How many of you have kids or siblings who are teenagers? My youngest brother just turned seventeen. The other day something came up, and he found himself having to defend a certain position. He fiercely stood his ground, his voice passionate, unwilling to budge. He doesn't get like this very often, but when he does, EVERYONE knows it.
What is it about being a teenager? They feel everything so deeply--they're passionate about life, and it shows in everything: the music they write and listen to, the books they read, how they defend and stick up for things - even when they're completely off the mark. They're more likely than adults to be extreme in hairstyles, clothes, music, even food. They like to experience life to the fullest, trying everything.
How is it that we as adults lose this passion? Or, is it more that we've come to understand how life works? We've learned to choose our battles?
A few months ago, for the Mormon Artist magazine, I interviewed Michael Flynn, a Mormon actor, director, and producer. (Produced The Best Two Years. Mormons may recognize him as Pontius Pilate in The Lamb of God, or the sheriff in Footloose.) He commented on this topic. "Passion is what drives the industry — you need to really understand what your character wants, why they do what they do. You bring the passion to it, you bring the emotion to it. That’s really what it’s all about. The passion.
After the interview, Michael made a comment that viewers can always tell when the actor doesn't feel passionate about what they're doing. And, he said, viewers will always choose a passionate movie over something that is only so-so where emotions are concerned.
This applies perfectly to writing. A couple of point-blank questions we need to ask ourselves: why are we writing if we don't feel strongly about it? How can we expect someone to read our books if our characters don't have an intense pull to something?
I think this especially applies to young adult literature. If we're writing for teenagers, we need to give them what they crave: passion. Hunger Games is an emotionally intense book, and no one will argue that Twilight doesn't appeal to its target audience. I'm sure you can name off other "zealous" books.
I've read the occasional story where the MC didn't care about things around him/her. But, after a few chapters, they always ended up fiercely defending or wanting something. Our own characters need to reach this point, else we run the risk of losing readers.
Now take your passion and make it happen! (Name that song... :-))