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YA Writing Trick #1: The Missing Family Member

You’ll see this in a lot of YA fiction, TV series, etc – it’s easy and effective.

It’s the “hunt for the missing family member.”

One of the main characters has missing parents, or a mother or father, or a big brother or sister, or younger sibling that has gone missing. Maybe even an uncle (although uncles generally turn out to be the bad guy).

It’s easy to introduce and explain, and justifies having good, smart characters make stupid decisions. You need conflict, and the plot should be character driven, which means your characters sometimes need to do stupid, desperate things that aren’t very safe.

Why would they risk it?
Why would they press on when their friends tell them to stop?

Why would they throw their life and current relationships away?

To find the truth.

This is Mulder chasing his abducted sister.

It not only helps us understand the character’s devotion to the cause, it also helps give the character a motivation to take deliberate, if reckless, action, without losing the sympathy of the reader, which makes it very effective.

Strangely, so far in most of my fiction, I haven’t used this technique, which is a mistake. Most of my characters are only children. Nobody goes missing. They don’t have a burning quest to find them. My characters are usually motivated by external opposition and trying to protect loved ones.

But this doesn’t have to be used by a main character – maybe you need a marginal character or friend to do something to jumpstart the plot into action at the right time… the “missing relative” gives them a reason to do so which is honorable, without turning them into a bad guy.

How to write a YA novel (the beginning)

I’ve written several posts about how to write YA, but let’s just talk about the intro. In the majority of YA books (maybe half), the protagonist has to move and start a new school.

The first day goes like this:

  1. New friend explains the rules
  2. Hot guy who she’s warned to stay away from
  3. Embarrassing moment
  4. Probably a bully who makes fun of her
  5. Something mysterious or unexplained happens

Easy right?

She probably feels overwhelmed or all alone, someone shows her kindness, later she infiltrates the “cool crowd” – those standoffish, secretive kids who all look like supermodels.

She learns she has secret powers, that her parents were probably ass-kicking members of a secret, supernatural group, and that she is the key to everything – if she can learn to control her powers.

There’s another guy, who’s probably blonde, who is nice and funny but she’s just not into him. She obsesses about the other guy, the hot guy with shaggy dark hair, who is always brooding or looking at her like a puzzle he needs to solve. She finally hooks up with him (even if he starts with a girlfriend) after they have a few arguments.

There’s a bad guy, who wants something she has (or something she can find; or something her parents stole… or he just wants her for her abilities) and he’s probably trying to take over the world.

He offers her the one thing she wants more than anything, but she would have to betray her new friends so she turns him down.

 

 

December Giveaway Results

This giveaway has ended, and the winner was Kimberly Brady Lake. However, since it’s the holidays, I’m also giving a book lamp to 10 runner-ups, to reward some of you who got a lot of entries but didn’t win.

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Looking for YA Book Bloggers

I’m building up several group blogs and would love your help. The advantage of working with lots of other book reviewers is that together you can create much more content, and bring in more traffic, which is good for everybody.

Click here to learn more…

What’s next?

I’ll probably do another giveaway this month to clean out my bookshelf; it will be a mix of random YA books I collected this year. In January we’ll head back to Taiwan.

If you want to make sure you hear about the next giveaway, make sure to sign up on the list here:

Join the list for free books!

 

These were the prizes…

YA books free giveaway 10morebooks