Friday, June 21, 2013

What Don't You Want In Your Story?

I’ve been working on my MG fantasy this last month, and I’d like to say that everything is moving along swiftly—but then I’d be lying.. I’ve rewritten the first chapter several times already, and it's looking as though it's about to get another full rewrite. Unfortunately, my critique group is a rather impatient bunch and has been clamoring for something to tear apart, so I’ve jumped ahead to work on the third chapter. That’s not considered cheating, is it?

Although I’m still undecided about what will happen in the first chapter, I do have a short list of things that I want, and do not want, to occur in my story.

Stuff I Want List:

1. Magic. Not only am I fascinated by magic, but my quirky imagination and sense of humor tend to require some rewriting of the laws of physics for everything to work right (see Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), and magic lets me get away with this. I doubt I’ll ever write a story that doesn’t have some kind of magical influence running through it.

2. Castles. Love ‘em. (What’s that? The blog title and masthead didn’t give it away?) Hogwarts was my favorite part of the Harry Potter stories, so I knew I’d have to put one in my story. A really big one, with lots of tunnels and secrets.

Stuff I Don’t Want List:

3. Obligatory Sibling Conflict. I’ve posted about this before. Too many of the MG books I’ve read lately begin with an argument between siblings for no apparent reason other than to give the reader an opening filled with (artificial) conflict. I’ve seen this so often I usually stop reading by the end of the first chapter.

4. Orphan syndrome. Is it possible to write a MG paranormal fantasy without the MC having lost one or both of his parents, usually requiring him to live with a clueless relative or at a boarding school? Apparently not, based on the books I’ve read. I’ve heard this trend is due to writers attempting to create sympathy for their characters, but I suspect it has more to do with writers not knowing what to do with real, live parents. Seriously. Most of these stories involve kids getting into trouble in ways that any self-respecting parent would have crushed immediately. In my story, I wanted the challenge of keeping my MC’s adventures hidden from his parents (at least for a while) to be part of the fun.

What sort of likes/dislikes do you have on your list?


  1. Yay for no orphan syndrome and for magic. First chapters are hard. I struggle with the first 3 the most. But it's good to know what you do and don't want.

  2. You are right. Seems a lot of books get rid of the parents and have the siblings argue for no good reason. Hmm, did my sibling interactions strike you that way? My critique group told me I need to have more disagreements between my mc and his best friend.

    I'm glad you chose the way you did. It'll be interesting to read how your MG turns out.


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  4. I have a passion for re-writing the laws of physics, too, though my latest ploy is to try it in science fiction instead of fantasy with magic. Not sure if I can pull it off. But I'll happily agree about the sibling thing and orphan syndrome. I do love it when both parents are alive and while sibling conflict can be fascinating, I agree it's overdone at the beginning of a story.

  5. I enjoyed reading your post and I like your take on the issue. Thanks. csbe