Friday, June 17, 2011

Sex and Gore - How far do you go in YA?

Recently I've been reading some best-selling authors to gauge where my writing falls and how I can improve it. A few things stood out to me:
  1. Best-selling doesn't mean award winning. Some popular authors are bad writers. Their stories are what appeals.
  2. There is a time and a place for description
  3. I really hate gore.
  4. I'm not sure how much sex is too much.
The first two pieces are pretty self-explanatory. The story has to keep moving, and good writing doesn't necessarily land you a publishing deal. Description is important, but only as it is helpful for the story.

Gore, however, is gross. Some things cannot be unseen. I have a vivid imagination. I don't want to see the gore in my mind's eye, and I don't like seeing it in movies. The HBO series, Game of Thrones, is WAY too excessive for me. This is one of the things I have never appreciated about adult fantasy and science fiction. Quite frequently it has too much violence, and subsequently, gore.  That's not to even touch the rampant use of unnecessary sex.

As a young person, I had raging hormones with the best of them. I remember what it felt like when someone I really liked kissed me or even touched my hand. The sensation was electrifying. But I was prude as a teen, the exception, rather than the rule.

It seems stupid to omit something as important as teen sexuality in young adult fiction, especially when it is clearly present in our country and world.  Don't get me wrong, my characters aren't 13 and getting laid (though I knew 13 year olds who were knocked up in my junior high).  But a 16 year old having sex is fairly normal.  Sorry conservative Christians, but it is.  So then, I started thinking, writing is a way to communicate to groups of people certain ideas. Wouldn't it be good to communicate some healthy ways of being sexual as a teenager? How would I want teens I know to behave in a sexual situation?

But how much is too much? I wanted to communicate the feeling of being close to someone for the first time, but not have it feel too much like a romance novel for teen girls. There's only so much schmaltz I can stand (Twilight hovers around my personal limit) and ultimately, my series isn't just about first loves. It's about a lot more. So the sexual situations in which Khloe finds herself, while important, are not the only thing that drives the story. Though I think The Lovers and The Rivals (subsequent books in the series) will be a bit more steamy and violent, I refuse to go overboard with these things. I want my writing to communicate healthy ideas about sex, and though I want realistic portrayals of war, it will be a little unusual because of the weaponry involved. 

Still, people get hurt in both sex and war. People die.  It is impossible to be the same.  These are hard lessons to learn, but they are important, especially for teens who are considering to loose their virginity on prom night or sign up for military service.  So am I going True Blood in sex or gore? No.  But I will be honest, which is the best policy.

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