I’ve recently been inspired to start a series of “How to write _____” posts. We’re going to kick off today with “How to write a best-selling supernatural YA novel”.
Be warned: the advice presented below is terrible. Do not, for the love of sandwiches, follow this advice.
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How to write a best-selling supernatural YA novel
- Decide which dangerous supernatural creature from mythology you’re going to transform into an attractive, brooding teenage guy who acts dangerous but really just wants someone to “get” him. Options include, but are not limited to, vampires, werewolves, mermen, demons, fallen angels, elves, dragon-people, and yetis.
- Set the story in a small town where everyone knows each other and nothing exciting or supernatural ever happens. Props if you can give the town a seemingly-ordinary name that is actually a metaphor for the female protagonist’s life journey.
- Start the story off in the traditional “new kid comes to school, everyone loves/fears them” manner. Your “new kid” can be either the female protagonist or the love interest, depending on if you want your heroine to start off with friends and then gradually abandon them as she gets wrapped up in the love interest’s far more interesting life, or just make her a loner right off the bat to simplify the process.
- The plot should revolve entirely around the female protagonist being pursued by the supernatural love interest. If you really want, you can get all fancy and introduce an outside threat (or something that actually resembles a traditional plot), but it’s really best if you just stick to the “boy meets girl, boy scares girl, boy desires girl, boy gets girl after inflicting severe mental, emotional, and physical trauma on her” approach.
- The female protagonist needs a fatal flaw that frequently incapacitates her, allowing the supernatural love interest to swoop in and save the day (preferably in a mysterious and brooding manner). Extreme clumsiness is one of the most widely-used flaws, as it allows the female protagonist to remain lovely and intelligent while still forcing her into otherwise totally-avoidable situations.
- Introduce a love triangle, and make it as heart-wrenching for the female protagonist as possible. Remember, the secondary love interest is exactly that — secondary. He’s never going to get the girl, regardless of whatever evils befall the main love interest. Still, don’t let that stop you from character-developing the heck out of the secondary love interest — make sure he shows up everywhere, especially at awkward, totally inappropriate times, to mess things up. And remember the cardinal rule: never admit that he’s the secondary love interest. You know he’s never going to get the girl, and so do your readers, but it’s a huge faux pas to actually admit such a thing.
- The female protagonist needs a female friend, but they should only ever talk about the supernatural love interest. Since you’ve definitely set your story in high school (and if you haven’t, change it right now!), your characters might occasionally slip up and talk about school instead of boys. That’s okay. It happens. The most important part is to make sure the conversation gets back on track ASAP.
- The female protagonist’s single parent must be bumbling, well-meaning, and totally oblivious to what is going on with her life. Extra points if your single parent decides to “take an interest” in the heroine and ground her, thus preventing her from going out to meet her supernatural love interest at a key moment and nearly getting them all killed.
- Don’t be afraid to wax poetic about the supernatural love interest for a good three or four paragraphs per chapter. This handsome, brooding gentleman is, after all, the man of your heroine’s dreams. If she’s not obsessing over every detail of his physical makeup at all times, you’re not doing it right.
- Keep the ending melancholy, but hopeful. You definitely want to set up for future sequels — no YA novel worth its salt ends after just one book. Obviously you can’t resolve whatever is keeping the heroine and her supernatural love interest apart, but you can drop hints that they might just get around to working out how they can be together three or four books down the road. Whatever you do, do not give them a happy ending. Once your characters get a happy ending, that’s the end of the story — and you need to milk this series for all it’s worth!
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