Feedback/Advice/Thoughts on my MC making the wrong choice at the end

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Sarah S

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I would like my MC to make the wrong choice in the climax. But I'm finding this a bit tricky. Two questions:

- I hear that in YA the "story always has to be on the side of the child". Do you think that's incompatible with having her make the wrong choice at the end?
- Does anyone have YA books to recommend where this is done? It's definitely not common.

Of course it also makes the book hard to "end". It's a book that, were I to be so lucky to sell it, it could go to a second and third. Eventually she would make the right choice. But not in book 1 (where that is part of the theme being explored - how people can fall into temptations they think they're above and it can be hard to own up and reverse course). So obviously it needs a "potential" ending. Or a soft ending.

Anyway, thanks for your thoughts.
 

CMBright

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I honestly don't know. I would be inclined to write it the way you suggest and have the wrap up show minor ways it makes life a bit harder.

If young adult books are expected to have a successful ending, that might make selling to an agent more difficult.

I think the question is whether the gamble is worth writing your ending? If it is, I'd say go for it.
 

Jeff N.

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I would like my MC to make the wrong choice in the climax. But I'm finding this a bit tricky. Two questions:

- I hear that in YA the "story always has to be on the side of the child". Do you think that's incompatible with having her make the wrong choice at the end?
- Does anyone have YA books to recommend where this is done? It's definitely not common.

Of course it also makes the book hard to "end". It's a book that, were I to be so lucky to sell it, it could go to a second and third. Eventually she would make the right choice. But not in book 1 (where that is part of the theme being explored - how people can fall into temptations they think they're above and it can be hard to own up and reverse course). So obviously it needs a "potential" ending. Or a soft ending.

Anyway, thanks for your thoughts.
My one caution to you would be:
Question advice that contains either the word "always" or "never."

Edit: It could be a good reason to write a sequel.

Another thing you have to ask yourself is: What is your goal as a writer? Is it to get published and make money? Or is it to write your story? Or something else?

I got my first YA reader for my YA novel. He absolutely loved it. He read it with his mother. She was the go between for all comments. She said, "He laughed at the funny lines. He gasped at the shocking points. He was concerned when the plot darkened for the protagonist."
I relayed this to a friend of mine who is a published author. My friend's reply was, "Then you are a success as an author. There is at least one person in this world who is happier because of what you created."

The obvious question is, can't I have multiple goals as a writer? The answer is: absolutely. But... When those goals come into conflict, always know which is more important to you.
 
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I would like my MC to make the wrong choice in the climax. But I'm finding this a bit tricky. Two questions:

- I hear that in YA the "story always has to be on the side of the child". Do you think that's incompatible with having her make the wrong choice at the end?
- Does anyone have YA books to recommend where this is done? It's definitely not common.

Of course it also makes the book hard to "end". It's a book that, were I to be so lucky to sell it, it could go to a second and third. Eventually she would make the right choice. But not in book 1 (where that is part of the theme being explored - how people can fall into temptations they think they're above and it can be hard to own up and reverse course). So obviously it needs a "potential" ending. Or a soft ending.

Anyway, thanks for your thoughts.
That's a tough one without knowing the specifics.

If she's choosing between eating an apple and taking an AK47 to the mall and randomly killing people for absolutely no reason, then..... yeah, readers ain't gonna be happy that she's acting out of character simply for a bang-up ending.

If she's choosing between two bad choices -- rock and a hard place -- then readers will be more likely to commiserate and be less judgmental, whether she goes for the rock of 'better for me right now but it's gonna come back and bite me in the end' or the hard place of 'take one for the team but everyone including myself is gonna hate me for this'.
 
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llyralen

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I think I would consider the MC making the mistake in the middle of the book so that you could show learning and growth and make the right choice at the end. Usually literary children's books are 1 volume instead of the growth and lessons being strung out over a series.
 
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Norsebard

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Sarah S said:
I would like my MC to make the wrong choice in the climax. But I'm finding this a bit tricky.

In addition to what's already been said in this thread about the choice being an actual or an emotional one, if her actions came as the result of being given bad/misleading information by someone she trusted, I'm pretty sure the readers would feel sympathy for her instead of being annoyed with her.


Norsebard
 
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RaggyCat

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Is the wrong choice actually bad, or just morally a little grey? If it's the former, you might have a problem with your reader leaving disatified, and wondering why they invested 300 odd pages in a book where the MC hasn't grown or learned. If it's the latter, and the*MC* feels she is making the right choice, and your reader is still ultimately going to leave the book being fulfilled, I'd say you're on stronger ground. For me, the ultimate issue is what your reader is going to take from the book. If you think they're going to be irritated/unfulfilled, that would give me pause, personally.
 

Sarah S

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Good points all. Especially about making sure the reader can feel fulfilled if she makes this wrong choice. Seems obvious but also having it said to me has helped some brainstorming on a possible solution. (i.e. she makes the wrong choice in the climax but in the Final Image we see the realization dawning that it's never too late to do better going forward.)

In this book, MC has a real blind spot. She wants to believe this one thing so badly that, while she is otherwise quite sensible, that sensibility fails her in this one area.

So in the climax, the wrong choice is...against what MC has always told herself she believes in. When the one thing she really wants is in the balance, she convinces herself she had been fooled before, that she "had it all wrong" before...to justify this new choice in her head.
 

CMBright

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Is this the wrong choice for society or the wrong choice to the character? I would probably shy away from forcing the character to rob a bank to save a dying relative if every fiber of the character's being said robbing a bank for any reason was wrong. Even if the character managed to convince oneself it was the only way.

Now, if the character has a more situational morality, saving a life is right no matter what societies rules say, then yes, I would happily have the character make the wrong choice to rob the bank. But in the resolution, I would have consequences for that choice, even if those don't include getting arrested.

My made up example, not the one from your story, to think though my point.
 

Sarah S

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Is this the wrong choice for society or the wrong choice to the character? I would probably shy away from forcing the character to rob a bank to save a dying relative if every fiber of the character's being said robbing a bank for any reason was wrong. Even if the character managed to convince oneself it was the only way.

Now, if the character has a more situational morality, saving a life is right no matter what societies rules say, then yes, I would happily have the character make the wrong choice to rob the bank. But in the resolution, I would have consequences for that choice, even if those don't include getting arrested.

My made up example, not the one from your story, to think though my point.
Yes, thank you. I'd say it's the wrong choice for the character.

I could go further into it but it will get a bit into the weeds. This has helped me synthesize some thoughts and how to present/resolve. Thank you!
 

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Yes, thank you. I'd say it's the wrong choice for the character.

I could go further into it but it will get a bit into the weeds. This has helped me synthesize some thoughts and how to present/resolve. Thank you!
Maybe ask yourself, What it is accomplishing for the story for the character to make the wrong choice? What it is accomplishing for the character for the character to make the wrong choice? Because story and character integrity are where the reader gets their payoff.

Obviously I don't know your story or its circumstances, but there was a period in which a lot of new romance writers I worked with would have their MC do incredibly stupid, unbelievable things in order to string out the loves me/loves me not/loves me/loves me not dilemma. Every time, I would ask, "Why are you having the character go through these highly contrived maneuvers rather than just do the normal, logical thing like Check Her Phone Messages or Ask The Love Interest If They Actually Do Have Seven Other Partners" and the answer was always "Well, because then it would be a really short book. It would end after two chapters."
 
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