STEP AWAY FROM THAT OVERUSED TROPE, PHRASE, OR CHARACTER TYPE.
PLACE IT ON THE TABLE AND BACK AWAY SLOWLY.
Here are some cliches I've been reading/hearing that YA writers should never never never use.
Just for funsies, let's all stand up, and then sit back down if we have used any in the list:
Opening with: Waking up, looking in the mirror, a funeral, a bad dream, starting at a new school, a description of weather, a car crash, a high school hallway.
A heroine: with red hair, who loves to read, with blue eyes, with purple eyes, with blond hair, who is smart and proud of it, who is smart but hides it, who is physically petite, who has low self-confidence, who is trying to keep her presence low-key, who wears Chucks, who is a great runner, who is looking for a boyfriend, who isn't looking for a boyfriend thankyouverymuch (but probably really is,) or who is snarky.
A character list that includes: the trusty best friend, the annoying sibling, the bitchy cheerleader, the nerd, the straight-A student, the mysterious boy, the jerkfaced jock, the clueless teacher, the absent/dead parent, the too-perfect guy, the bad boy, the antagonist trying to use the MC as a weapon.
A plot that involves: A love triangle, insta-love, insta-friends, secret powers, arranged marriage (particular to dystopian,) the bad boy getting the good girl.
A climax that centers around: Prom, the big football game, the MC finding out one of her parents isn't who/what she thought they were, the drinking party gone wrong.
Anyone still standing?
Here's the thing. A cliche is a cliche for a reason. It's because - IT HAPPENS. You know, in life.
Bitchy cheerleaders are real. Common, even (oh yes they are.) Mysterious boys (especially the hot ones) are interesting. There are girls with red hair and green eyes (I'm one of them) and super petite girls, too (no, I'm not one of those.) I was friends with a lot of kids who got straight As, and who were nerds. Sometimes, insta-friends happen. Heck, sometimes insta-love happens. Even love triangles happen. And they can make for some tense emotional conflict.
Kids move to new schools and get in car wrecks and go to prom and drink too much and have bad dreams. Those are all real things that happen. They happen a lot, and they can be written really interestingly.
And yeah, I could sit here and blog about how I hate stories with bitchy cheerleaders or dead moms. I could harp on how the best-friend-secretly-in-love-with-the-MC makes me roll my eyes. I could rant about the flaws that obviously must exist in a story so carelessly written as to start with a main character looking in a mirror.
Or I could accept that a story well-told might employ some "cliches," or even lots of them, because they are something that readers are familiar with, and sometimes that's a good thing. Or because, hell, maybe they're actually part of the story that writer dreamed up in her head.
And maybe that story is damn good.
And to get rid of them just because they're cliches is not being true to the plot, or the characters, or the world that writer has created would change the story so much that it's no longer really the writer's story any more. That might suck.
And if we as YA writers try to write a story that avoids cliches instead of trying our best to write a well-paced, engaging story with clearly depicted characters and a unique concept, then we're going to end up with a lot of YA novels with brown-haired, brown-eyed, not-too-petite heroines with boyfriends that aren't too mean and aren't too nice, with no love triangles and fully supportive, present, and honest parents.
Now, that would be annoying.