Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Writing Advice that I Hate: Phony YA

The Advice: When writing YA, “Don’t’ let your character be a phony. Teens hate that. You have to convince them that your characters are one of them!”

The Rant: My annoyance with this bit of advice is two-fold. One, I always thought Catcher in the Rye was overrated, especially its rendition of a supposedly disenfranchised teenager (hint: Rowling does it better, and yes I’m talking about whiny, bitchy Book 5 Harry) so the fact that they always go on to refer to Holden Caulfield makes me roll my eyes.

And two, if you honestly need to be told this, YOU SHOULDN’T BE WRITING YA.


If there’s one thing that bugs me, it’s people who get into a genre or marketing distinction because they think it’s the best chance of giving them a big hit; and YA has seen a lot of these bozos lately. Hell, even established novelists have gotten into the game. They figure they can pound out one of their usual books, throw in some sparkly vampires and change the number next to the character’s name and they’ll be fine.

It doesn’t work that way, and that’s why they need this advice.

But if you’re not “a phony,” if you’re writing really honest YA, you don’t need this. Any writer worth their salt knows how to make their characters relatable and genuine, no matter their age; and that principle does not change just because you’re aiming for the 18-and-under crowd. If you’re writing honest YA with genuine characters because that’s what’s best for your story, there’s no chance that they’ll be “phonies.”

So the only ones who need this advice are the ones who don’t know what they’re doing and are only getting into designation because it’s a hot seller right now. This piece of advice is basically saying, “Come on, you shameless old husks, the kids won’t give you their money if you can’t pretend you have a soul!”

And that’s just not right.

Current NaNo Stats
Page Count: 81
Word Count: 25,000
Story progress: Starting on Chapter 9.
Status: Half-way through the month! But boy, my MC sure is looking out windows a lot....

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