A Book’s Secret Formula

Have you ever felt that you are reading different books, yet it’s the same story over and over? You have a different setting, characters with different names, a slightly different plot, but essentially, it’s just about the same thing. Well, sometimes I have this feeling, specially when I’m reading YA and chic-lit. This lead me to think perhaps there’s a secret formula only accessible to authors, telling them the basics to write a best-selling plot, and then they just add some little adjustments to imprint their brand in the story.

I’m not saying this happens all the time or that there is some sort of written guidebook that teaches authors how to write a successful book. But, you must agree with me that sometimes we get a few déjà vu feelings while reading.

Take Nora Roberts, for instance. I don’t know if you’re familiar with her books, but she writes entertaining chic-lit. A couple of years ago I read her books like a crazy person. *It was a NR phase.* I’ve read more than a dozen of her books so far, as well as some other chic-lit authors, and I see a pattern. With NR trilogies we always have a kick-butt/tomboy heroine, a force of nature/incredibly sexy heroine, or a quiet/angelic/peaceful heroine. Sometimes they have read hair, sometimes blond, occasionally black or brown… Sometimes they work in the police force or have artistic professions… But it’s always the same! The same insecurities, the same main personality traits, the same obstacles and the same dazzling irresistible men to sweep them of their feet (again, always sexy and incredibly skilled in bed, usually dark-haired, but we also get some blond specimens along the way). They meet, they feel attracted to each other. They either have their fears and traumas to deal with, or there’s an outside force that is keeping them apart… or there’s both! After some tears and hot sex scenes, they find their way to each other and live happily ever after. This is the pattern. It makes me sad that it’s so far from reality, but I liked them because I need a break from it sometimes. Hey, dreaming never hurt anyone. It’s just annoying that after some time, the “dreaming”/reading is always the same. No surprises, not plot changes, nothing refreshing.

Now let’s get to YA books. I’m not an experienced reader in this genre, but as far as I ventured myself, I can see a pattern as well. Beginning with dystopias/alternate fantastic universes and ending with love triangles. Again, the same thing over and over. There’s either the kick-butt heroine or the insufferable whining heroine. When it comes to the latest, her main actions are complaining about everything and nothing, all the time. The two of them never seem able to make up their minds about the person they love. The boys they love are always a) very dark, mysterious and sexy, or, b) the boy next door, cute, friendly and reliable. A devil and an angel. Plus, they always have a world crisis sort of situation to solve. Oh, yes…and the main character is always a girl!! Why can’t we have more boys as MC’s in YA? *If you know of an non-realistic YA with a boy as a MC, please let me know the title! I would really like to read it.* 

Please, do understand that I’m not ranting against chic-lit and YA. I read both genres and I like them. Nonetheless, to be honest with you, I would like some variety. It seems that we find this constant repetition mostly in these genres! It also looks like these are always best-selling books. So, this got me wondering…

Is this a “formula” that helps an author get popular? A “formula” that publishers are betting on because they know the books practically sell themselves? What does it say about us, as readers? That we like to read the same story over and over? That we’re not choosy or demanding about the originality of the books we read? That we are easily satisfied?

Let’s discuss! Post a comment below and let me know what you think about this, or if you share my thoughts about the existence of a “formula”, particularly in chic-lit and YA, but also in other genres.

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