Character Archetypes In YA Fiction by Author Jennifer Brody

Film Courage:  What are some of the archetypes in YA novels?  Not just in the protagonist, where I hear she is somehow the special girl, she is different from all the others and has some type of special powers.

Jennifer Brody:  There are a lot of tropes that you will see in YA, for better or worse.  And one of them was just what you were describing.  They are special in some way.  They have some special gift or ability.  Or sometimes you see where they live in a world where everyone has abilities and they are the ones that don’t.  There is usually something that makes them stand out in their world in some capacity.  Maybe you see that somewhat more in the Science Fiction/Fantasy genre of YA.  But, yes, that is a classic trope.

The Love Triangle is another one.  And I always think that people say “Oh, this is Young Adult”  but it’s also classic storytelling.  Romeo and Juliet.  You see this 400 million times.  Romeo and Juliet has been told and retold and was probably taken from something even before Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet.  So I think you see these things repeat a lot.  Romeo and Juliet does pop up a lot in YA….Star-Crossed lovers…Twilight is basically Romeo and Juliet with vampires.  There is a book that is called (I think) Warm Bodies that is Romeo and Juliet with zombies.  It was made into a film, as well.

A lot of times you’ll see some of these are coming-of-age stories.  Usually these characters are being oppressed in some way.  It could be by parents or adults that rule the world.  It could be by some greater antagonist but usually they are fighting the system or something against their world that isn’t fair.


“High school and the hierarchy of school, that is going to be prevalent across all these books, including the ones that aren’t even in our world like Harry Potter, which may skew younger to start but moves into YA territory.  Or even things like Twilight.  There is always a high school element in the hierarchy of the society.”



Film Courage:  Let’s talk about other archetypes.  So you have the Jock character.  The Hot Jock who maybe seems like the dream guy and then you have the Loner Guy that she (the YA protagonist) is not supposed to be with because her friends don’t approve but she really likes.  The Frenemy.  The Nerdy Girl that is the side-kick, can we talk about some of those archetypes?

Jennifer Brody:  Yeah, that’s pretty typical.  Hermione from Harry Potter is your classic version of that.

In terms of Jock and Nerdy Guy, yeah… are definitely still going to see that.  On the Netflix show Stranger Things which is really fantastic, it does this 100%.  They do a few things to subvert that….I think it is interesting to do turns with some of those Jocky characters where they see the light and come around a little.


High school and the hierarchy of school, that is going to be prevalent across all these books, including the ones that aren’t even in our world like Harry Potter, which may skew younger to start but moves into YA territory.  Or even things like Twilight.  There is always a high school element in the hierarchy of the society.  So you see all of that, as well.  I think it is fun to read those things.  Again, they are coming from somewhere which is the real world.  If we’ve all been to high school, I feel like we’ve all had these experiences.

Film Courage:  Right.  So it sounds like there is either the decision to leave The Group or the decision to join The Group and will they accept them [The Protagonist]?  They reverse in one of those two ways.  And is an adult always an oppressor?

Jennifer Brody:  No, not always.  You will usually have characters that are like nice, good adult characters or at least I always try to write them into my books.  One of the things I did in my series is that I did give point of views to adult characters.  That was one of the things I think that made the book a challenge (right off the bat) to sell even though we found a great publisher and we did get a great book deal out of it.  But in the beginning, I got feedback like “You have adult points of view in this book. How is this YA?”  and I responded “Well, the main characters are teens, but yes….there are adults that live in this world.”  And I wanted to show some of that perspective.  Some of the adults are the antagonists.  In the case of the first book, it’s the leader of the religious contingent who kind of governs their world and gets some chapters where we get to see their thought process, to see what is happening on their end of the story.  And otherwise we are going between Myra who is a 16-year-old engineering apprentice in the underwater world in an outer space colony where our main character is and Aero, who is a 16-year-old soldier in their military society.  And so the story is told back and forth between them.

As the book series progresses, my second book comes out in November [2016].  The story opens up a lot and we add more points of view, so we start to track more characters and some of those are adults.  We pick up an underwater character who is an adult character and he carries through.

I think it is fun to write a variety of different perspectives.  Some of the adult characters (I hope) are going to be positive, too.  But you will  hopefully see it more focused on the kids and teen characters.

Question:  What new character have you fallen in love with this year?



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