Monday, June 18, 2018

10 Terrible YA Stereotypes and How to avoid them

I've been dealing with my own  teens and teaching teenagers at school for over twenty years...

My 2nd son's prom group

*granny voice* Back in my day... our phones had cords, and our parents couldn't trace us. Heh, heh!

Ahem. Yes, that made me feel really OLD. Even though I often act like a kid more than my kids do! It's funny how technology changes, but kids and their growing pains don't.

So, I feel qualified to say, I know teens. And after reading some good and some bad YA, I'm here to tell you what works and what doesn't (IMHO) And some other avenues to try...

10 Terrible YA Stereotypes -
  1. They hate their parents
  2. They think parents and teachers are clueless
  3. They hate school and authority
  4. They all want to drink and smoke pot
  5. Jocks and Cheerleaders are dumb
  6. Smart teens are weak and shy
  7. They have no direction
  8. They like to show off
  9. They're all promiscuous
  10. They're all reckless drivers
Now, sadly some teens do fit a few of these stereotypical behaviors. Some of us remember acting this way when we were young, eh? But these overused images need to be broken. Sure, you can have a supporting role with one or two, but to give these traits to a main character? Stop yourself write there! You can do better.

Hints and Suggestions on Avoiding the Teen Tropes -
  • Many of today's teens are under tremendous stress - their schedules are usually overloaded with extracurricular activities, sports, and jobs in addition to their homework and social life. They don't get a lot of sleep and they really need it. This could be a major cause of their snarkiness. And many of them know exactly what they want to do in life.
  • Being so busy and responsible, many teens avoid bad behaviors that could get them fired or keep them from getting scholarships. But there will always those who like to break the rules, too - or think they know better - or try to work around the rules...
  • Most teens love their families, but seem to take them for granted for meals and necessities. They like spending time with the parentals, but prefer the company of those their own age going through similar stuff. And those conversations can run deep.
  • Give characters unexpected characteristics, the tall kid loves chess not basketball, the chubby girl is the most popular of the group, the fullback is a great babysitter, and the nerdy girl drives a Harley. Twist it up!
  • And if you must use a stereotype, show the reader there is a reason for it. Don't assign a characteristic and walk away - like, that's just how she is. Make them own it. Then they can face it and fix it (character arc!)
  • One trope that holds true and carries over to adults is Phone Addiction - so many of us walk around checking our phones every few seconds! Go ahead and use this one. But if you want a twist, write a character who doesn't have a phone or quits cold turkey - that would make a great story!
Now, bear in mind, these are all my opinions based on my experiences and observations, no collected data or researched stats. Being a teen is exciting and excruciating all at once. If you can tap that emotional roller coaster, you're golden.

And someone else who knows about teens is my Shout Out of the week:


We're just in time for Elizabeth's new release and giveaway!

BEFORE DAWN
by Elizabeth Arroyo
Dystopian, Science Fiction, Young Adult

Survival Rule Number One: Eat before being hunted.

Too bad sixteen-year-old Zoe is an expert at breaking rules. With abilities she can't explain, Zoe has survived a world infected by violent hybrids. She's also had help from an unexpected ally, Morph--part of the Arcane: an elite force of teenagers from an Alliance of space stations.

After the Arcane are destroyed in an explosion, Morph is sent on a new mission: to capture a dangerous hybrid, but is torn between duty and his attraction to Zoe. With threats to the planet, Morph knows Zoe’s chances are limited. Trying to save her, he could betray the Alliance.

When Zoe recovers memories of her past, she realizes Morph might be the real enemy. For Morph and Zoe, the world is more dangerous than ever. And trusting each other is the key to them living to see another day.


Elizabeth spent most of her younger years as an avid reader with a wild imagination which led her to write her first manuscript at the age of fourteen. Elizabeth enjoys spending time with her family, listening to music, and binge watching her favorite shows. Influenced by the gamers in her household and her love of action adventure, Elizabeth delved into the realm of science fiction and wrote her first full-length science fiction/dystopian YA novel—BEFORE DAWN. Elizabeth is also the author of THE SECOND SIGN and THE SECOND SHADOW, a dark YA paranormal romance series, and DARKNESS, a YA paranormal thriller.


Personally, I've been friends with Elizabeth for ages. One of my first blog friends and so glad we still are. We've come along way in this supportive community! And make sure you enter Elizabeth's Giveaway!


Not to mention, my Beastly Summer Fun Giveaway. So much free stuff is awesome!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks for stopping by & Have a great week!

11 comments:

Heather R. Holden said...

Great post--so much great advice! So true about how universal growing pains continue to be, even as technology and such changes around us. And I completely agree with you about shaking up stereotypes. I always like to do that for my projects, too. (Like, in my current webcomic, the hot, popular guy is a book nerd while the shy, nearsighted girl is...well, not. LOL.)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

From what I remember of my nephew when he was a teen, they are also bottomless pits with hallow legs who will eat you out of house and home.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Some teens can be terrible, but there are just as many wonderful young people out there. And just like adults, they have issues.

H.R. Sinclair, Southpaw said...

Wonderful advice here! I'd love to see those stereotypes banished from books!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Tara - so right for some kids - thankfully not all of them - those who exhibit common sense, politeness and general leadership roles (large or small ones) - they 'll succeed as they'll be positive about things and lead a balanced life - enjoy yours with the summer break coming up ... cheers Hilary

Juneta Key said...

I like your take on it and will concede author to you too.
Congrats on the new release Elizabeth!

Patricia Lynne said...

Great tips for making teen characters unique.

Yolanda Renée said...

Great post, excellent writing tips in time for the next anthology. Thanks, I'll bet many are bookmarking your post for reference.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I've often wanted to do a post like yours. I raised six children and taught high school for 34 years. I love teenagers. You hit most of the stereotypes right on the nose. Another truth I found out about teenagers is that most of them are generous and willingly step up to support a good cause.

Elizabeth Seckman said...

Thanks for the reminder that teens are best written as the complex characters that they are. And yes, they are stressed, more so than adults because teens are also at the mercy of most adults in their lives.

Carrie-Anne said...

My Atlantic City characters embodied a lot of teen and preteen stereotypes in my earliest days of writing them! Problem novels were big in the early 1990s, and a lot of TV shows and movies had stereotyped young characters, so I innocently copied what I saw. Though I still retained the acrimonious, dysfunctional, darkly comedic relationship my character Kit has with her mother. There's a strong reason for it, and it informs so much of who Kit is through her entire life.