7 Young Adult Clichés That Need to Stop

7 Young Adult Clichés That Need to Stop

posted in: Storytelling | 41

If you’ve read any number of young adult novels, you may have encountered a few similarities between them. Or maybe more than a few. Sometimes, the same themes are used in fiction – over and over again – because they just work. But other times… you wonder if authors are running out of ideas.

There are many clichés I could list, but here are my top seven that seriously need to stop.

1. The Love Triangle.

Let’s get the most obvious one out of the way. Not only is this a ridiculous concept to begin with (how many girls do you know who are simultaneously in love with two boys? and why is it always a girl at the center of love triangles?), it’s shown up so many times in recent literature that it’s become trite and formulaic. I have seen some less-offensive love triangles lately, but overall I’d rather see new approaches to romance, please. Wouldn’t you?

2. The sassy “strong” girl.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m beginning to feel like the majority of YA heroines are… almost the exact same person. Or perhaps more accurately, they have the same kind of personality. They are usually independent, defiant, quick to learn how to kick butt, and they have that predictable sass that often draws the main love interest to them.

Don’t mark me wrong; I have nothing against this kind of personality. The sassy strong girl is a lot of fun to read about. But… *yawns* it’s just getting a bit old.

3. The brooding “bad” boy.

There’s a boy in the corner. He is quiet and soft-spoken; his dark, heavy past is reflected in his dreamy, chocolate-brown eyes. He is naughty; he breaks the rules, maybe even the law, but somehow he is still gentle and respectful to our heroine. He has strong hands and muscled arms, but a tender heart and soft touch.

Who is he? Our heroine’s typical love interest, of course!

First of all, I’ve never met anyone in real life who remotely resembled this. Second of all, portraying “bad” boys as kind Prince Charming’s in disguise is dangerous because, well, it doesn’t reflect reality. Third of all, it’s overused. (Obviously.)

Quick soapbox moment: Rather than basing our male (or female!) characters after common literary tropes – or on our own distorted fantasies – we should base them off of real people we know. The world is incredibly varied with vastly different types of people; not only will our characters become more original this way, but they will also become more relatable!

White girl4. They are always white.

The girl with flaming red hair. The boy with sky-blue eyes. Basically, in a word, white. Why are they always white??

There is a reason for this, of course. The majority ethnicity in America is “white” or Caucasian. Thus, the majority of YA authors are probably white. And we tend to write about what’s comfortable and familiar to us, so it only makes sense that we would write about characters that look like us.

But, let us not forget that African Americans make up 13.2% of the population, and Hispanic and Latino Americans make up 17.1%.

Think about it for a second.

Those are not small numbers.

This could be an entire blog post in of itself, so I’m not going to go deeply into why representation is extremely important, but this a huge problem still in our country. We writers have the power to fix it, but instead we just keep falling into the same ruts as everyone else, writing about the cliché, familiar characters we’re all used to.

Now, I must add on to this: I say this gently, because I’m guilty of falling into the same trap. In my own book, most of the main characters are white. I did this without realizing it, just like many of us do. I wrote about people I could relate to, and in some sense, that meant making them look like me, too. But now that I understand this issue, I’ve become passionate about it, and I have plans for much more ethnic diversity in future books.

By the way, diversity does not mean throwing in a side character that’s black. That’s so easy, and almost condescending. Also, blacks are not the only ethnicity that should be represented more; and what they need are main, heroic roles, not arbitrary, accessory roles.

5. The Chosen One.

There was a prophecy… and you are the One. Only you can defeat the Evil.

This cliché is not limited to young adult literature, and hopefully I don’t even have to mention this, because it’s so universally overused. We need more stories about ordinary heroes and unseen courage – something we can all relate to and look up to. Very few of us are specially chosen to save the universe. Besides, the concept has lost its flavor. It’s just… bland.

You were the chosen one

6. Impossible training sequences.

“I’m a total amateur. I can’t handle a gun/sword/[insert genre-specific weapon here]. How am I supposed to fight?”

The mentor places a hand on our hero’s shoulder, and smiles. “Don’t worry. You’re in a young adult novel. You’ll be an expert in no time!”

No, this conversation never actually happens in books or movies, but sometimes I feel like this is exactly what takes place. Our weak, incapable heroes often go through a training sequence and become impossibly strong in a short period of time. Don’t mark me wrong; I’m a big fan of watching flailing, incompetent characters become epic heroes, but this is a process that needs to take time.

… unless you’re in the Matrix and you can download your training instantaneously. In that case, you’re off the hook.

I know kung-fu

7. End of the world catastrophes.

Saving the world… big, epic fights against aliens or dark lords… *yawns* I don’t know about you, but this just doesn’t faze me anymore. Superheroes and “Chosen” teenagers keep saving the world, and I’m not really worried about it anymore. What about making the conflict smaller? Rather than putting the world in danger, let there be high stakes for the character personally. Emotionally, this is far more engaging, not to mention more believable.

For discussion…

What are some clichés in young adult (or other) stories that have you riled? Rant in the comments below! ^_^

For further reading:

On the issues of writing “strong” female characters, I recommend this blog post by Hannah Heath. On the issue of writing believable male characters, I recommend this post by Hannah Heath and this guest post from Ink and Quills.


P.S. I wrote a guest post for Mariella Hunt’s blog titled “Should You Write to the Trends?” Mariella says it’s her favorite guest post of the year… but I guess you’ll have to make that judgment for yourself! *winks*

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41 Responses

  1. cathleentownsend
    | Reply

    Totally with you on most of these, especially the chosen one, sassy heroines, and bad boy love triangles.

    The only one I have trouble with is the ethnicity issue. I’ve read some stuff where minorities are chiding white authors for cashing in on Poc characters. I’d been advocating (and writing) Poc characters in my books and stories, but now I’m not so sure. Really seems like “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” territory for me. I’m uncertain how I’m going to proceed in the future.

    • Brianna da Silva
      | Reply

      That’s really interesting, Cathleen, and I’m glad you brought that up, because it isn’t something I’ve run into (yet >_>). If I were to write a whole blog post on this issue, I would have added that more than anything, we need to do what makes sense for the story; in other words, we shouldn’t add a minority character just for the sake of adding a minority character. (Maybe that sort of political correctness is where we start to offend people?? Not sure though…) Rather, we should open up our minds to the OPTION of minority characters. No matter who are characters are – in terms of race, age, ethnicity, gender, etc. – it should be naturally called for in the story.

      But yeah, I don’t know how to completely avoid offending people… actually, it seems impossible to avoid that, these days. As long as we have a reason for what we do, and we can firmly defend our choices as an author, then I think we can move forward with confidence.

      • Sharon Cullars
        | Reply

        Hi, I’m late to the conversation but do appreciate the article. Regarding featuring POC, it is fine for a non-minority author to make his or her characters any color they want (although if not well researched, there may be a problem of the author relying on stereotypes). Where some of the controversy comes in is not you as an author, but you as a reader. Many mainstream readers will not even touch a book written by minority authors, but will readily accept a story featuring POC if the author is white. That basically freezes out authors of color who would like their stories to sell. So feel free to write POC, but also help bolster minority authors by reading their works.

  2. saraletourneau
    | Reply

    Great post, Brianna! I can’t stand love triangles, either. It’s the only kind of “relationship” I’ve already resolved to never write about, and reading about them usually frustrates me. I’ve actually liked books less because of them. (*looks around sheepishly*)

    Also, I try to avoid using the term “strong female character” period. Not only because it’s more important to make your characters (regardless of their gender) believable, but because I’m super-wary of having people label my own protagonist that way. She uses magic and a bow w/ arrows, and already knows how to fight when the story begins. But she’s not sassy or defiant, though she’s not afraid to tell it like it is. Instead, she’s responsible, instinctive (meaning that she trusts her instincts), and a good friend – and, at her worst, angry and deeply conflicted. Does that sound different enough from the stereotype, in your opinion?

    • Brianna da Silva
      | Reply

      Thanks, Sara! And I know what you mean about love triangles… they do lower my opinion of books, too. >_>

      I also agree that the term “strong female character” is a terrible (even offensive) one. That’s why I put it in quotations in my blog post, haha! Your character, however, does not sound cliché at all… in fact, she sounds like the kind of character I’d like to read about! Bravo! ^_^

  3. Blaise @ thebookboulevard
    | Reply

    I love all these points but the last one especially because it’s an issue I have with a lot of fiction. The whole world does not have to be at stake. The whole nation does not have to be at stake. You don’t have to start a revolution to have an impact on the main characters or put them in some sort of real and present danger. Make it personal and close to home to bring out their virtues and their flaws.

    I mean, what idiot wants to destroy the world anyway? That’s probably where said idiot lives.

    • Brianna da Silva
      | Reply

      Yesss, I know exactly what you mean!! Authors (and especially filmmakers) seem to think that you have to make the conflict bigger and more epic in order to captivate the audience. Honestly, the opposite is true now. We need smaller conflicts with more emotional, personal implications. THOSE are more gripping.

      And yeah, there are a lot of idiot antagonists that want to destroy the very world they live in… haha! This always seems so far-fetched to me!

  4. Suzannah
    | Reply

    Haha, fun post! I can’t stand love triangles, sassy heroines, and brooding bad boys either. Props to Peeta for not being one of those.

    I have lots of thoughts on diversity in books because since finishing my all-white debut novel (based off Arthurian legend, so I make no apology for THAT) I’ve gone on (to my surprise) to write stories featuring protags who are (Asian) Indian, Greek, Armenian, Chinese, Syrian/Jewish, and Arabic. Not because I was trying to be diverse but because in each case that’s what the story needed. It’s been great, but I’m saddened by many things I’ve noticed in doing this – eg, how of you search Pinterest for “middle eastern men” it’s impossible to find a character inspiration PIC that doesn’t look like he leapt off a romance novel cover (yuck).

    Too many thoughts to give here. Maybe I should do a post?

    • Brianna da Silva
      | Reply

      Yes, all the love to Peeta for being an original character! ^_^ Despite being in a love triangle, but that’s not HIS fault. 😉

      Obviously, you have nothing to apologize about for writing white characters in an Arthurian story… haha! As I just said in response to Cathleen, we need to do what makes sense for our stories, more than anything else. Sounds like you do have a lot of thoughts here… maybe you should write a post. 🙂 I’d love to read it!

  5. Cait @ Paper Fury
    | Reply

    I’m really tired of the being-a-great-fighter-in-two-weeks-with-like-basically-zero-training. YER A GENIUS, CHUM. Gah. It bugs me so bad. People train for years and lifetimes to be epic. I get that YA books need to move it along, but realism first!!
    I also think there should be more characters of colour in books! BUT. I will never blame an author for having a white cast, if they are white particularly. Because people are sooo ready to criticise and rant and absolutely demolish writers who get a different culture “wrong”. I see it all the time and it’s kinda terrifying. *gulps* So if trying to represent another culture is something a writer can’t do efficiently and well, then they shouldn’t. BUT THAT’S JUST MY OPINION. hehe.
    I’m seeing less triangles nowadays which is nice!! 😀
    Another cliche I dislike is absentee parents. WHERE ARE THE PARENTS?!?! Why can’t they be part of their kids lives?!

    • Suzannah
      | Reply

      >Because people are sooo ready to criticise and rant and absolutely demolish writers who get a different culture “wrong”. I see it all the time and it’s kinda terrifying. *gulps*

      Oh my, yes. Well, I’m kind of guilty of complaining of one author who wrote Persian characters that behaved exactly like 21st-c Americans. That saddened me. But yes, I’ve noticed that there’s kind of no way to depict women/other cultures/disabled people/what have you in a way that SOMEONE won’t write an opinion piece on denouncing as discriminatory.

      And you know what? That is a sad, sad thing.

      • Brianna da Silva
        | Reply

        I’ve complained about these kind of things, too. >.> I’m a history buff, and I can’t stand it when books or movies are made in historical time periods, but the characters operate with a modern American worldview. It’s so disgusting. I don’t even like the modern American worldview in many ways, so that’s half of why it bothers me. AGH.

        It is sad. But if we were to write ACCURATE depictions of history/other cultures/etc., at least we could adequately defend ourselves. Anyone who disagrees would technically be wrong. >.>

    • Brianna da Silva
      | Reply

      YESS! Thing is, if they need to move the plot along, why don’t they start with a character that’s already skilled?? Or, why don’t they show the character improving throughout the story? Either one of those is enjoyable for me, personally.

      And you are absolutely right about the cultural thing. They say “write what you know”, so if you genuinely understand nothing about another culture, then perhaps it is best to avoid it… OR to go be immersed and learn about that culture as best as you can. ^_^

      Of course, if you’re a fantasy writer like me, you can cheat and create your own culture. MWAHAHA!

      And omg how did I forget the absentee parents?! That’s another one I can’t stand!! That and the kids that never tell their parents anything (although this is even more present in kids’ movies, I think). “Oh, I’m a superhero apparently, or I just discovered I can turn into a dragon and I’m fighting at night to save the world from invading monsters… but I’m not going to tell my parents anything.” ?? Is it just me or would real-life kids be more likely to TALK to their parents? Or was I just abnormally close to my parents growing up? I always wonder this. >.>

  6. […] Once you’ve finished the crappy first draft, it’s time for analysis and revision. Jody Hedlund shares the critical importance of crafting a strong opening, and Kristen Kieffer provides 19 ways to write better dialogue. For those writing in the young adult genre, Brianna da Silva proposes 7 young adult cliches that need to stop. […]

  7. Nate Philbrick
    | Reply

    Okay, so reading number 7 felt like reading my own thoughts! Save-the-world-level plot lines are entertaining, but they tend to lack that personal element, as you mention. And I definitely agree with the rest, as well. Great and true points, all of them.

    • Brianna da Silva
      | Reply

      Saving the world is sooo overdone! I mean, it has its value, but I think that value has been spent.

      Thank you, Nate! ^_^

  8. Hannah Heath
    | Reply

    YES. Epic post, Brianna. #6 is especially awesome. That has never made sense to me. I mean, if somebody handed me a sword and gave me a bit of training, I’m pretty sure I’d slice somebody’s arm off….And not my enemy’s arm, but an innocent bystander’s or my own. 🙂 Anyway, so many awesome posts. And thanks for the link over to my blog! Happy writing.

    • Brianna da Silva
      | Reply

      Thank you, Hannah!! ^_^ Haha, I feel exactly the same way! I’m sooo clumsy. I kind of carried that over into my own character! In one scene, while practicing archery, she accidentally hits a poor pig instead of her target. :O xD You could say she’s, um… not so competent with a bow.

      Thank you again! And the pleasure is mine. I really did enjoy that post of yours. Happy writing!

  9. Grace
    | Reply

    I absolutely agree with everything on this list! Another cliche is the all-powerful, evil government or society. And while I like having strong female main characters, I wish we could have variety. Maybe two main characters, a boy and a girl? Same with the ethnicity.

    • Brianna da Silva
      | Reply

      Agreed, Grace. The dystopian genre has been fully spent, in my opinion. 🙂 And I love having a boy and a girl as the main characters! It also helps appeal to a broader audience… you know, anyone reading can relate to one of the main characters, at least on SOME level. ;D

  10. Jebraun Clifford
    | Reply

    Great list. I absolutely agree an author shouldn’t cram cliches into a story and neglect any originality. And yet, these are the elements that appeal to many YA readers. Break down some of the most popular titles, and you’ll find there’s often more than one cliche present. Harry Potter: 4, 5 & 7
    Twilight: 1, 3, 4, & 7 (maybe even 6 if you count Bella getting turned into a vampire and going all Xena warrior princess immediately ?)
    The Hunger Games: 1, 2, 4 & 7
    And the parents are dead/absent/helpless in all of these stories too.
    Why do these cliches work? Possibly because the authors put a fresh twist on an old story. Yes, Harry was the only one who could’ve ‘saved’ the world, but he also had lots of opportunities to turn back and let someone else handle the job but stuck with it time and time again at great personal cost. Perhaps the key is to not let the cliche drive the story!

    • Brianna da Silva
      | Reply

      Jebraun, you are absolutely right. Part of the reason I included these clichés is because the series you listed used them already, and it will feel that much more familiar for new authors to use these elements again. BUT, any cliché can technically be made original, if it is does in a fresh way. That’s not easy to pull off, though, so sometimes it’s better just to start fresh. 🙂 But every story is different!

  11. Mari
    | Reply

    I agree with this post, though I do have a few thoughts.
    Firstly, not all blonde haired, fair skinned and blue eyed people are actually considered white. That profile matches TONS of arabs. My cousins fit that description perfectly but theyre not labelled “white”.
    Second, what’s so bad about writing what we know? Why should we be bullied into diversifying our cast if we are uncomfortable with it? And by uncomfortable, I mean we don’t want to get it wrong and hurt someone. I’m hurt all the time by how arabs are portrayed in novels or movies. Don’t even get me started on movies.. The character is usually played by an indian or persian.
    Third, please, if you’re going to have a character be a warrior, let them have some knowledge of fighting before the start of your story. I’m a second degree black belt karateka and I know from personal experience how LONG training takes and that it can bring you to your knees and make you cry years of defeat. Teen fighters saving the world makes me roll my eyes.
    I’ve come across that strong and sassy badass female character in so many books. I just close it and stop reading. Strong girls come in all kinds of personalities, and they can be girly too! Even if they don’t admit it to others..
    Anyway, that’s my two cents.

    • Brianna da Silva
      | Reply

      Mari, thank you so much for commenting, you brought up some excellent points!

      I’m sorry for making the broad statement about “whites”! I only said that because there are so many protagonists in YA that are white, light-haired and blue eyed… I didn’t mean to make an incorrect label. Thanks for putting me in my place. 😉

      And if you feel uncomfortable writing about something you don’t know, then of course you shouldn’t. You’re right; poorly portraying an ethnic group or subculture can be more offensive than excluding it entirely. I’m definitely not saying that everyone should do this in every story; then it would be legalism. I only mean to bring light to this problem in the hopes that more people write with diversity, when it makes sense for the story and when they feel comfortable doing so.

      Yes, becoming a warrior has been made to seem so easy in YA fiction. I don’t blame you for rolling your eyes!! It makes me laugh out loud when things like this happen. It’s just not realistic!

      And I totally agree about the sassy badass female character! Oh man, I’m so sick of that stereotype.

      Thanks again for commenting! ^_^

  12. Elliana
    | Reply

    Sorry for commenting so late, I just discovered this post so late! About the cliches: why are there no positive adoption YA stories? It’s always either an orphan protagonist or an adopted protagonist in a bad situation (like Harry Potter). My 4(!) younger siblings are all adopted, and it’s not like any YA orphan/adoption story at all. Usually, YA stories get simple adoption facts wrong, like the kind of facts that anyone should know, not just a person who knows firsthand about adoption like I do. I also hate it when the protagonist has the exact same personality in every single YA book. I agree, she’s always sassy and sarcastic. She’s also usually poor, which I don’t understand. I wish a protagonist could be more quiet and geeky, which is something I could relate to more.

  13. Cari Hislop
    | Reply

    I loved your post! I think part of the problem is that publishers (and writers) tend to jump on bandwagons…Harry Potter sold a billion books…lets write more orphan wizards saving the world and make sure they have some cute furry side kick character so the film can make money off plush toys. Readers don’t help…we loved “Any big Series”…we want more of it…give us more..what do you mean the author died? Find someone else to make our favorite characters come back to life and have more adventures- and publish it this month! Preferably this week! (I’m as guilty as the next reader).

    Seriously though, I suspect that the favoured tropes (cliches) will shift dramatically in the coming future because reality is shifting. Where end of the world stories were a safe fantasy a few years ago – for many it now feels far too real. There are people in the world who appear bent on destroying everything and everyone (including themselves) A) that’s crazy and B) reality doesn’t make for pleasant escape-fiction! I’ve noticed in myself this newish avoidance of any story that includes ‘war’. Even if it crops up in a Vampire romance I usually will stop reading. I just don’t want to read about people fighting to save themselves from the evil group of nutters who hate them. It’s too real. I prefer funny stories with great characters living interesting lives. And if the story somehow illuminates life or helps me understand myself or other people (and includes vampires) – even better!

    I’m really glad you mentioned the strong young woman heroine…it has become a cookie cutter character and that is just dead boring (especially when she’s a vampire hunter – try to find a vampire romance where the heroine isn’t a stupid hunter falling for the “bad-evil-too-sexy-for-his-coffin” vampire and you will need a large block of time. Yes there are lots of stories that break the sterotype, but one has to slog through so many ‘stupid hunter stories’ to find them! And yes I LOVED Buffy the Vampire slayer (tv version), but it was done. It was great. Why try to rewrite it? Ok…that’s probably more than one day’s ration of ranting. 🙁

  14. A. J. Lundetræ
    | Reply

    Excellent post!
    This post was a real encouragement to me since my own heroine Ane is somewhat not learning to kung fu in two chapters and she is not caucasian, and is not saving the entire world… I’ve been wondering if I should change my story (to me more “wow”), but now I’m thinking NO. 🙂 Characters that are like real people who struggle, learn and change, that is what should carry the story forwards.This post is a great reminder to steer away from clichees! Thank you!!!

    • Brianna da Silva
      | Reply

      Aw, I’m so glad this post was helpful for you!! ^_^ And yes, keep your heroine Ane as she is! I’m sure she has no need to change. I think it’s always better to have a character (or story) that’s unique and a bit less mainstream, than to have one that follows trends and borders on being cliché!

  15. […] I started by reading 7 Young Adult Cliches That Need to Stop. […]

  16. BrooklynSkye
    | Reply

    reading this makes me feel slightly better, in some respects, about the book I am working on. I do not have a love triangle. In fact, the female MC has no interest in the male MC and vice versa. Though I do have the black guy as more of a side kick in the first book, when the second rolls around he will definitely take center stage. Though the male MC is a little dark and broody at first, it is only because he has no reason to trust people and many reasons not to. I think I have done good with my Female MC not being the sassy strong willed personality type but also not the mary sue damsel in distress. Though there are a few other cliche’s that are present (Dystopian society) The MC’s goals are not specifically to fight the government. The female is just trying to get home to her parents and the male wants revenge on the man that killed his family which happens to be the head of the dystopian government. He knows the consequences of murdering someone in the ruling class but he doesn’t see them as all that bad. He will start a war but it is not his purpose, just a happy bonus for him.

    • Brianna da Silva
      | Reply

      Hey Brooklyn! Thanks for commenting! ^_^ I’m glad this made you feel better about your story. It does sound like you’ve turned some clichés on their head. And of course, a few clichés can be okay, so long as they are presented in a way that feels fresh! 😉

  17. Kiara
    | Reply

    Good post! I totally agree with the “strong female” trope – that’s one of my pet peeves. It gets really annoying when girls can do everything in books when that’s not realistic. However, I do disagree with the chosen one and saving the world ones. I’m a huge fantasy lover, and I’m all for a chosen character. While we definitely need to do things other than that, I don’t think it needs to be thrown away entirely. And maybe this is just the Marvel nerd in me, but I love when the world is at stake in a story (I just don’t love when the world is supposedly in danger and yet the biggest worry of the hero is their love triangle :P). It’s large-scale, more damage, more lives. You did make a really good point about inserting personal challenges and dangers to get a more emotional, personal feel. 🙂

    • Brianna da Silva
      | Reply

      Hey, Kiara! Thanks so much for commenting!

      Well, then, I guess I stand corrected. 🙂 Not everyone is tired of the chosen character, apparently. ;D But, I would say more people are than not. So maybe there is still a place for it, BUT keeping it more personal well help keep everyone satisfied! ^_^

  18. Inara
    | Reply

    Well, I’m not guilty of any of these, except maybe the “absentee parent” trope because my MC’s (not real) mother turns out to be on the opposite side and is the owner of many companies and is supplying and designing weapons for the army that doesn’t play that big of a role in my book. She does, however, have a nanny that has cared for her since she was twelve.

    I am sick of all the tropes you mentioned, and the love triangle was only good (for me) in The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare. Cassie is a fantastic author, really, even if she is guilty of one or two of these. If you haven’t read that and enjoy fantasy, please do. You’ll thank me later.

    I’m proud of my love triangle, because while Guinevere (my main character and protagonist) thinks these two boys like her, she catches them kissing when she comes to warn them about an attack that’s happening.

    My MC is really geeky and awkward and pretty much fades out in social situations with stangers. However, like most people, she’s sarcastic and cynical in company of her friends and family. I feel that I might be (totally am, really) guilty of having no main characters of color. I mean, it is a different world with different countries that are divided from the Un-Mystic places using Wards. You probably have no idea what I’m talking about… Thanks for reading!

    • Brianna da Silva
      | Reply

      Thanks for your comment, Inara! I haven’t read The Infernal Devices, although I keep thinking I should try them out. Only thing is, I tend to lean towards high fantasy over urban fantasy, so I’m not sure if I’d enjoy it as much as other people do? *shrugs*

      I do love the geeky and awkward types. 😎 (Maybe because I can relate to them, haha.) A lot of my writing, starting off, has been pretty white-centered, too. O.o But only because I didn’t know better, and it’s hard to change that now. I just plan to make up for it in future stories. 😉

  19. Elena Rodriguez
    | Reply

    I love it when other people realize that all the parents in the world somehow disappeared, never to be seen again. There is only one series I have ever read where the girl’s friends are there pretty much only for moral support, and she’s working with all the adults.

    I do have a question though. One of my characters is “really, really messed up” according to my dad. I can see why he would say that, but the character has no reason to be messed up. He’s a bad boy, but not in the way you described.

    His name is Carlos. He comes from a wealthy kingdom, his family loves him, and they’re not afraid to show it. He is for some reason a gang leader, trained assassin, their, and werewolf. He’s had no traumatic past, so I don’t know why he turned out so wrong.

    Also, my main character is a girl named Erin, who is a Princess of Ireland(yes, I realize Ireland doesn’t have a Princess, but they’re hiding from the government). She is does very well with a sword and bow and arrow, she’s quick to be your friend, she’s sarcastic, is very brave, not the smartest, and has never been hurt (physically) more than scraping her knee. Does she sound too perfect, or does she need more flaws? Or does she sound like a strong female?

    Thanks for the post! I very thoroughly enjoyed it.

    • Brianna da Silva
      | Reply

      Hi Elena! Thanks for your comment, and I’m glad you enjoyed this post. I’m sorry I’m only just now seeing this – I’ve been on a very long blogging hiatus!

      As for your question, I’m not sure I have enough information about this character to decidedly say whether or not she’s “too perfect”, although at first glance – just with what you have described – she does feel a bit like a familiar “strong princess” character. This isn’t because any of her traits aren’t good; they’re all great traits for a protagonist! But in addition to these traits, I do think she needs more quirks to make her unique and interesting, and perhaps at least one major character flaw. The fact that she isn’t very smart isn’t a character flaw, but more of a practical flaw (like being allergic to peanuts or struggling to whistle). I definitely recommend making sure she has some sort of moral weakness to overcome, like pride or recklessness or selfishness or whatever else you think works for her. And as for quirks, I just mean very specific things about her that make her stand out as a unique person, different from everyone else in the world… e.g. a combination of hobbies, habits, tastes, passions, preferences, crutch words and phrases, etc.

      Maybe she already has all these things, and you just didn’t mention them because it was a brief overview of her character. If so, great! ^_^ If not, I would recommend developing those details of her character to add more depth and dimension to her.

      I hope this helps!

  20. Alyssa
    | Reply

    I love that you put learn how to fight in here that one gets under my skin all the time, it took years for me to learn how to fight and i make sure my charcters show the years of training and how it shaped their bodies and minds.

  21. Kathy Lemak
    | Reply

    I feel lucky, as I’ve already gotten about 50 pages into my book, and I have only created one of these, and am already in the midst of changing it before reading this. 🙂 It is hard, though, to write about non-whites when you’re white, imho, because while we are all human, the backdrop of one’s raising, family history, racial matters they’ve experienced, etc., is not something I would be familiar with. I guess that’s where conscientious research comes in, eh?

    • Brianna da Silva
      | Reply

      Oh yes, I feel you here Kathy. I’m guilty of it too; in my current WIP, all the main characters are white. >_> It’s natural to write about people who are similar to us.

      There’s also the argument (which I hadn’t heard when I wrote this post originally) that it’s dangerous to write about underrepresented cultures and groups that are not your own, because (1) you could unknowingly perpetrate harmful stereotypes and misconceptions, and (2) make it harder for AUTHORS of those groups to publish books about their OWN experiences. (The #ownvoices conversation covers this and is worth digging into!)

      The first problem can be fixed with thorough research and beta reading, but as for the second… I don’t know the answer yet. Maybe it’s okay to write about cultures we’re familiar with, but be aware of the need for diversity, and find ways you can incorporate it while still being respectful to those experiences that are not your own.

      I hope that’s helpful and doesn’t muddy the waters further, haha.

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