Sarah J. Carlson

Contemporary Young Adult Author

Writer friends, I throw down the gauntlet and challenge you to a thought experiment!



So I’m currently working on two very different YA Contemporary novels simultaneously, which kind of does this to my head…

head shock

Both are dual POV with love stories—so two girl characters, two boy characters. Both touch on social issues like poverty, stereotypes, substance abuse, cultural differences, parent incarceration, exposure to trauma, and the idea of “good” and “bad” people. I like social issues, what can I say? Plus I feel like teens get into them, too, especially if they can relate those issues to their own world. They also feature characters striving to overcome barriers and make the most of their futures. Both novels are character-driven. I know all of their brains pretty well. Plus I just love all four of my characters so much.

So on the surface, both manuscripts have a lot in common, right? Theme-wise, yes, but they are worlds apart, geographically, culturally, and linguistically—Northern Irish/Belfast dialect as compared to Spanish.

Here’s brief synopses to set the stage for the experiment. Hooligans in Shining Amour is set in Belfast. Fiona, an American girl, is sent to live with her estranged Belfast family against her will; Danny, from Belfast, quit school to join Protestant paramilitary, basically a gang, to please his Dad. Danny finds out Fiona’s Catholic dad was in the Irish Republican Army, which…is a problem.

Rafa & Rose is about Rafa, a Mexican boy, moving to rural Wisconsin and meeting racist Rose, who has a meth head mom tearing her world apart. A love of art brings them together and they discover they have more in common than different. They try to help one another overcome the barriers to achieving the dream they both share–being the first in their families to go to college.

So moving on to the thought experiment…. Which probably will make NO SENSE because none of you have actually read either of the manuscripts, but here goes.

What if I took my four MCs and made them all college roommates?

Danny, the Belfast boy, would like everybody, but he’d just ask all kinds of weird, awkward questions because of his very limited life experiences. Danny’s never hung out with a person of color such as Rafa, so he’d probably ask about tacos and sombreros and why he calls himself a Latino or a Mexican when he’s from America. Though nice and well-meaning, Danny would definitely try Rafa’s patience, especially since Danny dropped out of school to join a gang. But Rafa has a big heart, so he’d probably start helping Danny to keep him from flunking out of college. And they’d share a love of soccer/football/fútbol. Danny would be confused by Rose’s dark paintings and scary music taste, but very curious. Rose and Fiona would not like each other; Rose would think Fiona is preppy and stuck-up and Fiona would think Rose is emo and kind of creepy. I think they’d have a hard time overcoming this, but the fact they both grew up in Wisconsin and like the Packers might help. Rafa and Rose would not be able to understand half of what Danny says at first because of his accent and dialect; when Danny realizes this, he might get shy and rely on Fiona to do most of the talking or “translate” what he’s trying to say.

ACTUALLY Rafa and Fiona would get along great. They’re both high achievers who love math and steer clear of trouble. Fiona also studies Spanish and has a lot more experience with people from different racial/cultural backgrounds than her own, so Rafa would probably feel very comfortable around her. And Rose would probably be intrigued by Danny, since he has a bad boy past. Both also have a touch of the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and lot of family trauma that they’d both just sense about one other. Danny and Rose also have very little exposure to the world outside of their respective hometowns and will both be super-freaked out by the wide world of college.

Conclusion: Rafa and Fiona should get together, as should Danny and Rose. Not that that would happen…most likely. What does that say about the character archetypes I play with in my novels?

So yeah, this would make WAY more sense if you’d actually read either of the books, but it was just such a fun thought experiment I couldn’t help myself. Maybe someday if don’t have a writing project (ha, yeah right!) I’ll write a scene with the four of them. It’d be quite humorous and also a good way to learn about them as people. Hmmmmmm….

Now I challenge YOU!

1238064310_evilmonkeyHave you ever thought about throwing characters together cross-manuscript? What would happen if you brought your MCs together for tea or something?

17 thoughts on “Writer friends, I throw down the gauntlet and challenge you to a thought experiment!

      1. sjoycarlson Post author

        Haha that’s great! I’m sure it does! I really think I will write a scene. Though it probably won’t be QUITE as interesting since both of my are contemporary 😛


  1. Amos M. Carpenter

    I’m a sucker for that kind of thing! As a reader (though the same concept applies to being a “watcher”, i.e. for TV/movies), I think it’s very interesting when you believe you know the “minds” of two people and then your own mind goes into overdrive when you try to anticipate how they’re going to react when they’re thrown into the same scene. I really enjoyed that aspect in Robin Hobb’s Tawny Man trilogy, when Liveship characters meet Buckkeep characters… for me, that part was, sadly, too short, I’d have enjoyed more of it. As a writer, I can’t really say that I could do the same thing, because I’m still working on my first series and haven’t got another one to do the crossover with. Having said that, though, I’m donig a miniature version of it in my writing in so far as I’ve got two first-person POVs whose journal entries are read by others in a third-person setting, so there are some “crossovers” happening within the intertwining stories.

    I’m sure anyone familiar with your two stories would love the crossover, whether it’s as a one-off writing exercise you publish or a book of its own.


  2. S. R. Carrillo

    I’ve thought about this before, actually! In a way. My world, the Soul series world, there are characters that never meet, and I sometimes brainstorm what it would be like if they had… it’s a lot of fun. ^_^

    Reminds me of my fanfiction days.


    1. sjoycarlson Post author

      Haha yeah! There’s no way my characters would probably actually meet, but it’s just fun to imagine how they all might get along, especially since I know them all so well. Of course, they could meet people who are LIKE the actual characters…. Either way, putting my characters in different situations and working out how they would respond does help me get to know my characters better 😛


    1. sjoycarlson Post author

      Interesting! Never thought of it as a way around that, but that’s a good point. Makes you think about your characters in a different way, to be sure. Gets juices flowing that could lead you in all kinds of crazy directions, including around a writing roadblock!


    1. sjoycarlson Post author

      Haha I mean…. It could be? Though they’re currently set about 10 years apart and then how would handle all four POVs? It would be fun though, so much fun. I seriously think I might write a scene someday though, lol. Or else pair some of them up with people who are like my characters 😛


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