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After another_wip posted her thoughts about fantasy tropes, it compelled me to check out tropes in YA lit and see how many offenses how I committed.

Check out Joelle Anthony's post from 2007 (though a few of you may have already seen it): RED HAIR IS NOT AS COMMON AS YOU THINK in which she list 25 common, often overused plot devices found in YA fiction.

And yeah, I'm guilty of several of them.


Number 17: "Parents who are professional writers or book illustrators." Shawna's mom in Say the Word was a children's book illustrator and an successful photographer. She was also...


...which leads us to Number 12: "A dead mother."

Well, she was alive at the beginning. Do I get points for that? I didn't conveniently kill her off just to get her out of the picture. She needed to be dead because the whole book, um, centered around her death.

I am forgiven.

Note: I guess I could have had her work at Home Depot, though. But how the hell would she afford that Manhattan brownstone?

Number 13: "The mean-spirited cheerleader (and her gang) as the story’s antagonist."

Totally guilty here. I'm not one to generalize. I'm sure all cheerleaders aren't mean. I'm sure all cheerleaders' mothers aren't mean, excluding the one in Texas who tried to off the mother of her daughter's main competitor. Cheerleaders have, undoubtedly, received the worst rap possible in YA literature. Therefore, I promise to never write about a mean cheerleader again. My next "mean girl" will be a science whiz. Or a Future Nurse of America (do they still have that organization?) because everyone knows how bitchy nurses can be. It has to do with being verbally abused and occasionally punched by the person whose body fluids you're shaking out of your hair.

Okay, Number 10: "Guys with extraordinarily long eyelashes."

I have to think about this one. I have a lot of guys in my books. Do any of them have impossibly long lashes? I think one might. I'd have to go back and check. Maybe. Probably. Therefore, I will make a point to add short stubby lashes to my next male heartthrob, just to make him unique. Or maybe just one eye.

Number 7: "Fingernail biting."

Yes, yes! I totally did this. Martha in Before/After chewed her nails to bloody bits. That's because *I* chewed my own nails to bloody bits for years. I sent out queries for 2 years that were smeared with my blood. My DNA is all over the 212 area code.

Number 5: "Raising one eyebrow."

Yeah. Because it's coooool. I can't do it. I can't curl my tongue, either. Or wiggle my ears. Or wink one eye without scrunching up my whole face. I like my characters to be able to do things I can't, unless they're doing things I can do, like biting their nails to shreds and spitting out blood.

Number 1 (according to Joelle, the most common trope of all): "Lists."

This gets tricky. Does this mean the character who makes lists throughout the whole novel, or the character who makes lists because she needs to make a list? I've read novels with lists on about every other page. Depending on the novel, this can be fun...or irritating. My characters do occasionally make short lists, e.g. "I can either do this, or this, or this." Rinn, in The Unquiet, makes a list of all the weird things that happen to her friends, updating it as needed. I mean, seriously: PEOPLE MAKE LISTS. This trope list is a list.

So out of 25, I'll admit to 7. Good thing "gay best friend" didn't make the list, or I'd have to up it to 8, never mind that it was a critical part of the plot. It's not like I just tossed in a random lesbian.

Anyone else guilty? Anyone want to add a trope?


( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 24th, 2013 12:52 am (UTC)
I was sort of scared to see the list for myself, but I'm happy to report that I've only committed 4 of the 25 tropes in that list! I'd say that's pretty good, right?

Guilty of the following:

#12: A Dead Mother

In my case, a dead father too. In fact, there are a lot of dead parents in my books. (I always wonder what this says about me.) Whether they begin that way or not changes in each story, but there's always an important reason for their death (as in it's crucial to the characters growth, or in understanding them). It's not just because it's convenient to write out their character.

#8: The diary, either as the entire format, or the occasional entry

My first book uses the diary format as an opener and pops up again at appropriate breaking points in the story.

#6: Characters who chew on their lip or tongue in times of stress – usually until they taste blood

Yes, a character or two across a few of my books will occasionally chew their lip when nervous or deep in thought, but never to the point of blood. That hardly even seems believable. I catch myself chewing on my own lip, but I've never gnawed enough to draw blood. Whenever I see the blood bit in books, it irks me.

#5: Raising one eyebrow

It surprises me that this is even a trope honestly. It's a real thing that real people do and so of course my characters do it too.

Jan. 24th, 2013 02:22 pm (UTC)
"It surprises me that this is even a trope honestly. It's a real thing that real people do and so of course my characters do it too."

Same thing with biting one's lip. Most people do that! Maybe we should have our characters pick their noses...because people do THAT, too. People just don't write about it. :) :) :)
Jan. 24th, 2013 04:10 pm (UTC)
Yes, a character or two across a few of my books will occasionally chew their lip when nervous or deep in thought, but never to the point of blood. That hardly even seems believable.

I've lost count of all the times I've chewed on my own lips and drawn blood, so...it does happen to more than just fictional characters! :P
Jan. 24th, 2013 04:27 pm (UTC)
I grind my front teeth. I had to have an appliance put on. THAT'S a new one. :)
Jan. 24th, 2013 04:39 pm (UTC)
Maybe I just don't have sharp enough teeth then. ;)
Jan. 24th, 2013 04:43 pm (UTC)
Jan. 24th, 2013 04:57 pm (UTC)
I think it has little to do with the sharpness of teeth and more to do with the fact that my lips crack easily...haha!
Jan. 24th, 2013 04:10 am (UTC)
When I was in seventh grade, I was a huge Trekkie. Spock did that eyebrow thing and I just HAD to learn it, so for days I would sit at my desk when I was waiting for the other kids to be done and, with one hand over my eye, holding my eyebrow down, I'd raise the other a bunch of times. And repeat with the opposite hand & eye.

To this day I can do both or either as I desire, but my right eyebrow is "stronger." :-)
Jan. 24th, 2013 02:22 pm (UTC)
I got a headache just reading this, lol.
Jan. 24th, 2013 02:04 pm (UTC)
I can raise my left eyebrow, curl my tongue, wiggle my ears, and wink my eyes one at a time without scrunching up my face. I sometimes wish I was as talented at writing.
Jan. 24th, 2013 02:23 pm (UTC)
OK. I totally want to see you on YOUTUBE! :)
Jan. 24th, 2013 04:07 pm (UTC)
I'm definitely guilty of a few of these tropes, too! The lip-chewing and eyebrow-raising are some of my biggest offenses. Some of my characters have been known to make lists at times as well. I also have the occasional dead mother in my stories, but sometimes it's a dead father, so it balances out, right? Regardless, I don't mind being guilty of that trope. My dad died when I was a baby, so it feels more natural to me to write characters with one parent than two!
Jan. 24th, 2013 04:26 pm (UTC)
I think it balances out!

I wonder what makes a trope a trope...I mean,, look at all the YA stories about divorced parents. Is that a trope yet? I need to take Trope 101.
Jan. 24th, 2013 04:30 pm (UTC)
Pretty much everything is a trope, I think. Ever hear of the TV Tropes site? It's basically a Wikipedia-like place for tropes. It's easy to get lost there for hours reading about all the different tropes used in books, movies, TV, etc!
Jan. 24th, 2013 04:42 pm (UTC)
I've seen it. It's hysterical!
Jan. 25th, 2013 05:25 pm (UTC)
Ugh, I have a Lisa. And you know, at the time I was writing it, I knew it was a dated name and planned to change it later but by the time I was done, she was Lisa and there was nothing I could do about it.

And maybe not a trope but a tropette I've noticed--and admit to being guilty of--is overweight female characters possessed of absolutely gorgeous hair.
Jan. 26th, 2013 02:19 pm (UTC)
Well, HELL. I have one of those in Project Uno. Grr.
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )


Jeannine Garsee

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