The young-adult stories obsession

  • Aparna Sunderasan, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Aug 02, 2014 18:52 IST

You've been running a lot lately. You don't know why, but you know that if you stop, something bad might happen.

*Whispers follow you wherever you go. People stare or gasp at the sight of you. And somehow everyone knows your name, even though you are not on TV.

*You have enemies you never knew existed. You bought a chocolate cake for a friend's birthday and ninjas tried to break into your house later that night.

If none of this sounds insane, you've probably been reading too many fantasy adventure novels aimed at the not-quite-grownups. So how do you write your own? Follow these cliches and prepare for adventure.

Start with a prophecy

Like all great heroes - Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, among others - life is complex, chaotic and dangerous because someone out there has identified the hero as The Chosen One. In real life, a soothsayer probably declared to your parents that they would bear either an engineer or a doctor or an heir to the family business. Forge your own path and write a book... about a hero whose path came pre-forged.

Give the hero a life that's full of gloom

Being a parent in the young adult world is a perilous job. Consider the casualty rate: Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games) lost her father to an accident in a coal mine. Tris (Divergent) lost her rebel parents to the system. Harry Potter's folks died trying to save him. Worse, Bella Swan's dad, just didn't "get" her (the Twilight series). Give your protagonist a life that makes escape worthwhile. Nothing gets young adults excited like escape from cold, hard reality.

Make the BFF a know-it-all

How else will your hero coast through life without doing the dirty work himself? Percy Jackson had the brainy Annabeth Chase, Harry Potter had the brainer Hermione Granger, even those girls from the Vampire Academy books had to go to the library for plot details. Geeky sidekick = less reason for you to drone on in narration.

Turn your world into a dystopia or a magical realm or both

Everything seems like it's coming apart. A ruthless dictator controls everything. Throw in vampires, werewolves, elves and trolls. But make the biggest threats the school bully and the ones with money.

Ensure that love problems are bigger than the world's problems

"We're all gonna die! Wait. Let me kiss first!" If, in the midst of all the discovering, slaying and camping out in the wild, your characters find time for love, your book will be the stuff of legend. If it's a love triangle, even more so.

Get them to save the world!

Because in a brave new world of no parental supervision, who else is going to save us all? The qualified and experienced adults are morons anyway, right? Or traitorous, mistrusting or evil. Your heroes will just do it themselves. Young adult life can be, like, so unfair!

From HT Brunch, August 3

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