Thursday, December 9, 2010

Two Sides of a Trend

I read two posts yesterday that got my attention:

Scholastics’s top 10 trends in children’s publishing

And the flipside:

The Top 15 most overused tropes in MG/YA fiction

When is a trend a trope? There's a tipping point somewhere, and it's not always copycatting but a shift in the zeitgeist. For example, I am guilty of number four on author Joelle Anthony’s list, which the Restoring Harmony (Putnam, 2010) author first published in a SCBWI bulletin. There's a reason writers don't give their characters cell phones. Once a mystery that required a book full of adventures to solve can be cracked in a paragraph by a middle-schooler with an iPhone.

So what do these kinds of lists tell us? Scholastic’s list is aimed at journalists, and ultimately consumers and book buyers. Few entries on that list surprise anyone who pays close attention to publishing, and the books referenced were written and contracted years ago. Now editors and agents are looking for something new.

And that’s why Joelle’s list is more useful. She’s trying to push writers farther into their own imaginations. When I lamented in her comments section that my characters have cell phone problems, Joelle kindly emailed me:

“I think the challenge here is to come up with a reason why the character doesn't have a phone that isn't because his/her "mean old parents won't let them." … That's what I hope this article gets helps writers to think about.”

So now I’m thinking about how to keep my ideas and writing fresh -- how to stay ahead of the trends. Because I would love to be on Scholastic’s trend list, oh, in two or three years, when the success of my current WIP ushers in a wave of imitators.

What trends do you see in publishing that Scholastic didn’t mention? What clich├ęs would you like to never see again?


  1. Awesome way to look at those two lists. Trends are for consumers, tropes are for writers (to avoid, or at least very carefully mimic and adapt).

    For the record, your story has a very believable reason to be light on the cell phone usage, and uses technology in a way I've never seen before. I hope to see it in print someday soon. :)

    I had the romantic lead with green eyes, but I still maintain that eye color cannot be cliche. Blue, green, brown. Anything with only three options just can't be cliche. (Gray, purple, hazel, etc. don't change it up much, either.) It's like saying your MC's favorite color ISN'T 'pink,' it's 'coral.' Whatever. ;)

  2. True on the eyes. If you like a person, you notice them the color, whether or not it's unusual. I think my daughters' eyes are the prettiest things I've ever seen, and they are not really remarkable at all. But I would describe my older daughter's eyes as perfect Atlantic green-blue and my younger daughter's as warm amber gray that is more a promise of a color than a color itself.

  3. That's love, Katrina! Other people would say they have dull grayish blue eyes.

  4. You're right. It is love. I remember waxing poetic in my diary about certain boy eyes in junior high. *sigh* Oh, maybe in my case it was just lust. LOL. I was always a sucker for brown eyes back then. Dark = deep and mysterious.

  5. Interesting topic. Can't wait to read the article. :)


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