This morning it rained so hard I thought my flat would wash away. Spring is finally here! And with it I bring you a little cheat sheet I made for writing YA fiction:
Step One: Ensure parents & people who generally set rules or know what to do when the s@$£! hits the puddle and you’re up the creek without a fan are mysteriously absent from the story. Whether this is due to a sudden unexpected storm, just avoiding including them, or an explosion is up to you. Maybe they’re busy people.
Difficulty rating: high, the key is knowing when to make parents disappear and when you really need to kind of at least mention them in passing because we’re all wondering about them
Step Two: Include an important love triangle of importantness. One person will be well-known to the character, comforting and soft and the other will be dangerous or unknowable. The key here is to keep the readers guessing for about fifty pages, make it clear who the real love interest is but then change your mind repeatedly for the next 40, 000 words.
(optional) Step Two point :-O
Throw in a bad boy for good luck. One who never puts the tea in before the milk, stays up five minutes beyond bed time every night and does not shake the juice well before pouring. Alternatively he might be a vampire. It’s a toss-up.
Difficulty rating: middling, bad boys are fun to write and it’s easy to make everyone fall in love with your main character when you’re in love with them too.
Step Three: Bound in and hand your readers an ounce of betrayal. Slap them in the face with it, knee them in the elbow, and then whack them over the head with a little foreshadowing as you laugh manically.
Difficulty rating: low, we’ve all been betrayed by our stomachs, experienced the pain of betrayal when there’s no chocolate left in the cupboard, the pang when the wheel falls off your heelys —we’ve all been there! Name a YA book without betrayal and you can have everything in my pocket right now (fair warning the contents amount to two bobby pins and an old receipt)
Step Four: Sprinkle a smattering of destiny and ‘chosen one’ sentiment. Maybe the main character is actually royalty and doesn’t know it yet. Maybe only they can save the world. Think outside the box! Remember to also think inside the box, however, because that’s where a lot of content can be found.
Difficulty rating: middling, on the one hand we all want to be the ‘chosen one’ and making a main character special allows us to see that we are special too but on the other hand no pain no gain, no risk no fun etc basically what I am saying here is sure they can be fab interesting people but make sure they have something to lose and can lose it
Step Five: Stop worrying about cliches, and what other people have already done, and write the story that’s asking you to give it life. Your characters can all be werewolves and none of them have adult supervision so long as you’re writing the story that is right, and true, and maybe puts a spin on a few of the classic tropes.
Be honest with yourself and dare to use every cliche you want to. They’re cliches because they’re common to human understanding of life and the stories we tell ourselves. Don’t be afraid to toe the line and do what you have to do to get this tale down on paper.
What is your favourite cliche? Have to be honest, I love a great training sequence where the main character gets mad fit and has skills in a matter of days.