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So You Want To: Write a Shoujo Series
Welcome to our shojo page! Roses are of course a guaranteed.(Also check out Write A Story for genre-less advice!)

Necessary Tropes

  • Bishounen - Come on, we all know that the vast majority of shoujo readers are teenage girls (usually about 12+, at least.), so of course you'll want to include a little Fanservice for the readers. Experienced shoujo readers will sometimes tell you that even the most boring, generic plots ever can be at least slightly more bearable if the guys are hot. (Though an important thing to remember is that, yes, a guy's first impression on the heroine can be basically that she thinks he's hot, but after that it's best to try and display a personality for him as well. Don't listen to certain fans who tell you that a male character doesn't need something as boring as a personality if he's sufficiently attractive enough.)
  • Drama. Lots of it. I mean, let's face it: Girls thrive on drama. Yes, that statement's probably loaded with Unfortunate Implications, but anyone who's been and/or hung around a typical teenage female will most likely agree with it. Part of the appeal of most shoujo is that, like its readers, it practically runs on the stuff. Readers love getting emotional reactions out of stories; They love happy endings for the characters they've grown to identify with through the story, to get those feelings of Squee over Fanservice or when the romance gets hot and heavy, and the feeling of despair when something bad happens to one of their favorite characters.
  • Love Tropes - Intertwined with the above 'drama' statement, as the majority of Shoujo also runs on this stuff as well. The most common tropes used in this genre are Love Triangle (usually in the form of the main girl being stuck between a Sheltered Aristocrat Nice Guy and the local Tsundere bad boy. and Love Dodecahedron (When the main girl's stuck between the Sheltered Aristocrat Nice Guy and the local Tsundere bad boy, who her best friend also likes...) See Write A Love Story and Write A Romantic Comedy for more advice, if you decide to go in this direction.
  • As the readers are incredibly likely to be teenage girls, it's probably a good idea to make The Protagonist / The Heroine a teenage girl as well. (Though it's not exactly unheard of for a boy to take the role... You'll probably have a hard time finding a straight male shoujo protagonist, though.)

'Choices, Choices

  • So, you've got your (presumably) girl, and you're (probably) gonna have a bunch of romance ensue for her, right? Or some other type of deal. Basic decisions you probably need to make:
    • First and foremost, what's your main girl like? Is she a Dojikko? Is she a cool, Stoic Ice Queen? Is she a Genki Idiot Heroine? Is she the girl everyone wants to be friends with, or is she the girl who always eats lunch alone? (Did she go from one to the other?) Why are we focusing on her instead of, say, her best friend whose personality is the direct opposite of hers? What is it about this girl that's so important to your plot that we have to focus on her?
  • For that matter, does the main girl have a best friend? If so, why are they friends? Are they Foils for each other who fight all the time, or are they Birds of a Feather who know each other better than anyone else? How close are they? Does the girl's best friend try to protect her from all the hijinks that may or may not ensue, or does she cause it? Is the girl's best friend a dude, and if so is he a potential love interest, or are they Better as Friends?
  • Next, we've got the plot: What kind of story do you want to tell people? A sweet romantic comedy in a high-school setting? Some fantasy stuff with princesses and adventures and stuff? Something set in a cafe with a bunch of quirky, unusual employees? See Write A Story for more on such subjects.
  • As for love interests (Assuming you're going in that direction), it's probably a good idea to not make them just this bland, pretty dude who stands there, gets surrounded by sparkles, makes the main girl's heart rate go up just by smiling at her and then turns out to have liked her the whole time. Especially not when he's a New Transfer Student who she's only known existed for a few hours. That's been done to death and then some. (Though no one's stopping you from parodying such things.) Remember, you're trying to keep people entertained, so it'd probably be best of you gave the main girl reasons to crush on this guy. And it would help if you didn't just make it superficial things, like that he's attractive or some type of cool sports team captain or whatever. Give him a personality that you could actually see someone being attracted to. Is He Troubled, but Cute, or an Adorkable Nice Guy? Is he kind to everyone and everything, or is he a Jerk with a Heart of Gold? (The latter makes pretty good material for a When A Jerk Loves A Tsundere dynamic, if you choose to make the girl a strong-willed Tsundere.) Is he a Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold?
  • While we're on the subject: Rivals. They can show up anywhere and any time, and they can keep your story interesting with a fair amount of ease unless you're lazy. They can be either gender, and are usually a more conventionally pretty girl who's out to steal the main girl's man, one way or another, but can just as easily be a sexy Bishōnen who's after the girl herself. In fact, it's not completely uncommon for a rival character to switch from one crush to the other or to be after both at the same time, though this idea should be handled with extreme care so as to avoid Unfortunate Implications. Overall, just try to keep loads of things in mind: Why do they want the hero/heroine? Why are they there? What is it about them that makes them a viable (at least to thier rival) threat for thier opponent's love interest? How do they plan on stealing away the love interest? What would they do if they didn't succeed in stealing them away?
    • Another common, but still useful way to keep the drama going: Have the best friend have a crush on the boy herself. Sure, it's cliche, but there's still probably a number of creative ways to go about this that haven't been tried yet. Are the girls hostile over the boy, or are they still friendly with each other and agree that whoever he chooses, the other one's happy for them? Do they act one way and secretly feel another?

Pitfalls

  • Okay, so one of the biggest problems in shoujo these days is that the main heroines too often have too little of an actual personality. It would seem that shoujo authors rely on the good ol' Rule of This Loser Is You, slap it on the face of a cutesy (And therefore cover-worthy) version of them in their teen years and call it a relatable heroine. Unless you think you can do it tastefully, try to avoid having your main character referring to herself as 'average' or 'plain' as her main character flaw.
  • Another common problem is having Love at First Sight happen way too often. Sure, lots of teenagers (boys and girls alike) can take one look at someone and go 'Wow, I'd like to hit that,' but that doesn't mean that it'll be believable if the main girl takes one look at the Bishōnen transfer student as he's being introduced to the class and instantly have her heart dancing a disco beat in her chest and decide he's her One True Love or whatever (Though you could theoretically make this work if it's established beforehand that she Thinks Like a Romance Novel or something...)
  • Please, if you can, avoid the Jerk Ass Bastard Boyfriend. It's been done to death, and many shoujo readers would agree that they're tired of seeing the Jerk Ass get the girl while the guy who actually treats her well just gets pushed aside, or made unexpectedly OOC so the writer can have an excuse for pairing the main two. There's a reason Twilight has so much hate, you know.

Potential Subversions

  • Related to the above: Would it really affect your plot that much if your heroine was less than conventionally attractive? If she was, say, a bit chubbier than most of her friends (Though please, if you choose to make her 'overweight,' it'd help if you didn't just make her slightly curvy and call her fat. Yes, lots of girls who are 'perfectly' skinny complain about being overweight, but we're not talking about that. We're not talking about making her so big that she takes up more than one seat on a bus or anything, either.), would it really throw any ideas you had for a plot completely out the window?
  • Or have her be a snarky, brooding Broken Bird rather than a Na´ve Everygirl All-Loving Hero?
  • Or have her be an unintentional (or not) Ms. Fanservice rather than an angsty Pettanko?
  • Or to have her be a Lovable Sex Maniac rather than a rather prudish Tsundere who's prone to committing Unprovoked Pervert Payback?
  • Okay, so we all know that most shoujo is basically about that Squee-inducing, hijinks-filled time in which a girl experiences her first love. Well, instead, why not take the more cynical take on things and show what happens when such a girl breaks up with her first boyfriend? Does she take this as a reason to dislike men as a whole? Does she move on with her life? Does she meet someone new? (Does the whole process start over again?) Basically, try to think through what happens after the Happily Ever After. (And keep in mind that a teenage couple in which at least one of the two is in a relationship for the first time ever extremely rarely ever stay together long enough to grow up and marry when they're adults. And even then, those types of marriages are usually some of the most unsuccessful kind.)

Writers' Lounge

Suggested Themes and Aesops

  • A seemingly forgotten theme in shoujo, similar to that of Chick Flicks, is that most shoujo manga is made by women, for girls and young women. It may seem like all shoujo is basically about how awesome it is to find a boyfriend, but it also wouldn't hurt to try and stick an aesop/theme about how you don't need a man to complete you in there as well, you know? (If you're doing aesops/themes, anyway.)
  • Why not stick in friendship as a theme just as important as the romance? I mean, a number of people would tell you that they'd choose friends they've been through Hell with over their boy/girlfriend they just met a week ago in a heartbeat. Why not give the main heroine a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming where she acknowledges that sassier, more energetic best friend of hers who's always supporting her between scenes with the male lead but doesn't seem to get nearly as much screentime as him, even though before he showed up they'd apparently been joined at the hip for years? Sure, it'd probably veer into Romantic Two-Girl Friendship territory, but... well, what's wrong with that?

Potential Motifs

  • Bishōnen. Flower backgrounds. Nuff said.
  • Love Bubbles are also a favorite.
  • As is some sort of fairy tale parody chapter, though no one's forcing you into it (As trying to think of an actual reason for everybody to suddenly be in a fairy tale setting can be fairly difficult... Unless, you know, your story is about a theater club or something. Having at least one main or recurring character already be in the theater club, of which all the other members couldn't fulfill thier roles for some reason would probably be a good, albeit flimsy and cliche, way to go.)

Suggested Plots

Departments

Set Designer / Location Scout

  • As your readers are most likely gonna be teenage girls, one of the most common settings is high school, where the aforementioned demographic usually spend most of their time. Though it isn't exactly uncommon for entire series to take place outside of school completely, such as maybe the main character's small hometown during the summer or in a specialized cafe or whatever...

Props Department

Costume Designer

  • Shoujo series tend to be set in schools, since that's where the majority of teenage girls spend most of their time. Depending on the setting, this could mean either a variety of hip street clothes or a set of uniforms are in order. {Note: Sailor uniforms have been done to death, though there's no one stopping you from using them anyway if you want to. Just, maybe try to customize them a little, you know? Like, maybe the school they go to has loose rules on the dress code or something?

Casting Director

Stunt Department

  • Hey, who says a School Life romcom aimed at young girls can't have a few action scenes? And not just the male lead getting into a fight: Stick that main girl in there and have her, say, finally have enough of playing the Nice Girl and start beating down the Alpha Bitch character who's been giving her crap throughout the story. You can just have an exchange of Armor Piercing Slaps and have each girl give the other a Reason You Suck Speech ("You're such a liar!" "At least I'm not a hypocrite!!"), but that's getting a bit cliche. Why not just have at least one of them actually be able and willing to throw a punch? You don't have to make it a fanservice-filled Cat Fight or anything, you know.
    • Though it's not a shoujo, both fight scenes between Taiga vs Sumire and Minori vs Ami are at least somewhat realistic Cat Fights. The girls can actually fight, landing punches instead of simple bitchslaps, drawing blood and brusing everywhere and cursing each other out. If these fights are intended for Fanservice, it sure as hell takes a backseat to the actual plot.

Extra Credit

The Greats

  • Princess Knight - Aired 1967-68 in Japan. Distributed under the title "Choppy and the Princess" in America, Princess Knight followed the adventures of Princess Sapphire, a young girl who was mistakenly given the heart of a boy and a girl, and how she was raised as a boy in order to inherit the throne of her country in order to thwart the efforts of Duke Duralumon. The story shows Sapphire's interactions and conflicts with people and her own heart, staples of the shoujo genre that still hold to this day.

  • Rose of Versailles - The highly influential 1979 anime/manga that changed Shojo Genre anime. The historical drama lasted for two years. Notable for being one of the first Shojo anime series.

  • Revolutionary Girl Utena - Compared stylistically to Rose Of Versailles, Revolutionary Girl Utena (Shoujo Kakumei Utena) aired in Japan in 1997. It couples a shojo dueling story with elements of chivalric romance, Jungian psychology, and a surreal thriller. Its post-modern narrative and feminist themes distinguish it from any other anime ever made.

  • Please Save My Earth - one of the first and best Shoujo science fictions. Deals with aliens sent to Earth to research it, and their reincarnations on Earth. Also involves some fantasy stuff.

  • Kimi ni Todoke - one of the most fresh and optimistic Shoujo series out there. Emphasis on the character development of the Shrinking Violet main heroine Sawako, instead of Jerk Ass Bastard Boyfriend, we got a Nice Guy as resident Chick Magnet and her object of affection. Characters are fleshed out, the conflict within the story are mundane but extremely touching. Oh, and they also has a couple of Shōnen Genre Refugees Played for Laughs.

  • Maid-Sama! - A more recent example. While simplistic in its 26-episode plot and rather bland in some respects, it's probably one of the best examples of a typical shoujo series with a non-This Loser Is You heroine. Yes, Misaki's a violent Tsundere toward a love interest who's pretty much got Single-Target Sexuality for her like many other heroines, but she's also shown to Not Like Men (Though she doesn't outright wish that there were no more men in the world like some more Straw Feminist characters. She mostly just has baggage from her dad walking out and leaving her, her mom and her sister in a huge debt.) and to be able to handle herself whenver the plot tries to turn her into a Damsel in Distress (though it's also shown that she's not invincible and does have opponents she can't defeat by herself.)

The Epic Fails


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