Friday, April 08, 2011

The Generic Young Adult Paranormal

I'm two chapters away from the end of the book. While I think the first half is more or less complete, the second half will require some major revisions. I think I already know what those revisions should be, and I'm torn between stopping now and going back and tinkering the way I've done with the rest of the book, or just plowing through to the end and then revising. I'm leaning toward the latter because I think that will give it a sense of urgency and momentum, plus I'm not sure exactly how some of the twists will work out, and knowing that will help me in revising.

I did run across something that rather surprised me, though. There's an event that I'd been planning for years. In fact, I largely built the plot of this book around that event. And then when I got there, it just felt wrong. I sort of wimped out on doing what I planned, and I'm still not sure if that was right or wrong. I think it could have some fun payoff, but I also think I need to set it up better. That's another argument for finishing the plot and then fixing it. I need to see how it ultimately works out before I can know how to go back and either change it or set it up differently. Since I'm leaving space to expand upon things later, I may finish writing the plot today. I'm ready to get this all out of my head and then take a little break to work on something else for a while and then be fresh when I revisit it.

I mentioned the other day that I've looked into trying to write young adult books, since my voice supposedly fits there and I write more innocent books that are teen-appropriate. So, I've been trying to read a lot of the popular YA books in order to get a sense of what's out there and what's selling. And there seems to be a definite pattern to the wildly popular contemporary paranormal YA books.

There's a girl who either thinks she's super-ordinary and boring or who thinks she's a freak. And then she meets a guy in her school who is hot. Super hot. Like, scorching. The most beautiful guy ever. All the girls swoon in his presence. Did I mention that he's hot? She's forced to interact with him because of some thing at school, like being lab partners or working on a class project together, which makes the other girls hate her. He's exasperating to deal with because he seems to run hot and cold. Sometimes he acts like he really likes her and goes out of his way to be nice to her, but then he'll turn around and be almost cruel, ignoring her entirely while flirting with other girls. Every time she allows herself to think that maybe he does like her, he'll suddenly run cold again and she'll see him hanging out with someone else.

But then she finds out that he really does like her. In fact, that's the reason he runs hot and cold, because his feelings are so intense that sometimes he can't handle them. Plus, he's some kind of supernatural being, and he could be dangerous to her, so even though he knows that they're meant to be together, he's afraid of really getting together with her. There's usually some stalking, and at some point he ends up in her room watching her sleep. After she learns about the supernatural and the danger, she insists that she doesn't care, she loves him and wants to be with him, and she's willing to face the danger. But then she is put in danger because of whatever otherworldly stuff he's associated with. He rescues her and they're in love (until the sequel, when some other issue comes up).

And I'm not just talking about Twilight here. There are a number of books that fit this exact pattern, with a few variations (in one, she is actually able to resist hot paranormal guy because there's someone she already likes), and all of them are huge bestsellers. But I'm not sure I get the appeal of this pattern.

I totally understand the hot-and-cold guy. That was the story of my life in my teens and the reason I practically have to have a sworn and notarized affidavit before I'll let myself believe that someone likes me. I was always having the guys who started acting like they really liked me, paid a lot of attention to me, and just when I was starting to let myself think they liked me, I'd learn that they had a girlfriend. I don't think I was being entirely delusional to think that a guy liked me when he'd invite me over to his house to study together and even offer to pick me up and take me home, in spite of me living out in the country, and then he'd have study snacks all arranged like it was a mini party for two, his mother would pop in while we were working and do that fluttery "isn't it cute that my son has a girl over?" mom thing, and we'd hang out and talk after we finished studying before he took me home. The maddening thing was, most of the time, I didn't even like these guys until they started paying attention to me. Then I'd start looking for things to like about them and seeing their good qualities, and it always seemed that just when I'd convinced myself that they really did like me and just as I convinced myself that I liked them, that's when I'd find out that it really was just a study session and he really did have some cheerleader girlfriend that everyone in the school but me knew about.

But in my fantasies, this guy doesn't turn out to be some magical dude with so many issues that he can't either stay away if he thinks there's possible danger to me or communicate his true feelings without being a total jerk. A guy who likes you shouldn't hurt you and shouldn't play games with you. He shouldn't behave in a way that he knows hurts your feelings or confuses you. That's where all my "sucked through a portal" fantasies came in, where the guys who were waffling were the ones who ended up losing out when it turned out I was a princess from another world and the prince/knight/hero type showed them what a real man was like. I might not have been homecoming queen, but then a homecoming queen doesn't get to lead an army. So, it's hard for me to get caught up in these grand, dramatic love stories where the guy waffles like crazy. Not to mention that I crack up about all these immortal dudes who are hundreds of years old and still hanging out in high school. Just say you look young for your age. At the very least, go on to college. College was tons more fun than high school. My idea of hell is spending eternity in high school.

And I really don't get the bit about him sneaking into her room and watching her sleep. Ask my mom what happens when someone comes into my room when I'm sleeping. Let's just say that the guy would have to be good and immortal, or at least immune to a pair of sharp scissors, and there would be much screaming. I wouldn't consider it romantic.

So maybe I'm not cut out to write YA, since I don't get the stuff that's popular. If you don't get it, you can't do it well.

1 comment:

Lola said...

Rosemary Clement-Moore does an awesome job of breaking that paranormal mold and is still successful! I think there's a market out there for more realistic young adult that kids can identify with more rather than just obsess about. I'm working on a young adult novel myself that doesn't really fit that mold. I love Rosemary's series and think its an awesome example for girls that they can be smart and tough, also independent.

Don't lose heart Shanna, I love your paranormal adult series and think you would be STELLAR at writing young adult. Esther Friesner's Tempting Fate young adult stand alone reminds me of your Enchanted Inc. series.