The 4 Pillars Of New Adult Fiction

The 4 Pillars Of New Adult Fiction


Are you writing for a younger adult audience? In this post, we look at the four pillars of new adult fiction.

The genre bridges young adult fiction and longer books that feature older protagonists.

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In this post, we will be exploring the four pillars of new adult fiction.

New adult became an industry buzzword in 2013. Cora Carmack’s bestselling Losing It trilogy set it in motion. In the story, Bliss Edwards wants to lose her virginity before graduating college. While the plot was not original, the subject matter made it too mature for school girls.

The marketers at publishers jumped at the chance to create a niche. The success of Harry Potter proved that readers would follow their hero through middle-grade books to longer and more complex books. As both character and reader matured, how could writers close the gap?

Enter new adult fiction.

The category targets older teenage readers and 20-somethings. With a strong female readership, it is a subgenre of romance or fantasy. But don’t dismiss the novels as ‘fluff’. The best examples of the genre show intelligence, diversity, and respect.

New Themes

The genre gives a framework to address serious issues like gender, politics, and mental health.

It is not afraid to be controversial. The ‘Fall Away’ series by Penelope Douglas in 2014 is one example. The first book, Bully, deals with a boy who bullies a girl in high school. Some applauded it as brave, others said it left a bad taste in the mouth. Good or bad, it spawned a new trope in romance.

Must-Read: For 101 Romance Tropes, read our full list.

Most new adult novels offer escapism and romance. In A Court of Thorns and Roses, Sarah J. Maas creates a strong combination of fantasy and romance. The five-part series feature a heroine in her late teens.

The 4 Pillars Of New Adult Fiction

Here are four key pillars of new adult fiction:

Pillar #1 | Independence

Independence is a big theme. The heroine is often completely on her own for the first time. She is free of the mentorship of teachers and the rules of parents.

The character leaves home and enters a new world. She must learn different rules, and codes, and comes face to face with new enemies. She also meets a love interest.

The new world could be college or university or a first job. A new city or overseas trip could also work. You can follow the hero’s journey expounded by Joseph Campbell and James N. Frey.

Must-Read: Create The Hero’s Journey with an easy-to-follow infographic.

As you can imagine, this freedom can be heady, leading to new adventures and relationships. But it can be a tricky landscape to navigate, especially for someone on the cusp of adulthood.

Pillar #2 | Identity

The main character is often forming their own identity. This is not always sexual identity, but it is a chance to explore themes of sexual expression.

It is about finding a place and purpose in the world. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell is a charming coming of age story. In the novel, twins Cath and Wren are getting ready for college. They must establish their own interests, social paths, and romantic bonds. It’s an excellent example of how to use identity as a theme.

Pillar #3 |  College And Careers

Often new adult novels take place in college. We see this in Elle Kennedy’s Off-Campus series. She puts her characters in tangled romantic situations during their college years. Plots complications include fake courtships and pregnancy.

Your heroine must be on her way to earning an important degree. At some point, she realises the course is not for her – or she fails. The crisis leads to a new path.

For this new generation of readers, you must show the character reaching her ambitions. She doesn’t need Prince Charming to rescue her.

The protagonist may also be starting their first job or small business.

Pillar #4 | New Relationships

Romance is the main ingredient in many novels. The narrative gives weight to both sides of the story. Monica Murphy tells the story from both lovers’ viewpoints in Fake Date.

The story could focus on friendship. If you turned the sitcom Friends into a novel, it would be new adult fiction.

The colleagues that the character works with will also inspire new ideas. The main character could also see existing relationships in a new light. She might heal a rift with a parent or make friends with an ex-boyfriend.

Keen To Write New Adult? 5 Exercises To Try

  1. Write about a character coming to a big city to search for their birth mother.
  2. Write about half-siblings who discover each other for the first time as they attend college.
  3. Write about a character with magical abilities.
  4. Write about a group of friends who start a rock band.
  5. Write about a character who is fired from their first job.

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anthony ehlers Anthony Ehlers facilitates courses for Writers Write. He writes awesome blog posts and workbooks too.

More Posts From Anthony:

  1. How To Write The Outsider In Fiction
  2. 5 Ways To Find Your Way Back To Creativity & Writing
  3. Writers Talk 10 | Creativity & Imagination
  4. 5 Famous Writers On Writing A Villain
  5. 7 Ways To Sustain Emotion When Writing A Romance Novel
  6. What Is Imagination & Why Is It Important For Fiction Writing?
  7. The Power Of Dialogue In Love Stories
  8. 7 Reasons Why ‘What If?’ Is The Most Important Question You Can Ask As A Writer
  9. Writers Talk 8 | My Year Of Writing
  10. The 5 Pillars Of Family Sagas

Top Tip: Find out more about our workbooks and online courses in our shop.