They can be sappy or funny, sentimental or all business.
Usually, it's the person or people who encouraged you and kept you going when you didn't think your writing was fit for a mad-lib. Other possibilities are a memorandum to a loved one who's passed on, or even apologies to someone who will no longer speak to you in person. I've seen inscriptions of encouragement for entire groups of people the author hopes will be moved or touched by his/her words.
And, sometimes, I've found myself wondering how a person would take having certain novels dedicated to them. A shout out to the sweetie, or Mom & Dad is nice, but if it's on the front of a book about divorce, or one where the body count's in the billions, I'm not sure they'll take it the way you meant it. (Unless you meant it that way to begin with, in which case, I hope you get help. Yes, the pen is mightier than the sword - barring a sword-fight, of course, but that's no excuse for passive-aggression.)
My dedication was set before high school, by my Junior Year English Lit Teacher. She called dibs on the first dedication of students who went on to be published. I really don't mind, seeing as she was one of my favorite teachers throughout school (along with Mrs. Soriano who I had the next year), and one of those who probably did the most toward impacting the way I write today.
Wisdom according to Becky Robinson and Judy Soriano:
Lesson 1 -- write like you're sitting across from someone telling your tale over a table. You'll never lack voice.
Lesson 2 -- (for assignments) When given the choice between three topics, pick the one that's least likely to attract the most writers. If you're handed: "Describe a car accident in detail"; "Describe a weekend at your grandparents' during the summer", and "Describe your favorite bug", go with the insect. Those reading will be so sick of bloody torsos and chocolate chip cookies that they'll savor a beetle's wings.
There are more, but those two are the best, IMO.
#1 works implicitly. It's how I write everything. No matter the final POV, it starts off as a conversation in my head between me and the "person" who happens to be my computer.
#2 is good, too. It gets you away from convention (so long as you don't pick lady bugs or butterflies as your bug) and makes you take the not-so-easy route toward something potentially unique and great.
So, when she said she hoped to see "To Becky" on the dedication page of her students' future masterworks (and no, she wasn't the delusional sort who told us all we could be published novelists, it was a general statement of "what if") I didn't complain, though I do have to hope she won't mind sharing space with someone else.
One of these days, should you happen to open a book and see:
Dedicated to Ms. Rob (To: Becky is too informal, sorry...) and Mrs. Soriano, two teachers who took a kid who liked to write and taught her how to be an author, and two teachers who knew that dreaming isn't a waste of time.You'll know they're two wonderful women who said it was okay to throw the "rules" out the window, use sentence fragments, and write the story as it needed to be told.
Consider this a promise kept.
Consider this a promise kept.
I'll even forgive them for the 2 essays / day in 90 minutes. I know my handwriting; they suffered far more than I ever did.
Assuming you get published, do you know who you'll dedicate your novel to?