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Have stories set in schools been done to death?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Dwarven Gold, Nov 14, 2011.

  1. Dwarven Gold

    Dwarven Gold Minstrel

    J.K. Rowlings did it first with Harry Potter. Then Patrick Rothfuss did something similar in Name of the Wind.

    Is it still interesting to write fantasy stories set in schools, or has the whole thing become too cliche and derivative?
  2. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    Rowling wasn't the first to do it, and she won't be the last. But I think right now it would be hard to write a story that took place in the same kind of setting without getting compared to Harry Potter. That's not a good thing because she did it so well that most works will suffer from the comparison. That's not to say such a book can't still do well.

    I don't think you'd need to worry about being "derivative," per say, unless you draw upon too many specific elements that she used.
    UnionJane likes this.
  3. Elder the Dwarf

    Elder the Dwarf Maester

    Maybe a little, but it is certainly still doable. Perhaps avoid a wizardry school, though.
  4. Thalian

    Thalian Scribe

    The way I see it, it could go both ways. Either it is pushed aside because it is very similar to Harry Potter and/or other works, or it is gobbled up greedily because people could be looking for something that is built upon the same vein as Harry Potter. But like Elder the Dwarf said, I would avoid a school of wizardry.
  5. Ophiucha

    Ophiucha Auror

    I, personally, might wait a couple of years for the Harry Potter craze to die down (with Pottermore still active and the last movie having just come out on DVD, it's still pretty omnipresent), but it's been done before (A Wizard of Earthsea, X-Men) and it'll be done again. It's definitely too broad a trope to be killed with one big series.
  6. Kit

    Kit Maester

    Or vampire schools- seeing a lot of that in the YA section. Although it could be argued that a lot of these YA blatant knockoffs and clones are selling well.
  7. mythique890

    mythique890 Sage

    I don't think HP was the first either... but yeah, there are dozens upon dozens of YA books set in schools/have a large amount of scenes in a school. HP, Name of the Wind, Twilight, Evermore, Fallen (gag), The Dark Divine, Hush Hush... the list of crappy YA that takes place in schools goes on forever. There are good ones, too, but not as many.

    Here's the thing about it, though: if you're writing YA, school is what your target audience will relate to. Yes, it's been done (and done and done and done) but for that particular audience it's what they spend most of their life doing. Even the YA that doesn't involve school directly usually has the MC go through an apprenticeship or training process that's very school-like.
  8. Kelise

    Kelise Maester

    As long as you do it differently enough (as different as Rowling is to Rothfuss, which is quite a lot) then go for it. It's obviously something people love to read about, it just has to be interesting. Like everything else, really.

    It all comes down to what you do with it, and if you have an interesting story/characters.
  9. Amanita

    Amanita Maester

    I really like to read (or write) about school settings. Maybe because my current life situation isn't that much different ;)
    If a story features someone who's new to something important, they need to learn about it somewhere. The only alternatives I can think of at the moment are a mentor-apprentice relationship or a main character diving into secrets on his or her own. Both has been done plenty of times as well, but this doesn't mean that all three versions can't be very interesting. Especially, if someone likes to read about people learning new stuff, like I do.
    Harry Potter isn't Harry Potter because of the magical school, this just one aspect and can be done very differently. In another cultural setting in an invented world it probably will. The magical school also doesn't have to allow people with no relevant education to teach the children, have many students put plenty of effort into practical jokes, be divided into four school houses one of which is evil or have the headmaster be a powerful figure in his own right almost independent from government and so on. I think you get the picture. The details are what makes Harry Potter, Harry Potter and your story your own.

    I have a magical school (sort of) as well, even though attendants are usually older than at a normal school and I'm not ashamed about it. ;) At the moment, I don't feel the danger that someone might compare the story to Harry Potter either but who knows?
  10. SeverinR

    SeverinR Vala

    Since the beginning of civilization, kids have went to school. Each kid probably could have thier own story to tell.

    In other genres school is common, so I don't think school settings are cliche.

    Like anything else, make it yours, not a copy of someone elses.

    Harry Potter a famous student every wizard has heard of, the majority of weak wizards love, and the minority of the strongest wizards want to kill. HP never confides in any adult wizard that might be able to help or fix the problem.
    It is a pretty well shaped school, the cliche is easily avoided in this case.
  11. Elder the Dwarf

    Elder the Dwarf Maester

    Very true, just remember- school sucks! ;)
  12. UnionJane

    UnionJane Scribe

    If you can get your hands on it, Swords and Dark Magic (an anthology on the sword-and-sorcery genre) has an excellent story that takes an old troupe about a magic school and truly turns it inside out. A typically serene and studious setting--a library--becomes a dangerous and possibly fatal place for an adventure. The story is called "In the Stacks" by Scott Lynch. The link below has a brief excerpt from the story.

    Review | ‘In The Stacks’ by Scott Lynch
  13. Amanita

    Amanita Maester

    Garth Nix does this really well in the second book of his "Abhorsen"-series as well. It's not a school setting though, but still one of my favourite young-aduld books. I was quite impressed by how well Nix as a male writer managed to dive into the viewpoint of a teenage girl. ;)
  14. Solomon Tan

    Solomon Tan Minstrel

    I think many people will presume that learning magic is somewhere like going to university in real life. You need someone to teach you the different aspects of magic, so the easiest way is to set it in a school.. And I think it's a environment that everyone is very very familiar with..

    Not just magic i believe. In training warriors or paladins, a training school is usually the setting..

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