Saturday, March 29, 2008

Getting the ball rolling...

I posted this on my critique group's blog, The Wunderkin, but as that's a closed blog (and as I've got nothing here yet), I thought I'd add it here, too.

I was reading Pub Rants when I came across this: what an agent and editor think are tired YA fantasy themes. Essentially, you know you might have a tired YA fantasy theme when:
1. Your main protagonist is the “chosen one” and only he or she can save the world.

2. You have a lost magical amulet and that search alone is driving the story.

3. When your main protagonist is waking up and getting ready for the day in the opening chapter.

4. If you have to go through the portal to actually begin the story.

5. If your Mom & Dad are dead (and on top of that, they are dead wizards or something similar) that the protagonist must live up to.
This isn't that different from the cliches list, really... In fact, it got me thinking. When the cliche list came out, I was kinda mad. I mean, is it really that much of an issue to have a red-headed sidekick or an occasional eye-brow raise? But there's something about this list that struck a cord with me. When I think about my favorite YA fantasy books, either they're old (like Narnia) and follow the category, or they're new and don't. I guess the stuff above really is the stuff that's been done before, and we as writers need to challenge ourselves to find something new and entertaining to write that is different. Right now, I think my first ms. definitely falls under 1 (only she can save the universe!) and maybe number 4 (I do rely heavily on portals). And my other finished ms. absolutely requires number 4 (whole point of the book is that she falls into another world and wants out). However, my new work in progress has none of the above, in part because of a conscience effort on my part to NOT use any portals or make the kids be the saviors of the universe. Part of my problem is that I LOVE the old books that wrote that way (Narnia especially)...and I need to break away from emulating them.

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