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La Cañada High School

Satire: How to write a profitable female YA dystopia

Warning: Extreme sarcasm incoming

Want to make it as an author but aren’t talented enough to write anything original? Don’t worry, there’s a genre perfect for writers like you: female young adult dystopian. These books are marketed to female teens and feature girl protagonists. You don’t need skill or creativity to make a profit as long as you follow these simple guidelines.

The first step is molding a protagonist. This isn’t very difficult. A profitable YA dystopia has a main character that the reader can easily project herself onto, so she can imagine herself living the role of the hero. To accomplish this, you can’t give her many unique character traits. Make her slightly feisty and outspoken, because that’s what teen girls want to be, but simultaneously insecure and uncomfortable, because that’s what teen girls relate to. Don’t go too far with any one trait  Heaven forbid your protagonist have a distinguishable character!

Now it’s time to build the world. A dystopia is a society where widespread misery and inequality exists, a problem which your protagonist will become the integral part of fixing. Coming up with this society will unfortunately have to include some creativity on your part, but thankfully, you can stick to the tried and true in order to to avoid too much work: The government is full of rich, greedy oafs who have subjugated the rest of the population to living in poverty and your protagonist is one of the poorer people who struggle just to survive.

However, don’t make the mistake of giving your protagonist a strong political opinion. She must be a nobody, someone who goes through life with her head down, who isn’t looking to change the world. Make her focused only on her and her family’s well being, so when circumstance or coincidence forces her into the role of revolutionary, the contrast is big and dramatic.

Speaking of drama, romance is key — teenage females absolutely need a romantic side plot in order to stay interested in the story. Make the love interest and the protagonist dislike each other upon meeting for the first time, with constant bickering and arguing to prove to the reader how strong and independent the protagonist is. However, prove that she’s not strong and independent by having her spend a good portion of her free time obsessing about him and her oh-so confusing feelings towards him.

For bonus points, give the love interest a traumatic past so that he only feels comfortable sharing with the protagonist. Draw out the relationship as long as possible so you can have a big, grand declaration of love at the climax of book, followed by the perfect kiss.

In the case of love triangles (highly recommended for their popularity), you must follow a different set of rules. The two love interests must be polar opposites from completely different walks of life. Usually, this calls for Love Interest #1 to be from the protagonist’s pre-inciting incident life and represent familiarity and common ground, while Love Interest #2 is someone she meets after she’s thrust into the conflict, which causes her to be hesitant to trust him immediately. Make one (normally Love Interest #1, but you can switch it up if you’re feeling edgy) be sweet and lovable, while the other is more mysterious and bad-boy-esque. This way, the reader is guaranteed to be attracted to one of them.

These romance rules can be used in the same fashion for an LGBTQ protagonist, but that is less common and requires a bit of finesse. A safer route for including LGBTQ representation is to create a side character who identifies as something other than straight. This is a great trick if you don’t like dealing with character development: such characters exist only to make you seem open-minded and inclusive, so you don’t need to bother with any other legitimate traits.

Now that you’ve got your setting and your characters and some semblance of plot, it’s time to talk about structure. If you actually want to make a profit off your story, you need to aim for a trilogy. Depending on how popular your series becomes, it may become profitable to squeeze out even more books beyond that, but for the most part, plan for three.

Use any and all creative ideas regarding plot or characters in the first book. This is imperative: if it doesn’t initially appear interesting or unique to your audience, then your story will go nowhere sales-wise. You don’t have to put a ton of effort into it, just enough to convince people that they haven’t read anything like it before. Don’t worry: you can go back to phoning it in for the second book.

While on that subject, the second book is mostly up to you. For the most part, it just exists to build up the hype for the finale, and doesn’t have to have much of a story. Rehash the plot of the first book, introduce pointless side characters and their pointless side quests, and force some good ol’ romantic conflict. Leave it on a cliff-hanger to get everyone excited for the next one.

If you’d like, you can also start switching POV here. The first book should stay with the protagonist’s perspective, to keep the focus on her and to hammer in her importance to the narrative. But once you’ve exhausted all her interesting qualities, you can start jumping between other character’s point of views. This can be used to hide your lack of effort, and even make your work seem stylistic.

Finally, for the third book, throw in a huge tone shift and make everything way darker (teenagers aren’t smart enough to tell the difference between a dark tone and a mature tone, so they’ll think it’s really deep). Killing off side characters is highly recommended. If you did a love triangle, resolve it at the last second by either killing off one of the love interests or having him fall in love with another side character. If you really want to be edgy, kill off the main protagonist. It’ll shock the readers into thinking that you’re a good author because you’re gutsy enough to do such a thing.

And with that, you have a female YA dystopia! Don’t get too excited though — these things are popular when they come out, but they fade into obscurity fairly quickly. If you want to stay relevant, you’ve got to keep pumping them out. Good luck with that.

1 Comment

  • Reply Satire: How to write a YA romance novel – HS Insider October 21, 2018 at 11:15 am

    […] satire article was inspired by Natalie Berner’s satire piece “How to write a profitable female YA dystopia.” Thank you Natalie for inspiring and allowing me to build off your […]

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