Welcome to July, everyone. I hope the year has treated you well thus far. I've been away from the blogosphere for a while now, so I've been catching up on my "reading" and came across this post by a gal who is wise beyond her years (even though she won't admit it). The thing is, it's got me thinking about YA and where I fit into it. And if I have the guts to write for that audience. And whether or not writing for that audience is really about guts at all.
You see, I'm a Christian. I love the Lord and follow the commandments of his Word. So it's true that a lot of the times, my own beliefs and values--- my own morals and my own view of the world--- comes into and effects my writing. And I'm not saying that's a bad thing. In fact, I think that if you're going to be a writer, it's probably because you A.) have a story to tell, or B.) have an opinion/ view of the world to share. My perspective is unique and therefore isn't a bad thing to want to share, but... do you ever notice the people who have an opinion and are, like, adamantly and passionately intent on you sharing it with them?
The post kind of touched on the fact that, on the one hand, YA aims not to be preachy. It wants to reach as wide of an audience as it possibly can. It doesn't want to hurt anyone's feelings. It wants to make everyone happy. But, on the other hand, most YA comes with the hidden message that, if you do bad things, there will be bad consequences. And I admit it--- a lot of the time when you're reading YA, you come across these things that sound like your mother. "Don't have sex or you'll get pregnant!" "Don't do drugs or you'll overdose!" "Don't drink alcohol or you'll get in a car accident!" "Wash your hands or you'll die of malaria!"
Here's the thing: I don't believe in sex, drugs, and rock and roll as a lifestyle choice. I have never tolerated the "it's just one time!" approach, or the "live every day like it's your last!" method. I'm never going to write about unprotected sex or getting high "wid da homies." I can't. Partly because I wouldn't know what it was like, but also because, yeah, I have these moralistic ideas that prevent me from wanting to write about it. But let's say I did write about those things. Do you honestly think that just because my characters want to have sex, get high, and die in car crashes, that I, personally, am endorsing those things?
Heck to the freaking no.
And double heck no.
Just because an author writes about these things, doesn't necessarily mean they think you should go out and do them. When a writer is good, their characters take on lives of their own, and it's then that they start making their own choices and shaping their own existence in a fictional world. Personally, the reason I think most authors bring "bad ends" to characters who do these things is because the people who publish the books are afraid that readers are going to get the idea that an author is saying it's A-okay to do X, Y, and Z. The truth, though, is that, when an author can acknowledge that not all actions have (as Vee says) an "explosive" consequence, they're just writing the truth. The truth is, the truth can be rough for people with a moralistic way of thinking, but those people (the ones like me) don't have to pick up the books that talk about the things they are uncomfortable with.
Opinions can be dangerous and that's why there are people out there who hate dishing out advice. But for the open-minded person, I'd like to present you with an opinion. It is my belief that the only way to write YA is to write the truth. The truth about unprotected sex is that sometimes it leads to pregnancy, and sometimes it doesn't. The truth about sex, in general, is that some people are having it and some people aren't. The truth about drugs is that some people do them and some people don't. The truth about doing them is that most times it ends in addiction, and sometimes, it doesn't. If you can write about the truth, then you're ready to write about young adults. But if you can't handle the truth, you're better suited for younger readers who have stories to tell, too, without all the craziness of reality clouding the air around them.
If you can handle it, then congratulations! You've entered the Wrilight Zone. Do with your stories what you will, because, the awesome thing about writing is this: we don't all have to write the same stories. Some will be serious, others entertaining. Some will preach and others will mock. Some will contain violence and others will be about peace, love, and other drugs. You don't have to have thick skin to write for the big kids. You just have to write a story worth telling, and, since that's the hardest part, I suggest putting your energy into that side of the process now, and all these other sheningans after you've got your polished, ready-to-go manuscript waiting for a chance to see the sun.
Whew! Glad that's settled,
P.S. "I give my readers what I can. Instead of offering all the right answers, I offer, I hope, all the right questions." -Vahini Naidoo
P.P.S. Go read that post!