Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Overused Themes in YA, PART III

To recap: I read this article by Joelle Anthony, called Red Hair Is Not As Uncommon As You Think.

She listed tired themes in YA fiction, and it really got me thinking.

I've revealed her list in a series of fives.

You can find the first set, here. And the second set, here.

The final set, is below.

11. Really hot, young-looking moms-often portrayed as main character's best friend. Hmm...I don't think I've come across this. Maybe a younger and hipper mom, but not described as "hot". How about you?

12. Book told in first person, and the description for the main character is given by having her examine herself in the mirror. Guilty, with my first book. Plus, I had a dream sequence, and my MC "woke up" in the first chapter. Cringe-worthy, right? But not always, if done a bit differently, and in later chapters, IMO.
13. Gorgeous, popular younger sisters (used to be older sisters). Can anyone think of one? Buehler...Buehler. In one of favorite books ever, THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE, the older sister was the popular one. Actually, I've I seen lots of only children lately.

14. Tomboys who can't sew or cook, and hate dresses (also very common in historical and MG novels). Oh yeah, I can think of a few off the top of my head. Let's see: THE DUFF, LIAR, maybe SHIVER, except she cooks. Yet, these books were done well.
15. Authors who work vocabulary words into the dialogue and then pass them off as knowledge the characters have because the words are on the SAT list. Interesting. I can't think of a book that does this, but I understand the reason behind it. It's been done in other ways, and I've used this technique myself, to allow more sophisticated language in the pages. I've had my characters refer to something they've heard on TV, or from parents, etc.

The point, for the final time is, that themes are bound to be repeated. Be creative and make the story your own!

See you on Thursday!


Stina said...

I've seen the last one.

I read a similar list a few years ago from the SCBWI. In it, red hair was the popular choice for the secondary character (aka BFF). I guess everyone read that list and decided to shake things up. ;)

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I have to run the list by my daughter when she gets home from school. She agrees with some of them but like you, there's some she's never really read in a novel.

Matthew MacNish said...

I can never think of any examples of these, but I still believe they're probably out there, and besides, it's super fun to read about anyway!

Stephanie Faris said...

I read these in the SCBWI newsletter and had the same thoughts. Since reading it, it has affected my character creation. I definitely think twice now before making ANYONE have red hair! My sister was the more popular, prettier one and she was younger so of course, I incorporate that into my books but only because it's what I relate to. Maybe this just means more writers now are growing up with younger sisters who overshadow us?

Maddy said...

I was watching Easy A the other day, which I guess is a teen movie. And the main characters parents were so hip and understanding. I'm like "Hello!! My mom would NEVER act like this" :)

Unknown said...

I love these! It helps me to know what to look out for. How to step outside the box, not be close to the same.

So much fun!!

Pamela Gold said...

There are definite noticeable trends when it comes to YA reads. BUT...I think it's kind of a compliment to the author of the book who did it which you just read and had a light bulb moment.

Misha Gerrick said...

Lol I have seen all of those, pretty much as described.

I have a tomboy that can cook and sew and do everything else, but doesn't just because she knows people will make her cook all the time if they know how good she is.

I did do the mirror description thing, but it was in third person and had a reason other than letting people know what she looks like.

So yeah, I play around with the themes a lot.


Krispy said...

Some of these I've seen less of, but that mirror one definitely gets me. It always makes me snerk a little when I see it, but it can be done well. It's all about context really.

Thanks for sharing this series! It was informative and enjoyable. :)

Sage Ravenwood said...

Love these lists. So far so good, I haven't made any of these references. Then again I'm not writing YA. In any case I agree, a fresh perspective is likely to get noticed versus tried and true. (Hugs)Indigo

mshatch said...

I'm happy to report I'm only guilty of the music thing, otherwise, my wip is pretty original. great lists.

Melissa said...

Hmmm, some of these I've seen others I haven't. I am grateful that out of this list of five, I am not guilty of any of them!

Meredith said...

Haha, I've seen the SAT vocab thing. Though I tend to forgive that because I was all about using SAT words in high school--such a dork!

Angela Ackerman said...

I've seen this list before. Some thing I can definitely see, but others I have never come across.

I think we can sometimes get too caught up in avoiding things that we go the opposite way, creating unrealistic or confusing characters in an effort to stay away from anything that might seem overused.

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

Lourie said...

Ah yes, the hot mom. They do it on television too. It's been so long since I read a book in the first person that I can't remember how descriptions of the MC were done. Pffft. It's been an age since I read anything! *sigh*

Tigers Eyes said...

11) Jaqueline Wilson uses that, and a lot of authors try to 'copy' her, I guess.