Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Joelle Anthony's List of Overused Things in YA Fiction Updated

If your character's red-haired best friend (who is a scholarship student at a ritzy private school and is obsessed with retro music, Jane Austin and her green eyed, long-lashed lab partner) looked in a mirror, what would she see?

A whole lot of other book characters just like her.

I loved the original list that Joelle Anthony did a few years back on overused things in YA fiction. I laughed out loud. I scowled when I realized I had done at least one of those things (!). But most of all, I was happy that I had a list of things to avoid and watch for. If you wanna stand out in the crowd and pass the test for being publishable, you have to be different. And not "different" like everyone else. You rarely get the answers before the test, and here's someone giving them to you for free. Look here on her blog for the list.

The list seems like a lot of things that a middle aged writer projects from his or her life into the manuscript. Of course writers use what they know, but I agree with Anthony in her mission to get writers to think beyond the common things and what they know, to what is true for experiences for the current YA generation. Give up the retro music and get to know the present. Give up the Jane Austin celebration - girl's got enough buddies - what about Marie Curie or some other figure? Not all cheerleaders are mean. Not all nerds are nice. Ditch the SAT vocab and make up your own lingo. I honestly don't believe that a YA writer has to have a manuscript full of totally current, in the now references - it just means your work is dated before you even submit it. But, you don't want characters who are shallow imitations of the author or his or her past, either.

Yep, it's not easy. That's why they call it work. And you want to be a working writer, right?

Go for it, challenge yourself, and be glad that Joelle Anthony is out there compiling, updating and sharing the list.

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