I am a big fan of the PNWA (Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association) and their annual conference, which I attended a few years back. Their website, newsletter, and blog are full of really informative advice for unpublished writers, as well as often inspirational stories of authors getting published. This recent piece from their website by book doctor Jason Black talks about a very important distinction in paranormal YA fiction between a character’s success in the story coming from ordinary human qualities versus some type of paranormal ability. Black claims Harry Potter worked so well on an emotional level that resonated so deeply with readers because many of his most important moments came from noble human qualities, like self-sacrifice, rather than his other wordly abilities. He poses the question if you are writing a YA novel, does your protagonist need to possess these paranormal qualities, or could he/she succeed without them? Black argues that having a character’s success come from a supernatural ability can send a discouraging message to readers because it makes it less inspiring for ordinary kids. An example he uses is James Patterson’s Maximum Ride series, where the characters would fail without their powers. This series has not had the kind of impact or success that Harry Potter has. He concludes, and I agree, that without his powers, Harry Potter would still be a hero. This is an important distinction to consider when drafting your character sketches and plot points.
It’s worth thinking about what he has to say, even if you choose not to follow his advice. Seeing your work from a different or new perspective is always a good way of gauging its success. For those of you writing paranormal YA or thinking about it, take a read and let us know what you think.