I was going to be all fancy and link to That One List that's been making the rounds for ages now about "25 Things That Are Overused in YA." But I had a computer issue which was super annoying and had to reboot and my draft was lost and you all know the list I mean anyway so I don't really need to link to it here anyway, right? That's what I thought!
The number one thing on That One List is lists! By which, I assume is meant the device where one has an underlined caption in the midst of the narrative like: Things I Love About Bobby. Then, underneath, there is a numbered or bullet-point selection of words and phrases.
But what about lists as motivators for a character? Like, if a character happens to be in a class (for example) where s/he has to make a list of things s/he finds uncomfortable, and is then challenged to complete those things? So, the story is whatever it is the story is about, and the list would be one of the things pushing the character to act. It would (maybe) keep the momentum going for the duration. Is that overdone in YA? (If not, is it about to be overdone in my writing? Gah!)
See, the reason I ask is because I did that very thing in TFM. Three of the characters were in a class together where the Challenge List was an ongoing project. One of the characters took it pretty seriously, but two of the others mostly used it to dare each other to do stuff. "Don't you want to be able to cross something off your list?" In the end, it wasn't because of The List that the MC was able to meet his Goal, but The List did help get him there in a round-about way. The thing is, I didn't arrange it in a way for keeping momentum going. It was more of a joke between the characters that popped up every so often.
This morning, I was doing my pondering for JK&Elle (or whatever it's going to be called). I was trying to put some kind of ticking clock on Kae's trying-to-act-like-a-teenager element of the story, and considered having another character or situation prompt her to make a list. Like, 18 Things To Do Before I Turn 18 or 30 Things in 30 Days. Something like that. The story would be about all the stuff it's already about (teenage girl trying to solve the mystery of lying husband guy and an unexpected visit from her cool brother-in-law), but it would have this list stuff going on parallel and tying in with everything to drive things forward on her personal enrichment journey.
It sounded sort of good to me, but then I was like, But, I kind of already did that with TFM. Wouldn't it be cannibalization (not to mention redundant!) to use something similar to what I've used before? And then I thought, Hey! Maybe TFM would have been better (and hookier) if I'd played up that following-the-list element in the story and used it less haphazardly? Oh! And maybe I still have the chance to make it better if I revise that into it!
So, I'm not really sure what to do. I feel like my List has the potential to make either of the stories better. But I don't think I should have it in JK&Elle unless TFM really is stick-a-fork-in-it-dead. Which, I hope it isn't. But it might be. And I don't think I'm in a place to revise TFM right now anyway. Call me lazy, but I already revised that sucker a whole bunch of times, and I'm just not ready to do it again without guidance. But this does feel like the best idea for JK&Elle so far. And maybe since I'm building this one from the ground up, it would be better than trying to work it into TFM? (Or is that just the blasted laziness/weariness talking?)