Originally, I was going to write a guest blog about how publishing is like Survivor and Jeff Probst--who is not a hosebag!--would represent agents and Mark Burnett would represent editors and all the writers of the world are (get this) SURVIVORS, but I couldn't tie it all together, so just pretend I did and it was clever. Instead, I'm going to talk about writing YA, the responsibilities therein, and debunk a few YA myths born of said responsibilities along the way... so I guess that means if you don't write YA, I got nothing for you. Sorry. Didn't mean to get all exclusive there. But if you scroll down to the last paragraph, I'm sure there will be ~*sparkles*~ and those are for everyone!
So I write YA novels because--as I said in my first guest post here--I love it. I love doing it. There's a fantastic sense of immediacy in the genre that I'm very drawn to as both a reader and a writer and I could read and write it all day. Pretty straightforward, right? Right.
One of the most interesting things about writing young adult novels is the sense of responsibility that can be and is projected on you by others because you're writing for young adults. I've gotten into some pretty intense discussions about this topic with people from all walks--writers, readers, that poor stranger I accosted on the street--and there never seems to be a consensus about this. If you write YA, are you responsible for your teenage readers? Do you have to be worried about your words unintentionally negatively influencing the Adults of Tomorrow? Do your novels and characters have to serve as a kind of moral compass for them?
Talk about your loaded questions, huh? And it's amazing the way they can and do inhibit people who are interested in writing YA. Consequently, a lot of the questions I've seen from those who want to write for teenagers often begin with, "I can't do X in a YA novel, can I?" And even though there are so many groundbreaking, amazing YA novels out there right now that blow all these can'ts outta the water, they still seem to persist and so I'm going to present to you four old hat "Why Are They Still Common?!" myths about writing books for and about teenagers that personally drive me nuts:
Myth #1: You can't swear in a YA novel
I see this unintentionally hilarious question a lot for some reason. "Can you swear in a novel written for teenagers?" Why yes, Virginia, you effing can. Whether or not you should depends entirely on your character and your story, though. Swear with care--that's my motto! Which, rest assured, has absolutely nothing to do with moderation.So in case it wasn't obvious, my answer to all those questions in the fourth paragraph is a straight 'no' across the board. I've personally always felt my responsibility is to my story, my characters and to be as honest and true to them as I can. Anything less feels like an insult not only to them, but to the people that will be reading.
Myth #2: If someone has sex, they must a.) die or b.) contract an STD or c.) end up pregnant in a YA novel.
Not so! Judy Blume totally tackled this one and Judy Blume is the Law. It's okay to portray teenagers having sex, enjoying it, even, and what's more, living to tell the tale. Some people might insist otherwise, but... they're not Judy Blume and like I said. She's the law.
Myth #3: If a character does something 'bad' (ie underage drinking, drugs, stealing, murdering people/puppies etc.) they must be punished for it.
Nope. When writing YA, certain people will want and demand expected consequences when it comes to portraying the grittier parts of life, as though presenting anything but is to lead your teenage audience astray and to glamorize negative behaviours they will then go out an emulate. But the fact of the matter is, sometimes people drink in excess and they don't wake up hungover, sometimes they do drugs and they don't get addicted, sometimes they steal and they don't get caught and sometimes they do something Very, Very Bad like kill a puppy and they walk away without looking back. It's okay if one of these types of people happen to make an appearance in your YA novel.
Myth #4: If you write it, you are advocating/endorsing it.
One word: seriously?!
But I'm very interested in hearing from other YA writers and readers on this matter! What say you? Are YA writers responsible for their readers? Should they worry about unduly influencing them? If you write YA, do these things concern you? Weigh in, please!
And, as promised: ~*sparkles*~