Tuesday, February 1, 2011

overused ideas and themes in kid's lit

I'm sure we're all guilty of at least one of these - both newbie writers like myself and the more distinguished - the overuse of common ideas and/or themes. Oh, don't raise your eyebrow at me Dwayne Johnson, you know what I mean!

(Yeah, sure. There's a character in my book who raises an eyebrow. He peers over his spectacles, too. And he calls them spectacles, not glasses. So what!)
Photo: Dwayne 'The Rock" Johnson. Google Images

I've been meaning to post about this topic since I read a very informative article in the SCBWI bulletin called, "The New Red-Haired Best Friend" by Joelle Anthony. In one year, Anthony read 3 to 4 books a week and was struck by the common themes threaded throughout most YA or MG novels. She says the idea behind the list was "to point out areas where authors seem to think they are being unique, but actually aren't."

In my own reading and critiquing, this is something my writing buddy and I point out to each other all the time. For some reason it's so easy to fall into these cliche-traps, but we all do it. Sometimes people will even unknowingly offer up suggestions to revise a manuscript so that it follows one of these overused patterns. There's a lot of the same out there - book ideas can be like fashion trends, once they catch, they spread like wildfire... to use a cliche.

So what are some of the overused ideas that topped the list? (below, as shown in the Nov/Dec 2010 SCBWI article):
- Stories of irresponsible parents with main characters who end up paying bills, cooking, cleaning, etc.
- Main characters who hate math. (Guilty!)
- Mean cheerleaders.
- Main characters who are the only ones in the world without a cell phone.

Are you guilty of any of these? Want more? The list goes on. Read all about it over on Anthony's red-haired list, here.

(Joelle Anthony's debut YA novel, Restoring Harmony, was released in 2010).

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