Tuesday, October 1, 2013

I Don't Want to Write the Next Hunger Games

I don't want to write the next Hunger Games...

 ...or  Divergent...


...or Maze Runner...

...or Knife of Never Letting Go...

...or Uglies...

...or 5th Wave...


...Or even Pure (the best of this lot)...

Now, don't misunderstand me: I've read all of those books, and the series they kick off, and I enjoyed all of them. They're good books. That's not the issue.

Let's play a game. Try to figure out which book I'm summarizing:

Adrift in a world decimated by calamity and struggling to rebuild itself, our protagonist must plumb her untapped reservoirs of inner strength and determination as she faces unimaginable obstacles, as well as the inhumanity of the people around here, in her quest to reassemble the shattered mosaic of her past and uncover the dark secrets behind her world's dystopian state.

If you've read all 7 books, you know it's not The Maze Runner, The Knife of Never Letting Go, or The 5th Wave, because they have male protagonists, but other than that? It could fit any of the four remaining choices. And if English actually had a gender-neutral singular pronoun, I could have made it fit any and all of them.

Dystopian stories have their place on YA shelves. I'm not disputing that. But now that the hordes of Twilight knockoffs are finally slinking off to the remainder bin, it feels like dystopia occupies every spot in the entire section. It's what everyone is writing.

And I don't want to write the book everyone else is writing.

My native genre is science fiction, and I gravitate toward YA because I think it's the best genre for exploring how characters form and develop; I just don't want to invest my time and energy creating a world that doesn't work. I'm interested in places different from the scenes of my daily life, but that are also functional on a fundamental level.

The closest I've come to finding the kind of book I want to write is Lauren Oliver's Delirium series, which have a sinister edge to them (people can't feel emotions after they reach adolescence), but also have intact families, a reasonably stable government, relationships that aren't based solely on survival, and a rather low body count.

As much as I admire Lauren Oliver's writing, which really is excellent, her series falls into the "girl book" trope of the protagonist meeting the mysterious outsider and eventually falling in love with him. There's nothing wrong with that kind of plot, provided the girl is actually a character and not just a passive mush receptacle; but it's not the kind of book I want to write.

I want to write about guys.

Guys who aren't action heroes.

Guys who obsess over cartoons and play video games and spend more time scouring the internet for crazy theories than they do working out or getting a tan.

Guys like me, in other words.

So that's what I'm doing.

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