Less Evil Cheerleaders, More Flying Motorcycles

Love this list of stuff to stop doing in YA novels. A few favorites:

“4. No more main characters who want to be writers.”

Because then you quote something your main character has written and it’s supposed to be amazing, and I put on my judgment cap.

“5. No more evil cheerleaders, even if it IS true to life. May still work if they’re zombies or something, though. I HAVE always wanted to do a book called “Pushing Cheerleaders Down the Stairs.””

Evil non-zombie cheerleaders are so 1994, guys. There are lots of evil people in high school. Let’s give them their chance to shine! Or something.

“9. No more dystopias without flying motorcycles. Because flying motorcycles are awesome and I don’t want there to be a future that doesn’t have them. Really, any dystopia set in a world that doesn’t look like a Meat Loaf video is just not okay with me.”

If Sirius Black can have a flying motorcycle, we should all have flying motorcycles. Work on it, scientists!

My own additions:

  • No more wild and wacky best friends. You want to give your characters fun friends, sure, but they should also feel like real people, not caricatures.
  • No more total lack of anything related to school. We don’t need major details on math class, but lots of kids have extracurricular activities they love, midterms they cram for, and rivalries with other schools.
  • No more characters not eating. (Okay, novels about people dealing with eating disorders get a pass.) I hate seeing characters sit down for lunch and pick at their food or leave suddenly. People eat every day! Have a sandwich!

Obviously this is just for fun and there’s always a good reason to break rules when writing. Still, I think we’ve got a solid list going here. Anything you’d add?

5 thoughts on “Less Evil Cheerleaders, More Flying Motorcycles

  1. Just speaking from experience as a YA, not a YA writer– less “maladjusted, misbehaving, unhappy” leads. It IS possible for a kid to be perfectly happy and well-adjusted in HS. I understand sometimes it’s nice to have a confused, pissed off character to move the plot along, but there are plenty of ways to write amazing stories with happy protagonists.

      • There are totally plenty of ways to write stories about happy protagnists! Obviously everyone has problems of one kind or another, but I like reading about teens who are also fun and upbeat and enjoy things. One of my all time YA favs is “Feeling Sorry for Celia,” in which the main character is wry and hilarious but also has a good relationship with her mom and likes running (hey runner shoutout!) and has fun.

  2. I laughed at the cheerleader part, because my MC is a cheerleader, but she’s a great person. She’s also extremely intelligent and an honor student. Her friends on the cheerleading squad are not bad girls–a bit ditzy in comparison, but certainly not mean.

    And Kalyn’s not just any cheerleader, but a competitive cheerleader. She’s actually so strong, she can hold up a 90 pound girl by herself. I chose for her to be a cheerleader because I wanted her to be seriously in shape; she needs to be physically tough for what happens during the trilogy. That, and I didn’t want some delicate flower of a girl who is always helpless. I wanted her stout physique to mirror the (figurative) balls of steel that she has.

    In the second book, when she ends up surrounded by bad guys, and her vampire mentor is in serious trouble, she grabs a shotgun and shoots her way out of the problem. All while wearing a prom dress.

    (And she’s never yet passed up a steak dinner or box of Godiva chocolates. Or two helpings of birthday cake, for that matter.)

    So I guess that’s my rule: no wussy female characters. They don’t necessarily have to be 5’6″ and 145 pounds of muscle like Kalyn, but they need to be tough somehow–mentally, emotionally, or physically.

  3. I don’t think I realized I had pet peeves on this point until I read your post. Your very first point had me wanting to pump my fists and cheer, though, so I realized pretty quickly upon reading. In the last few weeks, when I’ve picked up books with writer protagonists, I picture that Willy Wonka meme going around captioned with: “A writer protagonist! I haven’t seen that before.”

    I feel kinda bad now about the one evil cheerleader I’ve written. But her evil is deeply concealed and targeted to a very specific nemesis! (Still evil, not to put to fine a point on it.)

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