening again, and again in loads of different ways.

  17. I tend to choose small, cozy places for my settings. I’m more comfortable writing about them. I think I’ll have to break out of that pattern one of these days and put my characters in a big city for a change.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s