NOTE: Snark meter at maximum capacity. Do not read unless you are fully prepared.
1. Set your fiction piece in a historical era, but preferably one that isn't too far in the past. Make sure there's a lot of conflict in this era as well. Good eras to choose from: 50's (I'm a woman, but my life sucks because I can't get a job without being called "Sweetheart"!), 60's (I want to have sex and love and protest the war!), 70's (I ran off from the war and grew my hair out while disco dancing, aren't I deep?!), and 80's (dude, doesn't this spandex look just fabulous?!).
2. Someone should die or get close to dying from a disease. Lots of good options here: cancer is a great fallback, but we can also do things like the flu or AIDS or whatever this era's big scare tactic is (like McCarthyism).
3. Protagonist needs to be one of those "old soul" kids that Hollywood believes that exist. You know, teenagers who are Deep and Artistic and See Things That Adults Don't. Should be socially awkward, have no friends, thinks he/she is ugly/fat/untalented while everyone can see that D'OH, s/he's SO SPESHUL and AWESOME.
4. Protagonist must have a horrible sibling. The relationship can be good at one point, but by the time of the book, it must be borderline (or not!) abusive/bullying.
5. Parents must be shoved into the closet. There are different ways to deal with this: you can go with the "orphan route", but it may not make sense in your era. Or you can do "oblivious parent" route; this one is great and works for many eras.
6. Mom must be a cold-hearted b!tch. If your novel is in the 50's, she's angry she can't work. If in the 60's, she's angry her kid gets to have more sex than she does. If it's the 70's, she's angry she's not like Mama Brady. If it's the 80's, it's because of sexism in the workforce. You can also include some drama with her family. Which leads ot 7...
7. Whatever horrible relationship you have between the Protagonist and another character, make SURE that we have a reciprocal one between the Mom and another character. For instance: Protagonist has an awful sibling; Mom can be hateful and mean and awful to her brother, who is always loving.
8. Include a quirky relative that ONLY the Protagonist can Truly Understand. This character must have lots of interesting quirks: liking art, somehow being in the arts and making LOADS of money and being FAMOUS. Don't make this character nuanced at all, by showing how heartless he is to leave behind a significant other all alone or have him partially to blame for not having a good relationship with his sister; No, he must be a God because he is Quirky and Artistic and Deep.
9. Make the audience cry. Note: just including a plot with someone dying does not qualify!! Be schmaltzy and kitschy. Make sure to include lots of Deep Thoughts from the Deep Potentially Emo Teenager. Make sure to drain every last bit of emotion from every scene. Just pour on the emotion - don't be subtle at all!
10. The theme should be something trite and obvious. Some good examples (use as many as you can cram into your story):
Family is forever.
Art is WAY BETTER than science.
Love is transcendental.
Loss is tough.
Getting a job to make money and provide a family is the worst decision you could make.
Follow your dreams! It doesn't matter if your dreams are impractical and will likely end up with you homeless and starving - you need to follow them!
People who have a boring job can't understand pretty things. They are stupid, dense losers who are so unartistic and awful.
And there you go! You have a bestseller that will draw hundreds of 5-star reviews on Amazon!
Nah, don't thank me - just send me a check with 10% royalties ;)