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Writing YA: Tropes and Cliches


One of the biggest criticisms of YA (usually from people who don’t actually read YA…) is that it’s full of cliches and tropes. And obviously, some books are, but that’s definitely not limited to YA!

What’s a cliche?

Cliche

Here are a few common cliches in YA:

  • The love interest’s eyes change colour.
  • Overused phrases: “She sighed with relief”, “He llet go of a breath he didn’t even know he was holding”, “think outside the box”, “avoid them like the plague” etc.
  • Idioms: “actions speak louder than words”, “blood is thicker than water” etc.

Is it the same as a trope?

No.

trope

Here are a few common tropes in YA:

  • Instalove – When characters fall in deep, all-consuming love having only just met each other.
  • Love triangles – When the protagonist is caught between two people who love them, and she loves both of them too.
  • Absent parents – Parents are often killed off or off the page to enable characters to conveniently get up to all sorts of things that parents wouldn’t allow.
  • Exposition in dreams – This can be done well, but it is overdone. You have to be careful how many dream scenes you include, how long they are, and whether they are needed at all.

Am I writing cliches?

This is where it can get a bit tricky. If you’re spending the entire time you’re writing worrying about cliches then you’ll drive yourself barmy! Make sure you leave all that until after you’ve finished you’re first draft – get the words down first!

What should I do?

The first thing you need to do is find out if you have lots of cliches in your writing. Of course, one or two every now and again isn’t a problem – the whole idea of a cliche is that’s it’s something recognisable and used often so it’s natural that they’ll crop up, but originality is always key.

Try some of these:

Wordclouds

wordcloud (1)

Wordclouds lets you input text and generates a word cloud. The bigger the word in the cloud, the more often you’ve used it. This is a really fun way to work out what you’re overusing. The cloud above is from some of the text in this article!

The Phrase Finder

Phrase Finder

This website allows you to pick topics and see all of the most used phrases to do with that topic, ie. cliches. You’ll be able to identify which ones you’ve used in your writing and swap them out!

Words of encouragement from Twitter:

How do you avoid cliches? Let us know @maximumpopbooks!

Previous Posts

Writing YA: An Introduction
Writing YA: What’s your genre?

Coming up!

Writing YA: Planning and Pantsing
Writing YA: Apps and Tools
Writing YA: Who are your characters?
Writing YA: Essential Reading for Writers
Writing YA: Prepping for Publishing

And more!

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Written by Sophie Waters

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Sophie is the Head of Commercial at Maximum Pop! Having studied English Lit and Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, she came to MP! to satisfy her passion for books. Sophie is a diehard Hufflepuff and feminist. She's also a huge cat lover, and can often be found rocking her socks off at a gig.