How to be a YA protagonist

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So, you’re just a normal kid. Maybe you’re at high school, maybe not – but one thing’s for sure; you know you don’t fit in. There’s this niggling feeling that you’re not good enough, that everyone around you is cooler, prettier, has more to offer; and of course this is exacerbated by that one oh-so-mean bully who won’t leave you alone. That dreamy love interest doesn’t even know you exist, no matter how much you flip your hair and stare longingly. You’re such a loser.

One day whilst moping and channelling your teenage angst into a specific craft (you’re a tortured artist after all, with impeccably edgy music taste and a gift that the world needs to experience); you notice a new kid has arrived in town. They’re mesmerising, beautiful, wearing something out-there and different – confident in every way that you are not. They smile at you. You hate it.

After suitable sexual tension has built up, you do something stupid and unlock a secret magical talent that you have no knowledge of – and this mystery, sexy, supporting actor knows all about it. It might even be why they came in the first place. Apparently, they’re part of some secret organisation that specialises in misfits with special abilities – and guess what? Out of all the strange, weird teenagers out there, you are the most interesting. They take you away to a place you could have only dreamed about, where everyone is beautiful and share all your interests whilst frolicking in care-free bliss. You’re accepted immediately, but will still have to prove yourself to be of worth to them in ridiculous trials and life-threatening fights. Is it even interesting if no-one dies?

You’ll make a great and varied friend group that relies on each other’s special skills to pick off some unknowable evil that threatens the “world as we know it.” There’s one friend that you don’t get on with so much – but don’t worry – you’ll either kill them or be the best of friends by the end of it. You are the chosen one after all, and they should respect that.

You doubt yourself most of the time and feel an incessant need to shout “but I’m just a normal kid!” on at least five separate occasions. Supporting actor hates this and wants you to realise your potential – you’re gonna have to save them from inevitable doom at some point so they help out in that way at least. Even if they are more knowledgeable, better trained, and higher rank than you are. They are impressed by your quick learning skills and you rise to their level at a speed no-one anticipates, but it’s because you’re more special and different than everyone else. Just so special. You’ll also make out a few times because you’re irresistible and didn’t even know it.

After single-handedly destroying any threats to your new-found friends, life will never be the same. Everything you ever wanted is now at your fingertips, and it was within you all along. The love interest was boring after all, and the bully gets their just-desserts in some satisfyingly obscure way. Everyone respects you now because you’re cool and interesting and better than them.

People died along the way but there was never any blood, or too much gore, because keeping it PG means you can be packaged off to younger audiences that want to be just like you. You’ll have at least three films where every cover is you looking worriedly into the distance – and they’ll slowly get worse until you hit TV-release bottom.

But it’s okay, after all-

You are the chosen one.

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Deputy Editor of the Edge and FilmSoc President 2016-17. BA Film and English graduate, but not ready to accept it yet. Has an affinity for spooky stories, cats, and anything deep fried.

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