Sunday, June 30, 2013

On Writing: Top Ten Things I Learned About Young Adult Fantasy Fiction

Okay, so I was going to do one more review about City of Bones by Cassandra Clare...but as anyone who follows me on Twitter or facebook knows, that idea has been scrapped. I couldn't write the review without getting irritated with it because the book was awful...just awful. Suffice to say, don't buy it: go buy Harry Potter or even the Percy Jackson books. City of Bones made Unclean Spirits seem better by comparison, and that's saying something.

So rather than rant and rave about a book, putting myself in a bad mood and ultimately getting myself into trouble, I decided to wrap up Young Adult month with a new list piece, since I haven't done any since the list of books I just can't get into anymore. This one will be the Top Ten Things I learned About Young Adult Fantasy Fiction, starting with number ten.

Number Ten: Save your questions for when there is a lull in the story, not when they actually come up.

A lot of information is bouncing around in a YA fantasy book. What are casters? Why do vampires sparkle? Why did they rip off Harry Potter? These things will likely confuse you as you read the book because there are so many things happening at once. Don't worry. YA books have you covered. YA books hoard questionable situations like Golum on an episode of Pawn Stars, rationing them out like Donald Trump as a guest start on Survivor. Don't worry though...all of your questions will be answered when the writers get stuck somewhere.

Number Nine: A man or a woman only has true value if they are together.

Life is dull and boring and without true zeal. When that special person comes into your life, they bring light and life and meaning that you could never have achieved without them. Forget that you know nothing about them and have nothing in common. As the song says, love is all you need. Well...relationships are all you need. Ever. Don't ask questions...just go with it.

Number Eight: Have your main character be a clean slate so they are more relatable rather than a role model.

It's a common misconception that many authors main characters have been incredibly boring, lifeless and dullwitted. I have to tell you that this is not the case. Authors have been writing characters as blank slates that readers can then project themselves onto. It's a kind of immersion that readers could never have experienced just by simply reading the book. Think about it, this way, you too can become a dull, lifeless, selfish teenager in love with a shiny disco ball. It's not lazy writing if people still buy the books.

Number Seven: Use caricatures to create characters who never have to develop or change.

Also known as archetypes, caricatures are basic story crafting ideas that have been used across the ages. The lone warrior, the hopeless romantic, the town fool. These basic ideas are used in formula writing because they are popular in almost every culture and transcend time. They also never develop as characters or really change. There's nothing wrong with this because if they did then you would be doing something original, and that would be unheard of. Just take your basic god of war, give him a sword and bathe him in blood. People like that kind of thing

Number Six: The journey is not important - it's the destination that matters.

Forget the old saying that it's not the destination that matters, it's the journey. Wait, switch that, reverse it. Forget all the wonder of what you would see along the way. Who wants to see that? Just get there as soon as possible, showing as little interest in what's going on as a five year old with ADD at the zoo who just wants to go see the monkeys. Readers don't want to waste time driving or flying a magic horse over cities. They just want to focus on what color the horses feathers are until they get to the castle they were headed to to begin with.

Number Five: Your parent got kidnapped? Better go train to save him...for a few months

Oh my gosh! My dad just got kidnapped? I better go off to train for a few years. I'm sure he'll be okay until I'm at least mostly done. Gotta save something for the sequel so that I can show just how much I still have to learn.

Number Four: Girls can do anything boys can, even if they shouldn't.

Now since this is such a touchy subject, I won't bullshit this one. I strongly believe that women can do anything men can, and always have. The fact is that it's a poor choice when they do some of the more suspect things that men do. Such as playing on the affections of the opposite sex to get the things they need for whatever reasons, (something I'm fairly certain a male character would be crucified for doing.) The opposite has been proven true, as well, taking female protagonists and devolving them back to helplessness like Clary Fray in City of Bones, and Kitty in Kitty and the Midnight Hour. Make up your minds, authors. There are good books out there with main female characters who kick ass.

Number Three: Plot? Oh, right, better put that in somewhere...

Authors have so much love to share that sometimes they forget that there has to be an actual plot, climax and conflict in the story that doesn't revolve around prom, or badly cooked pizza, or whether your best friend will have a date so that you can get the four seated table at the fancy restaurant. Don't worry, gentle reader: they'll get to it when they get to it. There's no rush, right? You are perfectly willing to sit through days of exposition to find out that something mildly interesting will happen for five pages before you go back to a picnic in the woods...right?!

Number Two: It's not stalking if you're in love.

Did you wake up in the middle of the night to find your boyfriend staring down at you, the window open wide, his breath slow and deep? Is he following you around wherever you go, staring down and even threatening any man who comes withing fifty yards of you? Does he often tell you how you are the only person he has ever loved and would do anything to keep you safe from an uncaring world that is only out to hurt you? Call the cops...this is not natural, it is not romantic, it is stalking and it can devolve to domestic violence. Not even kidding, I'd even suggest you carry pepper spray or a taser Michelle Pfeiffer in Batman style.

And....Number One: Teenagers are stupid and will buy anything based off Twilight, Harry Potter and Popular Mythology

Pretty much anything that can make money by being made into a moving that draws teenagers into the theaters will get a free pass these days. That doesn't make it good. The Eragon movie taught us that. Watching the preview for City of Bones, I can tell you that as bad as the book was, the movie is only about 2% based off the original source material, and the actual book is based off Harry Potter. Eragon was based on Star Wars. Beautiful Creatures was based off Twilight which was based off of a much better book, dumbed down for teenagers. Pretty much all major archetypes come from popular mythology anyway, which is why they transcend generations. Put a stop to YA authors insulting teen intelligence. Pick up a real book by Jim Butcher, or Brent Weeks, Mark Lawrence, Ilona Andrews, Rachel Aaron. All of these authors are incredible, and whats more important, they are easily accessible and they won't insult your intelligence


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