Welcome to our third annual FORTNIGHT OF FRIGHT event!
October 17th – October 31st, 2015
Thanks for checking out the THIRD annual edition of FORTNIGHT OF FRIGHT where Alyssa (Books Take You Places), Amy (Tripping Over Books), and I bring you two full weeks of Halloween-related posts! We’ve invited bloggers, authors, and book lovers alike to share their favorite things about Halloween and we feature a new person and post each day.
Today, Cristina from Girl in the Pages is sharing some underappreciated character-types in YA Lit. Check ou her awesome post below!
5 Under-Appreciated Paranormal Character Types in YA Literature
I’ll be the first one to admit I jumped on the Young Adult literature paranormal train in the early 2000s. I was the first one in my school library to check out Twilight and I’ve owned Harry Potter books since before Goblet of Fire was released. Most of my young creative writing endeavors included a witch protagonist that was not-so-subtly based upon my likeness and a sassy pet cat that was extremely relevant to the plot (kudos if you also are old enough to remember the television staple that was Sabrina the Teenage Witch). Paranormal plot lines, especially those featuring romance, exploded within the YA genre and arguably were a huge factor in driving it forward to its success today and into the hands of millions of readers who may have been previously unaware that there was a middle ground between children’s and adult literature.
Despite its initial raging success, YA paranormal literature has suffered genre-burnout, which I’d argue is largely due to those initial popularized tropes being recycled in too many plot lines. Most notable among such tropes include vampires, werewolves, and angels, and more recently the tropes of mermaids and even aliens have become more and more common, used as a instant catalyst for success due to their paranormal popularity rather than plot substance, originality, and quality writing. However, I don’t think the paranormal sub-genre of YA is past its prime. Rather, I think seeing the inclusion of less widely known paranormal creatures, or even the revival of some common yet overlooked paranormal tropes, could revive a sub genre that is crumbling under the weight of an over-saturated market. Here are five lesser used and/or commonly overlooked paranormal creatures that would catch my eye in a book blurb or stop me in a book store aisle:
What they are: Necromancy is a form of magic that involves communication with the deceased, either through spirit apparitions or raising them bodily. Necromancers thus have magic limited to communicating with the dead, but necromancy can be practiced by characters who communicated with the deceased as part of their powers (such as in divination or wizardry).
Why they’re intriguing: Focusing on characters who can only perform as very specific type of magic is often more interesting than broad-spectrum magical characters, as it provides a canvas for the author to dive more specifically into the rituals and rules behind the magic. Yet while specific, necromancy can be used in so many ways and lend itself to so many different types of plots, even within the same book (think in Harry Potter: The Resurrection Stone allows Harry to practice necromancy by meeting with spirit-versions of his parents, while Voldemort practices necromancy through Inferi by raising corpses to provide a physical army). Necromancers also make intriguing protagonists as their powers and abilities are so firmly rooted in the past, and what information and clues they can glean from those that lived before them. Necromancers would make for great historical fiction paranormal novels!
Recommended Reading: The Darkest Powers series by Kelley Armstrong.
What they are: The opposite participant in the practice of necromancy, as ghost, shade, spirit, phantom, etc.) is the soul, spirit, or imprint of a deceased person that appears within the realm of the living. Apparitions in literature often range from visual to auditory and are often linked to “haunting” certain locations, objects, or people that had significant meaning to them while they were alive.
Why they’re intriguing: Ghosts may seem like an overly “obvious” trope, but I can count on less than one hand the amount of quality YA paranormal ghost stories I’ve read. Sure, it’s a broad topic, but the beauty of that is there is SO much that can be done with them, and the rules are really endless. Many cultures view ghosts as multi-dimensional, with certain spirits being malevolent and others being benevolent and even beneficial to those still alive, such as guardians/ancestor worship. Thus a novel or series focusing on ghosts could have a multitude of characters with a myriad of motivations. I’d love to read about ghosts that were perhaps guardian spirits rather than the typical spooky kind. On a more critical level, a focus on ghosts in a paranormal novel can dig deeper into more psychological themes via ghost and human interaction, such as why humans so fear the idea of the return of someone to the material world in a non-material form.
Recommended Reading: The Mediator series by Meg Cabot
What they are: A look alike or double of a living person, they almost always signify bad luck or evil intent.
Why they’re intriguing: A theme that’s quite common in classic literature (Jekyll and Hyde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, etc), the idea of a doppelgänger is one that I find significantly eerie. It’s one thing to be confronted by a paranormal phenomenon, but to be confronted by one that’s essentially oneself…that brings a whole separate layer of disturbing to a plot. Yet this is why the convention of a doppelgänger in literature is so compelling. A doppelgänger could be the ultimate foil or compliment to a protagonist, or reveal deep truths about characters more subconscious motivations as they’re forced to
confront their “shadow selves.” While I’ve hardly seen doppelgängers as plot elements in YA literature, I believe they could bring about paranormal stories that also delve into a more psychological aspect. It’s a trope that could lend itself outside of the paranormal genre as well, such as magical realism or even contemporary.
Recommended Reading: The Vampire Diaries series by L. J. Smith or The Lying Game by Sarah Shepard
What they are: Often confused with mermaids, traditional sirens were dangerous and beautiful creatures who lived on an island, luring sailors to shipwreck on their coasts with their singing. They were often believed to be bird-women hybrids who used their musical powers to lead men to their deaths (somewhat reminiscent of the veela in Harry Potter).
Why They’re Intriguing: There’s no ambiguity where sirens are concerned in mythology: they’re dangerous. Whether their primal natures are manifested through a mermaid or land creature-based storyline, a true siren’s intentions would be the antithesis to a typical YA protagonist. A siren story would be the perfect opportunity for a YA novel to have an antagonist as a character. Plus, a siren-centered story would also set the stage for the power of music to be highlighted in all of its forms, from its use as a seductive force to a scary one (does anyone else get chills thinking about the siren song from Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides?) Sirens are also a gender-specific paranormal creature (all being female) and thus could be used to explore a matriarchal structure in both character development and the way the story is developed. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to hear of any YA interpretations of sirens that fall outside of the mermaid realm.
Recommended Reading: Lies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown. (I haven’t had a chance to read this one yet myself, but it looks as though it stays true to sirens’ more sinister mythological origins).
What they are: Popular in Greek mythology, a chimera is a monstrous creature composed of the parts of multiple animals.
Why They’re Intriguing: When mixed with human traits, chimera make fascinating characters. They’re practically limitless when it comes to creating them, and thus could function as antagonist or protagonist, evil or good (or both). Chimera appear in fairytales as well (such as Disney’s version of Beauty and the Beast) and can transition a paranormal story into a rich fantasy world. Chimera are perhaps the most creatively challenging paranormal creatures to write, as there are less traditional “rules” in how society typically expects them to be portrayed. Authors like Laini Taylor have run wonderfully wild with chimera as both main and secondary characters in their stories.
Recommended Reading: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
The amount of paranormal creatures to be featured in literature is undoubtably plentiful, yet the same stories seem to get recycled over and over once they’re deemed “on-trend” and the YA market develops a taste for them. Has this caused you to burn out on the paranormal genre? Did any of these lesser-used options surprise you or peak your interest? Do you have recommendations for novels featuring any of these tropes? My Halloween TBR is ready and waiting for your thoughts and suggestions!
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Thanks, Cristina! This was such a fun post. I absolutely loved it and totally agree with you!! I love the different paranormal creatures/characters and I’m a bit burned out on vampires, werewolves, and zombies myself! I really enjoyed Lies Beneath and the narrator for the audio is one of my favorites! <3