Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Basics of Plot in YA

(FYI, Supernaturally and Paranormalcy are both 50% off on Amazon! Also, if you're a teen and you go here and vote for Paranormalcy, I'll love you forever.)

Following our Rules of Genre in YA post, I wanted to give you a primer for plots. If you have a story you want to write, consider taking one of these formats and plugging in your variables. Works every time!

The Roadtrip
Applicable across genre, whether it's a roadtrip to California to memorialize your dead best friend, to the East Coast to chase after the one that got away, or across a barren wasteland that used to be the United States to avoid being devoured by flesh-eating zombies, it's pretty much the same--the physical journey mirrors the emotional one. Hijinks. Running out of gas/money. Dashboard confessionals (of the non-emo-band variety). The necessity of chainsaws and flamethrowers. Classic, flexible, and when in doubt with plotting, pop a tire in the middle of nowhere. Preferably with hillbilly cannibals.

The Big Dance
Nothing says drama like bad music, uncomfortable and unflattering formal wear, and strapping dying flowers to your wrist. If Big Dances are the pinnacle of teen experience, no wonder we're all so eager to get the bleep into our twenties. I mean, umm: Romance! Drama! A Night That Changes Everything! (You can also substitute Graduation, The Big Party, or The Last Night Before The Dystopian Government Kills Us All. All you need is a sense that this is a last chance of some sort + hope mixed with desperation + a boy who looks good in a tux.) (We should give the boy in the tux a flamethrower. Just, you know, to liven things up.) (Because really: Prom is boring.) (I mean, PROM IS AWESOME WE SHOULD WRITE MORE BOOKS ABOUT IT.) (Sorry, Evie.)

The Best Friend Romance
He's always been around. She's never noticed. But suddenly, something happens--whether a plague that wipes out the rest of their town, or an alien invasion that forces all of the teenagers to set out on their own (now we are roadtripping again, dangit, and they forgot the chainsaws), or the removal of braces and the restyling of the hair--and he is all she wants. But now he's taken. Or maybe she is. You know they'll get together in the end; it's the getting there that's fun. Or at least it would be, if that horrible girl who's been making fun of our heroine since second grade weren't sticking her tongue down the best friend's throat! Too bad this isn't a Best Friend Romance/Murder Mystery, otherwise someone could take a lead pipe to Horrible Girl. Just hope it isn't a dystopian. You can't win in a dystopian. Otherwise they'd have to change it to Blisstopian.

The World Is Ending and I Will Probably Die, BUT WE MUST MAKE OUT
He's a fallen angel/government rebel/wrong side of towner/half-android half-zombie. She's a girl who just can't resist his broodingly dark angsty muscles even if it kills her. If they get together, THE WORLD WILL END. But if they don't, THE WORLD WILL END. What is a girl to do? Why, stare a lot, and muse on the nature of his musculature, and bemoan the details of the plot obstacles thrown in their way. And then, of course, make out. Because if the world is ending anyway, there should at least be some kissing to buffer the devastation. Also, getting together will probably magically solve whatever impossible barriers were stopping them. Because kissing? SOLVES EVERYTHING. Especially when Bunsen Burners are involved.

(Unless you are a young teenager reading this, in which case doing all of your homework, getting enough sleep, having good friends, and eating balanced meals solves everything.)

The Fish Out of Water
Recently popularized by the influx of mermaid tales. Every teenager feels like a misfit, whether it's because of secret family shame, or because he or she spouts tentacles and suckers when splashed with water. Fish out of water tales capitalize on this universal feeling by saying, "Yes! You ARE different! And if you can survive the government assassins hunting you down/the anti-kraken movement/the zombie plague/high school, you'll realize that being different is what makes you strong. Or, you know, being a werewolf is what makes you strong, but being different is what makes you you. And you are awesome." Also, kissing. Because really.


The Horrible Things Happen and Everything Ends In Bittersweet Loss
Congratulations! Printz Award Winner.


So, those are just the basic plot lines you can work with. There are, of course, infinite combinations and varieties of these. And if you ever get stuck writing within one of these plot lines, just remember: Add kissing, or add explosions.

Or blow people up while they are kissing. Everybody wins!

31 comments:

Lisa Dunick said...

What if you add kissing AND explosions? I'm thinking Best Selling National Book Award winner. No?
(note to self: add explosions to current wip)

Dara said...

I think you just created a new genre with Blisstopian. Someone should try that :P

Kristine Asselin said...

Great post! I've got to work a tire popping into my road-trip plot...

Janet Johnson said...

LOL! so laughing at that last one. :)

Beth Kemp said...

On behalf of parents, thank you for the responsible homework/meals/friends/sleep message.

Off to see where kissing can fit in my Fish Out of Water plot :)

Tara said...

Genius.
Best blog post ever.

Ashley @ Book Labyrinth said...

Congratulations! Printz Award Winner. *dies laughing* I think I may have just legitimately said "Ha!" out loud. At least I'm at home alone right now except for the cats. And they don't judge. Much.

You are too funny... loved all of these because they are somehow so, so true.

Lisa_Gibson said...

Great post! Still laughing. :) thanks for the cliff notes on the plot lines. Love it.
Lisa ~ YA Literature Lover

Frankie said...

Hey! This is great! I have kissing with explosions and swords in my YA!

This is GREAT news!

LOL!

You're fabulous!

Frankie

Julie G. said...

The people who used to be kissing loose if you blow them up. :/ But no one really like them anyways, so no one else cares.

Kathryn Packer Roberts said...

Wow, that's basically how my book ends! *does happy dance all the way to the Printz award ceremonies*

Abby said...

You have me laughing - OH the joys of getting inside the teenagers head! I love the plot ideas. I will pass on your link to my teenage niece and let her vote for you book! :)

rockinlibrarian said...

The Horrible Things Happen and Everything Ends In Bittersweet Loss
Congratulations! Printz Award Winner.


Laughing hysterically and so quoting/linking you on Facebook or something...

Becky Wallace said...

CRAP!! None of those things are in my book. What have I done wrong? Must re-write now.

Wait...there is a prom scene. But it's not with the right boy and nothing happens except that she gets in trouble when she gets home. Does that count? Please, please say it counts and I've actually written a YA novel that will sell!

dothutchison said...

You are my HERO

dothutchison said...

You are my HERO

Maegan Langer said...

Have you considered a second career as a lit professor? Because you'd be brilliant. Seriously.

Jessie Clark said...

Yes, please teach creative writing classes! I love that adding kissing and explosions make everything better. Hey, it works for action movies!

Ellen Faith said...

Damn. And here I thought I'd been given a reason to make out endlessly cause it solves everything *pouts*

Shallee said...

Hm. My current wip is sort of the horrible things/bittersweet loss type. Maybe I can work with that. :)

But my next wip is totally going to have hillbilly cannibals.

Anonymous said...

Be right back. Off to write a novel about a guy with a tux . . . that comes with a built-in flamethrower.

-Christine from Arizona

DK Burrow said...

This post is truly made of awesome! You're so very right. (And I'm still laughing.)

Debra D. said...

"Congratulations! Printz Award Winner"

BWAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tameka said...

I love everything about this post! "Congratulations Printz Award Winner" ftw!

Amber said...

Trufax? Prom is really boring. Fortunately, Evie isn't in my head and she'll never know i said it. :-D These genres pretty much cover YA... not in a bad way, though. I can live vicariously through the hillbilly cannibal-eaten teens on a road trip. ;-)

melissa @ 1lbr said...

I love these! Especially the making out while the world ends. It could potentially bring about world peace, I think.

And I'm so excited to get started on my Printz winner book. Yes!

Anonymous said...

I just found your blog, and I love it. And I literally laughed out loud while reading this post. Thank you for making my day :)

Maggie said...

I love this, and not only because my WIP has kissing and explosions--while hot boys are in tuxes! Yay!

And you are so right that everything should have more kissing.

Madeleine said...

From now on, I'm putting that Printz quote at the end of every review I post of a Printz Award winner. Sums things up beautifully. :) (And my mind immediately jumped to THE BOOK THIEF...)

Brenna Braaten said...

Oh my. . . The Horrible Things Happen and Everything Ends In Bittersweet Loss plot made me laugh so hard. I actually almost fell out of my chair.

Nekokat~chan said...

i voted for paranormalcy and i'm a teen!!