The Teens Can Write Too! blog chain is back for the month of January and I’m using it as an excuse to procrastinate on my essay. Absolutely nothing has changed in the last four years (except, perhaps, the subject of the essay).
“What is something you feel is generally written well in fiction? What is something you feel is generally written poorly?”
Well, because I’m a miserable so-and-so, I’m going to start with the negative aspect of the question. Though that does mean I can end the post on a positive note, so really it’s the cheerful thing to do.
I imagine that romance is going to come up quite a lot in people’s responses to this post, primarily because it’s so ubiquitous in fiction (particularly in the YA section). When you pick up a random book, the chances are that there’s going to be some element of romance in it, and it’s rare that it’s a subtle subplot, too. I find this frustrating, but that’s not exactly what I’m going to talk about.
Instead, something I think is written poorly is attraction. YA reviewers and bloggers often talk about the phenomenon of ‘insta-love’, which in my experience is usually ‘insta-lust combined with the fact that guy just saved a puppy from certain death and look isn’t he caring as well as handsome?’ A lot of people do, of course, experience attraction when they first see someone, but what fiction seems to leave out is that being attracted to someone doesn’t mean you like them, let alone love them.
And a lot of meaningless love triangles would be avoided if people realised that you can be attracted to someone without having the slightest interest in having a relationship with them. You can look at someone and think, “Wow, they’re hot,” and move on with your life. So why are our poor, overworked protagonists being forced to fight their own conscience to ‘choose’?
I dunno, man, it annoys me.
What I like is the slow build. Characters who don’t realise they’re in love with each other until one of them’s in danger. Characters who never considered the possibility that they might like the other person that way (because gender, race, class etc) and so it strikes them out of the blue. Best friends who gradually fall for each other. Flatmates whose shared lives eventually become more than that.
One of my favourite fictional relationships is the one between Alek and Deryn in Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan trilogy because it is so wonderfully slow-building and it gradually develops over the course of the three books and it’s wonderful.
So please, a little less of the insta-love. It’s not believable.
That said, books often get it wrong with the gradual thing as well. Either it’s astonishingly unsubtle, so that by the time the characters get together the reader has been convinced it’s a foregone conclusion since the beginning, or it’s so amazingly subtle that their eventual realisation of feelings seems basically like delayed insta-love. Which does happen, sometimes, in life, but it just doesn’t come across as great storytelling, you know? Subtle clues are the key here.
However, something I think that’s often done well in fiction is humour. Sarcasm, sassy comebacks, and deadpan snark: it’s becoming more of a feature of YA than ever and, while that might not be everybody’s cup of tea, it’s mine and I love it. I love when serious books make me crack up, and I love sass. I just love everything about that.
Okay, so this is sometimes done poorly as well, particularly by older writers who have absolutely no interaction with real life teenagers ever, but on the whole, I’m coming across books that make me laugh more and more often. Partly this is because I actively seek them out, since they’re one of my favourite things, and partly this is because I think the sassy YA character is becoming more of a trope than ever.
Which, honestly, I think is great. Even if people disagree.
Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments are a great example of this; Sarah Rees Brennan’s Demon’s Lexicon trilogy likewise has its moments; and there are non-YA books like Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant series which is hilarious at times. Quotes like these make me grin and poke a friend near me to share it with them even when they have no idea of the context:
“My dad was a fairy,” said Zach. “And by that I don’t mean he dressed well and enjoyed musical theatre.”
— Ben Aaronovitch, Whispers Under Ground
“Well, speaking as a feminist, I’m glad that women can lead–uh, groups of unspeakable magical evil.”
“Yes,” Alan said gravely. “It’d be shocking if the evil magicians were sexist. For one thing, that would mean they were stupid, and having stupid enemies would be a terrible blow to my manly pride.”
― Sarah Rees Brennan, The Demon’s Covenant
“I don’t want tea,” said Clary, with muffled force. “I want to find my mother. And then I want to find out who took her in the first place, and I want to kill them.”
“Unfortunately,” said Hodge, “we’re all out of bitter revenge at the moment, so it’s either tea or nothing.”
― Cassandra Clare, City of Bones
So those are my thoughts on what’s done well and what’s done poorly. I’d better get back to my essay on Cnut (and renewing my overdue library books before my fines exceed my student debt), but in the meantime, why not check out the rest of the chain?
5th – http://whileishouldbedoingprecal.weebly.com/
6th – http://jasperlindell.blogspot.com/
7th – https://erinkenobi2893.wordpress.com/ and http://nasrielsfanfics.wordpress.com/
8th – http://finnlongman.com/
9th – https://ramblingsofaravis.wordpress.com/
10th – http://semilegacy.blogspot.com/
11th – http://kirabudge.weebly.com/
12th – http://thelittleenginethatcouldnt.wordpress.com/
13th – http://maralaurey.wordpress.com/
14th – http://dynamicramblings.wordpress.com/
15th – http://theedfiles.blogspot.com/
16th – https://horsfeathersblog.wordpress.com/
17th – http://www.juliathewritergirl.com/
18th – http://butterfliesoftheimagination.wordpress.com/
19th – https://gallopingfree.wordpress.com/
20th – http://www.alwaysopinionatedgirl.wordpress.com/
21st – https://deborahrocheleau.wordpress.com/
22nd – http://irisbloomsblog.wordpress.com/
23rd – https://clockworkdesires.wordpress.com/
24th – https://introspectioncreative.wordpress.com/
25th – http://wanderinginablur.blogspot.com/
26th – https://anotefromthenerd.wordpress.com/
27th – http://randommorbidinsanity.blogspot.com
28th – http://unikkelyfe.wordpress.com/
29th – http://teenscanwritetoo.wordpress.com/ (We’ll announce the topic for next month’s chain.)