Stormtroopers can be fantastical, too.

The Stormtrooper Mentality

You probably already know that according to the Myers-Briggs personality test, I’m an ISTJ. Part of my personality is to find comfort in rigid structure, so I find comfort in labeling myself, and I have mentioned my personality traits many times on this site. The part of my personality I’d like to talk about today is my propensity to be an Imperial Stormtrooper.

What I mean by Stormtrooper is that I love rules and I love it when people give me rules to follow. Despite my creative mind, I never have the confidence to think up ideas and take action myself. I will by authoritative if I have

to, but I thrive under competent leadership. And all that is to explain why I didn’t think of this by myself but now I am ever so eager to follow through.

What Role Do I Play?

This week at work I had my three-month review. Yeah, I’ve been in this position for four months now, but that’s not important. I had expected the review to be my supervisor critiquing me and telling me what I’d been doing right and wrong. In my writing and in my life I thrive on constructive criticism. However, this review was more introspective, forcing me to think about myself as an editor and convincing my supervisor that I was learning and growing in my position. The last question that I had to answer was, “What role do you see yourself playing in your department?”

It was a hard one for me to answer, mostly because I was afraid I was going to get it wrong. But when I really thought about, I recalled what my boss had said a few months ago about wanting each of the editors to be an expert in a specific genre. What is trending in each genre, what the audience is looking for, how to best reach that target audience, and how to follow the rules of each genre. I told my supervisor during my meeting that whenever we got to that level of development, I wanted to be an expert in Young Adult Fantasy. That is my favorite genre to read, it’s what genre Into the Flames is, and I feel like I’ve shown a good grasp of how to edit toward that genre. Not to mention that, in the wake of Harry Potter, the genre is being flooded with amateur writers to make their mark. Some of these newbies are making a positive mark for themselves, and others are just giving Young Adult Fantasy a bad name. Tate Publishing is seeing a large influx of YA Fantasy just like the rest of the world, and I’d love to really familiarize myself with this genre so that I could be a strong editor in this field and pass on my knowledge to other editors as needed.

My supervisor said to me, “Well, why don’t you just go ahead and make yourself an expert? There’s nothing stopping you from doing that yourself. You can read the books, put in the research, write editing notes for that specific genre. I think that is a great idea.”

Jessie, the Expert

It was as if magical words had been spoken. Do the work anyway? I would never have given myself permission to do such a thing, but since my superior suggested it…I can’t wait to get started!

So that’s what I’m doing. I already have a pretty solid background, what with my knowledge of Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Twilight, and Scott Westerfeld’s novels. But I’m ready to dive even farther, to see what I can glean about the Young Adult Fantasy genre to make myself a better editor (and writer in the process).

So as a reader, what do YOU look for most in a Young Adult Fantasy novel? What continues to fail you time and again, and what do you think this genre generally does really well? What are some books that you would suggest I read as good examples of the genre?

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4 Responses to Stormtroopers can be fantastical, too.

  1. Kristopher says:

    Okay, so you’re hitting on what is honestly one of my favorite genres. The Redwall series is (of course) a great example of things that have been successful – and maybe some things that shouldn’t be done. Mr. Jacques was lucky enough to hit upon a formula that worked for him, something he could write good stories with, and they are definitely good stories. That being recognized, the formula itself gets a little tiring sometimes, and I think eventually he had to begin stretching a bit to make it work. Huge cognitive leaps started appearing in the riddle-solving portions of his books, and the clear-cut lines between “good” and “evil” creatures – based entirely on species – eventually got a little strange. Some of my favorite tales are ones in which there’s a nasty shrew or a good-hearted rat. That, without going the “good dark elf” route, and overstating their “goodness” as their primary character trait, in contrast to everyone else of their species.

    Other than that long-winded and hardly communicative passage above, unpronounceable names are a pain. Especially in YA fiction. Nothing discourages people from talking about the books they like more than sounding silly trying to say what they’re thinking aloud.

    Love hearing about your work, Jessie!

    • jessie says:

      Kris, I’ve only read three Redwall books, so I can’t completely identify with what you’re trying to say, but I completey agree about the “good” and “evil” creatures. In fact, that was what Stacy commented on through my goodreads link–that things are always more interesting (and realistic) if good and evil aren’t quite so clear cut.
      Oh, yes, and understandable names are a must. Thanks so much for commenting!

  2. Laura says:

    Congratulations, Jessie! You’re the expert. Of course you are. Why not?
    In YA fantasy, I look for something I can relate to. There’s going to be an element that’s not human, but I think that is often an expression or extension of something real. In HP, maybe we could say magic is love, or emotion, made active? I want the fantastic elements to be believable because they’re something I could picture myself doing.
    what fails me is unoriginality. That’s probably not a surprise. It’s hard to write something original, and maybe it doesn’t matter to a lot of YA-fantasy readers, but it matters to me.
    I think this genre does really well with looking at perspectives. That’s a big theme in all YA lit, but fantasy can put such a huge spin on something that perspective is easier to pick out, yet still relevant to readers. For instance , Alice Sebold’s “Th Lovely Bones” has a touch of fantasy because the protagonist is in heaven, watching everyone but not able to help. I think young adults (and everyone) feel like outsiders who witness everything but often can’t be heard.

    • jessie says:

      Thanks for your confidence in me, Laura. As you are the resident HP expert, I appreciate any wisdom you have to share!
      Unfortunately, we’re always going to find a lot of unoriginal books–especially in our role as editors. We’ve just got to sift through them to find those gems.
      The alienation issue is a big theme in YA literature and ultimately relates back to your first point of being able to relate. You’re right, all of us feel alienated and outcast at one point or another in our lives, so it’s an easy issue to take up. what do you think are some other common themes in YA fantasy?