Raiders of the Lost Arc (Brian Katcher)

 Conventional wisdom tells us that there are three stages in the literary story arc:

1) Character faces seemingly insurmountable problem, often resulting from a personality flaw or weakness

2) Character overcomes problem but is forced to face their own fears through intense self-examination and courage

3) Character brings dancing back to Bomont!


Now in contemporary, realistic YA, there seems to be about half a dozen standard character arcs:

*I'm ugly or unpopular/I've learned to love myself

*I can never fix this injustice/Hey, we fixed the injustice!

*I'll never win the attention of the person of my dreams/the person of my dreams was there the whole best friend! (or the person I initially found irritating but grew to like)

*My dream is impossible/my dream was possible (though with drawbacks I never expected)

*Society doesn't accept me/It's society that's wrong

*We'll never pull off this wacky heist or prank/hey, we did it!

*Welp, they're dead/They're still dead, but I'm dealing with it (also applies to lesser tragedies)


I understand that in YA science fiction there are dystopias and vampires and things, but it still all comes down to a few basic plot devices.

Also, and I cannot stress this enough, Mad Libs are incredibly helpful when you're stuck for an original plot:

One day a GREEN woman awoke to find that her RHUBARB had HILARIOUSLY DANCED. Teaming up with a(n) UGLY VOLLEYBALL, they hop in their SUBMARINE and drive 5,000 miles to PLANO, TEXAS to face the evil ZYZYBALOOBA.

There. I just plotted your next book. You're welcome. 

Brian Katcher is the author of the award winning books Almost Perfect and Playing With Matches, the award nominated books The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak and Deacon Locke Went to Prom, and the unloved Everyone Dies in the End. Visit him on the web at


  1. Thank you, I'm writing it later this morning. Ernie Whitt (of brevity fame) also thanks you.

  2. Yes to all of this! Cracking me up over here.


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