For the past three months I have immersed myself in the young adult literary world, reading 30 some odd books (most of them part of a series). I enjoyed about 75 percent of what I read while the rest I found, trite, flawed or uninteresting. The best books were engaging, told through the eyes of very thoughtful, fleshed out characters and I loved them from the very first, to the very last page. However, the 25 percent that found their way out of my kindle or marched back to the library with a scowl and a huff, found themselves in that predicament because the writers fell short.
I understand that one person’s pet peeve is another person’s ideal, so take this blog for what it is…a rant. I hope that through my list below some aspiring YA author, will understand that I am speaking as an obsessed reader and young adult writer, not some pretentious creative writing professor looking to tear someone apart just to prove their course is rigorous. Art is supposed to be fun…right?
Below are my breakdowns of these problems. Think of it as a BEWARE for writers, especially self-published ones.
1) THE WISHY-WASHY WOMAN
It’s the Twilight effect. The girls just can’t breathe, move, walk, or talk without the men in their life. I get it; she is one half of a whole, but she better fight hard for the man in her life, or else she will no longer breathe, move, walk or talk ever again. This is fine for a secondary character, but not a leading lady. I need to see strength, a fight. And how come he was the love of her life, the light in her eye, her reason for drawing breath through the first two books, yet one hot biker dude walks into town and her undying love is tested? Come on. Let’s get real here.
This isn’t enough to make me to bow out of a story, but it is enough to make me throw the book against the wall and curse the author for being a total a-hole. I do want to mention that I love the push and pull, the cat and mouse…he loves me…he hates me game, but only when the girl pushes back.
2) YEAH I GET IT…THE HORSE IS DEAD ALREADY
This one is pretty simple. Don’t tell me over and over again that she feels rotten, that the bad guy is really bad, that her mom is a total nagger, or that her friend is hotter, SHOW ME! I don’t need things spelled out, I need to be engaged, drawn there through dialogue and inferences, not through a self-effacing inner monologue. I’m not stupid.
3) SELF PUBLISHED AUTHORS: PlEase FoRmat YoUR teXt
Paragraphs are indented or separated by a space and sentences must have a period followed by a space. It’s pretty simple. You don’t do this…I don’t read it.
4) T.M.I. EMILY DICKINSON
I am a writer. I get it, you want to show me your talent and trust me I want to see it, but don’t get all prosy on me.
I don’t want to know that every step you took felt like marshmallow on a one-hundred and five degree, mid-July morning and when you fell against the prickly floor of the once lonely, graveled path, every bone in your body should have been shattered like tinder beneath the weighty fall of a giant, but miraculously the pillow like marshmallow prevented inevitable disaster and your being was spared.
I think I fell asleep writing that. You get the point.
5) THAT CHARACTER ISN’T DOPE, OR FRESH, OR PHAT…HE IS AN OLD AUTHOR HOPING TO SOUND HIP.
Why encourage young readers to talk like idiots? You can make the protagonists friends sound, “like, totally dumb”, without risking your main characters credibility. You can even inject it into dialogue here and there, but don’t force it and don’t use words that are fads, you just end up dating your book and yourself.
6) ME TARZAN – YOU JANE
I want to like the leading man, I really do, but chivalry doesn’t translate to verbal abuser. He can play the game without being an ass.
7) WAIT! WHERE DID YOU GO?
Introducing a character only to remove him or her from sight forever is a flaw in continuity and it sucks for the reader. However, this isn’t always a fatal flaw unless it is the leading man or woman in a love story and they disappear for most of the book. At the very least, keep me posted and if you do it, you had better have a kick-ass storyline to hold me firmly in place.
8) HEY IT’S ONLY A NAME. RIGHT?
Wrong. If I have to read it repeatedly, if it fumbles around in my mind, if I constantly mispronounce it or have to read some dumb nickname acknowledging a large appendage, I will likely check out. Think about the characters personality, your audience, make it simple to read, and form it to their personality. Katniss was unusual, but so was she and the world she lived in. Hermione on the other hand, was awful to read before I saw the movie.
9) WHATCHA’LL DOIN HER – SAID THE LEADING SOUTHERN PROTAGONIST
Tell me where they are from, don’t force me to read a Southern drawl through the entire book. It is, clumsy, annoying and should be shown through other means. Be creative not obvious and don’t underestimate your reader. Brontë didn’t need to include an English accent in Jane Eyre, it was implicit. Instead, include some words that are exclusive to the region. “Mate! Wait up” is enough.
10) OH COME ON…HE DIDN’T SAY THAT
They are teenagers after all. They might talk about how much they love each other, but they won’t swear to cast out all evil in the name of love five minutes after meeting. Be authentic to the age of the character. This isn’t a Fabio cover romance novel. It’s a YA novel with hormone crazed teenagers. They might say how much they love each other and the moon and the stars, blah, blah, blah, but teens are limited in both vocabulary and experience. Be authentic to your characters. If they have been cast out of heaven for 600 years…yeah they would probably speak like adults, but 16 year old virgin high schoolers? Come on.
Latest posts by Sara O'Connor (see all)
- Mommy is reading dirty books and she doesn’t think anyone knows. - February 5, 2016
- Getting the most out of your Betas. - March 10, 2015
- Ask a Book Publicist: Promoter vs. Publicist - December 10, 2013