My awesome editor came to our first meetings about my novel The Puppeteer with the expectation that it would be “Young Adult” literature, a goldmine of a subgenre within the publishing industry. Without trying to quash my vision, she explained to me what was expected of a YA title.
I told her, hold the phone, I hadn’t set out to write a YA, and I’m not sure that’s the genre the book falls in. We dithered on the point for a few minutes, and then she cut through the bullshit with this question:
“How old is your protagonist?”
“Seventeen,” I replied.
That settled it. “Every agent or publisher will file that as YA before they’ve read a word.”
Alrighty then. Game, set, match.
Stephen King, my most consistent influence, started writing before the YA craze, but the protagonist of his first novel was a teenager as well. Presumably, if he were getting his start today his manuscript would have been stamped YA before anyone in publishing got past the title page. Would he have been pressured to change things to fit the genre?
In honor of this clearly well-thought-out process, here’s the outline of Carrie that might get it snapped up in a heartbeat by today’s YA publishers.
Carrie, the YA Title
- Carrie White is a shy, moody but good-hearted teen living with and in fear of her controlling-but-totally-not-Bible-thumping mother Margaret. Carrie is an outcast at school, derided as “plain” but actually stunning, played by Shailene Woodley.
- In the locker room shower one day, Carrie gets her first period and is taunted by her peers. However, in this moment she discovers that she has telekinetic powers.
- Carrie uses her powers to humiliate bullies and protect other school outcasts. Her peers begin to admire and fear her. Sue Snell gives her a five-minute makeover and suddenly Carrie is gorgeous. Golden-boy Tommy Ross and tall dark bad-boy Billy Nolan both see her and simultaneously and instantly fall madly in love with her. They vie for her attention, and Carrie is torn because she is totally madly in love with both of them.
- As news of Carrie’s powers spread, Margaret reveals that she is not Carrie’s real mother and tries to kill her with telekinetic powers of her own. Gym teacher Ms. Desjardins shows up at the last minute, revealing her own telekinetic powers. Margaret and Ms. Desjardins destroy the house in a psychic battle, after which Margaret flees.
- Taking Carrie to live with her temporarily, Ms. Desjardins reveals that she is no humble P.E. teacher, but a member of a secret society of telekinetics called “The Guardians,” who have lived in hiding ever since the Great War against an evil cabal of telekinetics, who call themselves “The Dirty Pillows.”
- Carrie, Ms. Desjardins reveals, is indeed not Margaret’s daughter, but rather her niece. No, Carrie is the orphan daughter of the King and Queen of the Guardians, who were both killed in the Great War when Carrie was a baby. Margaret was meant to take in Carrie, but has been a member of the Dirty Pillows all along, intent to kill Carrie before her 18th birthday. Ms. Desjardins was placed by the Guardians at Carrie’s school to protect her, because Carrie is the Chosen One, destined to defeat the Dirty Pillows when she turns 18.
- Both Billy and Tommy beg Carrie to be their Prom date. Still agonized by the choice of these two hotties, Carrie chooses Tommy.
- At the Prom, Carrie and Tommy are crowned Prom King and Queen, but at that moment Margaret bursts in with a small army of evil telekinetics to kill Carrie.
- Billy sacrifices his life to protect Carrie by pushing her out of the way of a falling spotlight, knocked loose by Margaret. Carrie and Ms. Desjardins fight the evil telekinetics.
- With his dying breath (or what looks like his dying breath), Billy reveals he is psychic and tells Carrie that the Dirty Pillows intend to destroy the world by filling the Moon with pig’s blood and then dumping it on the planet.
- Carrie and Ms. Desjardins escape the Prom and retreat to the exiled Guardians’ underground city, where Carrie is hailed as a returning princess and instructed to enter the Guardians’ School for Telekinesis.
- Will Carrie fulfill her destiny and defeat the Dirty Pillows? Find out in Book 2 of the Carrie trilogy — Carrie II: Plug It Up.
Which version would you rather read? The original, or the YA version?