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Derivative Young Adult Fiction

  The other morning, I was doing some looking around on that devourer of fortunes, Amazon. I had received an e-mail earlier in the morning about some recommendations for reading and, as a big fan of reading, I was moved to check it out. As I read the product description, it occurred to me that this was an exceedingly formulaic young adult book series. In all seriousness, the outline of the book read like it was a pitch at the most soulless board meeting in entertainment hell.

  The thing is, I realize that writing is hard. I mean, I update my blog once a week – I fully appreciate the fact that being creative can be a bit of a chore. On top of that, there are lots of people out there who complain that all the stories have been told already and, in many ways, they are absolutely correct. But – and this is a big thing to keep in mind – it’s how the stories are told that makes them entertaining or original. Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Noir, and all the others have familiar trappings that are told in a variety of ways to keep them, if not terribly original, fresh enough to do their primary job – entertain.

  Let me be absolutely clear in what I’m getting at: unless you are stupendously gifted, writing derivative shlock is a shitty way to earn a paycheck.

  More and more, thanks to the deserved commercial respect of Harry Potter, the Young Adult “genre” expanded as people were forced to face the reality that those crazy youths are capable of processing more than The Magic School Bus Goes to Cancun. Sure, there were flaccid attempts to cash in on the magician craze, but people at least appeared to recognize crap when it showed up in the bookstore.

  And then there was Twilight.

  Just to reiterate, I don’t hate Twilight. I’ve only seen the movies and my review of the last one is pretty much all my vitriol in haiku form. I don’t think they’re good by any stretch, but at best they’re dumb little romances and, at worst, they’re anti-feminist bullshit geared toward young girls. In any case, they produced about thirty squintillion dollars and are a hit on a level that I can only dream about.

  This is where things get ugly. Apparently, someone out there thought that the best way to capitalize on this is to mimic Twilight as much as possible without wandering into copyright infringement territory or, in the case of Fifty Shades of Gray, simple fanfiction with a generous helping of crtl+f. So we now have a glut of authors pumping out series featuring all manner of insipid love twaddle with some kind of stupid supernatural element because that’s precisely what is selling. And, in lieu of any new authors, apparently there’s the re-branding of old intellectual properties into something more Twilight-esque.

Wuthering DawnPride and Twilight
I clearly remember the part of Pride and Prejudice when Mr. Darcy sparkled while kicking a werewolf in the teeth.

  And if it isn’t the case and it’s just people who are fucking terrible at their jobs giving lazy product descriptions in an attempt to trick someone’s grandma into buying a book thinking that it’s something it’s not, that’s another level of bullshit. Are people so afraid that something isn’t 100% mainstream that any deviance from what is popular is terrifying?

  According to ladyfriend and Twenty Four Pages architect Ashlie, The Mortal Instruments series could function perfectly fine without the romance subplot – something which I have mentioned before can not be said of Twilight. And yet you’d be led to think that it’s perhaps just as central a characteristic as Twilight because of the way it’s marketed – emphasizing the supernatural romance and with Stephanie Meyer’s seal of approval. It’s really not fair to authors who are genuinely trying to write something new and forcing it – no matter how irrelevant it ends up being – to look like something more popular. Inevitably, authors will start to think that the only way to even be noticed is to take the safe and derivative path so they can continue to not starve to death.

  Now, I don’t want to start an ideological debate, but isn’t this stagnation the exact thing the free market is supposed to stop? Shouldn’t we be tweaking formulae instead of puking up the same garbage time and time again? Or – here’s a goddamn original thought for you – shouldn’t we be coming up with something new altogether? And I realize that Project Northwoods may not be the most “original” of concepts – I certainly didn’t come up with the concept of super heroes, nor would I dream of ever taking responsibility for that – but for fuck’s sake, at least it’s differentish.

  So, in retaliation for this constant stream of commercial sputum, I have derived a formula for aspiring hacks to take advantage of. The goal is to make the incoming flood of books so palatable, so bland and safe, that there will be no choice but to push them out of the gate. So, I give to you, my adoring public (hi, mom!) my patented Young Adult Book Creationing Device-O-Matic™. The name may be changed in the future to Mysterious Dark Hearts Vampiric Story Masters, depending on whether or not anyone wants to buy it.

  Here’s the highly scientific algorithm which lay at the heart of this amazing device:

  A young [descriptive noun(s)], [stupid name], thinks [gender pronoun] boring world of [real world location] is all there is, when a mysterious stranger, [stupid name], introduces [gender pronoun] to [magic/monsters/destiny], changing their life forever. How will [first stupid name] confront [ridiculous destiny] before [trappings of secondary education/grossly idealisitc relationship pseudodisaster/grossly misogynistic portrayal of relationships] destroys [boring world/exciting new world/both]?
  Inspired by the best-selling Twilight series with homages to The Hunger Games, [exceedingly optimistic and pretentious title of the series]'s first entry, [book title which has little to do with series title] has been described as by literary sensation Stephanie Meyer as "[pandering quote]"
  Also, [vampires/werewolves/mythological entity].

  And, just to prove I’m not some terrible snakeoil salesman, here are a couple genuine plots that have been created from just casual use of my patented, most definitely not child-endangering book generating wonder-machine!


  A young woman, Raven Furlough, thinks her boring world of Bumpass, VA is all there is, when a mysterious stranger, Phoenix Grim, introduces her to telepathic murderous mud people, changing their life forever. How will Raven confront her destiny as heir to the mud-king's throne before an F in chemistry destroys her chance to save the world?
  Inspired by the best-selling Twilight series with homages to The Hunger Games, The Trappings of Man’s first entry, Here’s Mud-Men in your Eye! has been described by literary sensation Stephanie Meyer as “So good, I wish I had thought of it on top of my huge money pile.”
  Also, werewolves.

  Would ya hear that? Doesn’t that make your heart go aflutter? Raven and Pheonix - there’s thematic importance to that! They’re both birds! Will their hearts be set free, or be forever caged by the mud people? Now, ya didn’t hear it from me, but there’s also the hint that the love story could become a love triangle with the introduction of Prince Muckington, a steamy mud man in competition for the throne, Raven’s affection... and may be her brother (or some shit)! And then there are those hairy werewolf bastards. Maybe a hunky alpha male will get a lusty hankering for Raven.

  Oh, what am I saying, of course he will!


  A young and awkward art student, Fea Duckling, thinks her boring world of Ontario is all there is when a mysterious stranger, Dirk Graveling, introduces her to her lineage of magician painters, changing her life forever. How will Fea confront the dark forces of The Evil Painter's Institute before Dirk finds out that she's been painting pictures of him before they even met - a secret that could tear their blooming romance apart?
  Inspired by the best-selling Twilight series with homages to The Hunger Games, Through the Past Painterly's first entry, Gooey Blobs, has been described by literary sensation Stephanie Meyer as "So sexy that I read beyond the first chapter without my commission check."
  Also, pixies.

  See, this is where my certainly-no-danger-of-nuclear-waste device shows its true strengths. Fea Duckling? Oh, shit, Fea is “ugly” in Spanish! UGLY DUCKLING! Get it!? Oh, man, there’s no way a human being could be clever enough to come up with something like that. And is that a hint of mystery I see? Why is she painting pictures of Dirk before she even meets him? No matter what the answer is, I bet I know the shorthand: profit! I mean, destiny!

  And just to prove that this can be useful for trite romances for girls and boys (provided they’re heteronormative, of course – don’t want to make waves), let’s have a look at another one!


  A young and misunderstood young man with a love of fast cars, Sprint Pacely, thinks his boring world of Bald Knob, AR is all there is when a mysterious stranger, Harley War, introduces him to a mysterious world of illegal drag races controlled by the cars themselves. How will Sprint confront the evil machinations of a 2011 Honda Element before he takes Harley to the Homecoming dance - especially when she asks him to stop racing?
  Inspired by the best-selling Twilight series with homages to The Hunger Games, Apocalyptic Retread’s first entry, Blood on the Pavement has been described by literary sensation Stephanie Meyer as “Competent, I suppose.”
  Also, kobolds.

  Oh, shit, son! That is some amazing action right there! And let me tell you, there’s some quality writing in this one. I mean, it’s clear that Harley War is written from the perspective of an angry 17 year old male whose only contact with women is through his misogynistic and embittered drunk of a father. It’s like all the subtle anti-women messages of Twilightsmashed right up in the reader’s face! So, in that way, at least, it’s kind of like you’re saving money.

  And look at that – motherfuckin’ kobolds. No one else has kobolds, that’s for goddamn sure.

Purchase Project Northwoods at Amazon.com.   Purchase Washed Hands at Amazon.com   Purchase Improbables at Amazon.com.


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