Father’s Day is a day meant to celebrate our dads, grandfathers, and other male role models in our lives. I’ve been blessed to have a great relationship with my own dad, but unfortunately, fathers in fiction tend to get a bad rap. They’re usually portrayed in a negative way, if they’re present in the story at all.
Despite this, I still believe there are a lot of good fathers and father figures in stories, you just have to look closely for them. Since I did something similar for Mother’s Day, I’ll be sharing some of my favorite fathers, grandfathers, and father figures in fiction.
If you handed me a young adult novel and gave me thirty seconds to look at it, I could probably tell you a bit about the cast of characters. There’s a pretty good chance the cast consists of a dark and mysterious guy, an insecure girl, and a vaguely attractive childhood friend.
Not all YA books would be like that, of course, but a majority of them do contain these basic character archetypes. They’re like pages in a coloring book – an outline for the writer to fill in with whatever colors or patterns they see fit. There’s nothing wrong with that, but some of these archetypes have become tropes. In other words, all of the writers are coloring in the picture the exact same way.
These tropes make stories predictable, which gets boring for the audience. But are all tropes really that bad? Can any of them be salvaged? I’ve picked ten of the most common character tropes in YA fiction to try and answer which tropes are really worth saving (and how to save them), and which ones should be tossed aside.
Information about the plot of a movie, TV show, book, video game, or any other form of media that ruins the viewer/reader/gamer’s enjoyment of the media in question.
The kind of person you don’t want to be.
Chances are, we’ve all been spoiled at some point in our lives – and no, it’s not the kind of spoiled that happens when your grandparents give you all the chocolate chip cookies you want. Perhaps someone once told you about how Harry Potter ends, or you know what happens in that particular episode of Sherlock, or maybe you know Sheik’s true identity despite having never played Ocarina of Time. Sometimes, spoilers are okay – you probably don’t care about how Harry Potter ends if you don’t plan on ever reading or watching it – but other times, they ruin things we would’ve otherwise enjoyed.
But that begs the question, what makes a spoiler spoil-y? When is it okay to discuss potential spoilers in public? How do I avoid them?
There isn’t a one-size-fits all formula for every single creative media ever made, but I have put together a few of my personal guidelines to give everyone a safe and spoiler-free existence (hopefully).
Because I need examples, there will be a few common spoilers mentioned below, but I’ll be blocking them out in white text and brackets [like this], so if you want to see them, highlight it with your cursor.
Have you ever played a video game, watched a movie, or read a book that made you want to live in that world? In all stories, no matter what the medium is, the setting plays an important role. Because of that, we often find ourselves wanting to visit that world – myself included. I’ve experienced a lot of stories, and while setting isn’t always a prominent factor, the best storytellers know how to utilize this element to their advantage.
Today, I’d like to dedicate some time to my favorite fictional worlds. Not only would I love to visit these universes myself (well, if they weren’t so dangerous), but they’ve also influenced my own writing in a number of ways.
Writing is often thought of as a solitary activity. When you think of a writer, do you think of a person who sits at their desk until the early hours of the morning, the room only lit by the soft glow of their laptop? Sometimes, especially during events like NaNoWriMo, we do shut ourselves away from the world, but that isn’t always the case.
Contrary to popular belief, writers actually rely on each other quite a bit. Without the support, encouragement, and feedback that other writers provide, we probably wouldn’t get as far as we do. At the very least, we wouldn’t grow much as writers. Having someone to challenge us and show us where we can improve is crucial, otherwise our writing would always stay the same, and where’s the fun in that?
Having writer friends is important for a number of reasons, but in the end, it all comes down to three main benefits. What are they, you ask? Read on to find out!
A Good vs. Evil story is usually pretty straightforward. You have the Good Guys on one side, and the Bad Guys on the other side, and you’re almost always cheering for the Good Guys to win. It’s the type of story you see in children’s fairy tales, but that doesn’t make it childish.
Lately, I’ve noticed people tend to steer clear of these types of stories. The argument is that “Good vs. Evil” is too unrealistic – people and societies really aren’t that clear-cut when it comes to morality. In reality, there’s a lot more ambiguity. That’s how we end up with writing advice about giving our villains redeemable qualities and giving our heroes flaws.
And don’t get me wrong, that’s good advice – you do want to have fully developed characters on both sides of the equation, or it isn’t a very fair story. But in the process of giving this advice, we shun the typical good vs. evil stories, calling them cliche, predictable, overdone, and so on and so forth.
But here’s a secret: I’m actually okay with these kinds of stories.
If you’ve ever been in a high school English class, your teacher probably asked a question to the effect of “What is the theme of [insert piece of fiction here]?” The theme, or message, of a story is the driving force behind the narrative. It gives the story depth. Often, this message isn’t extremely obvious. The best storytellers are able to craft their stories in such a way that the theme isn’t overbearing, yet still has an effect on the audience.
Unfortunately, many creators fail to do that.
I’ve seen it in movies, books, TV shows, you name it. The writer sacrifices creating strong, quality content in order to share a message, and because of that, the message suffers. In reality, a writer should be able to do both – create a quality story with a strong message. However, that’s easier said than done.
So where does that leave the writers? We should be striving to create stories with meaning, of course, but how do we do that? It’s a daunting task, and one that’s not easy to explain how to do. Even so, I’ve tried to come up with a few Do’s and Don’ts for creating stories with meaning.