X is for X-Rated
(Post 24 on my WIP)
Just read what could be considered a raunchy scene in Insurgent (full review on 1st May, when I’ve finished it and when we are allowed to release our reviews in celebration of the publication day of Veronica Roth’s follow up to Divergent).
Also one of my beta readers commented on how I’d introduced Jane, representing her as promiscuous, and whether that was appropriate in Young Adult fiction.
This got me thinking about audience and what is appropriate – about the ‘moral responsibility of authors’.
There has been debate about the violence in The Hunger Games and Tabitha Suzuma’s Forbidden which centres on a brother/sister incestuous relationship has massively divided opinion.
When I think about what I read when I was younger I think it helped me explore issues that I needed to understand in a non threatening way.
But as Serendipity Viv so eloquently writes – there are times when our threshold of acceptance change – as we age, as we become parents or experience other life events.
My response to her post was (and when I say children I really mean teens):
Wow, what a brave post. I really don’t think anybody really wants to see incest, violence and other unsavoury things in YA or other fiction – I’m guessing (hoping) they were just demanding its right to be there and sadly it exists in the ‘real world’. I think you are perfectly within your rights not to read a book if you don’t want to.
I won a set of Tabitha Suzuma’s books and read Forbidden first (the only one I have read so far). Why did I pick that one? Because the reviews were outstanding, as is the book. It makes you understand how these things could happen and it broke my heart just a little.
I am speaking as a person who is not a mother but I recognise that the protective feelings that come with that are not made up, I have seen some quite unsappy friends change quite dramatically. I think you are right that parents need to be more aware of what their children are reading (and watching) and not police it or stop it but to be prepared to discuss the difficult issues that arise. I think literature is an amazing way to learn and I think we do children a disservice if we protect them too much leaving them naive and a bit vulnerable possibly. Neither do I believe we should shove it in their faces before they are ready. My copy of Forbidden does say ‘Not for younger readers’ on the back.
I think the reasons I have drawn to paranormal/fantasy are similar – it’s not real – it’s escapism. I don’t think I could read a Forbiddenesque book everyday and stay happy but sometimes we need to understand the dark side too – it’s just way too scary otherwise.
If you do decide to read it I look forward to your review.
Thanks for this very thought provoking post.
As I already mentioned in my Q is for Questions Answered post – Nicola Morgan says (in the comments on this post here) ‘NOTHING is too dark for YA! (Though it does have to be handled properly.)’
Do you agree that there is nothing too dark for YA?
For those who are parents – do you think you’d stop your younger self reading the books you did when a teenager?
W is for Weapons
(Post 23 on my WIP)
With Friday came ‘Weapons Training and History of Weapons’. Professor Rachel Harris, a leggy woman with waist length blonde hair and Sergeant Derek Adams, just the right amount of buff with short cropped hair, looked like a couple from the pages of a celebrity gossip magazine, Jane thought.
Here’s my vision of Derek and Rachel.
Now guns and weapons in general are not my sort of thing at all but I can see this needing to be an area that I need to research a lot more. I even wonder if, because I write a scene about gun training, whether it would be beneficial to try this myself – I have no idea even how I would go about arranging something like this, and being very anti-violence I’m not sure how it would make me feel.
‘I have fired an AK42, Gunman 12 and an Utiger’s.
Now here is where I wish I made better notes to myself as I write because some of the guns mentioned above, by one of my characters, are made up. I can do this if I’m setting my book in the future ;o). When Googling I found AK42 was real (I’d remembered that too), pretty sure I made up Gunman 12 and I can’t find Utiger’s so I guess I made that up too but I’ve no idea how. Randomly when I Google ‘Utiger’s gun’ it takes me to an Amazon review by Utiger of a spray gun!! If anybody actually knows Gunman 12 or Utiger’s are real please let me know because my brain has clearly forgotten.
How good at you at keeping track of how/where your ideas originate? (I will be using the notes feature in Scrivener to sort this out in future – if I remember that is).
Writers make up things all the time – do you think it’s enough to have seen lots of TV programmes/films or read other books that discuss a topic or should you talk to someone who has had an experience or even (obviously within legal, ethical, moral limits etc) experience something yourself? Clearly I can’t see myself eating a raw steak or taking drugs or doing anything illegal or violent so how do we write about these things? Personally I try and use writing at times to make sense of the world around me, particularly with things I don’t understand. But, when you publish a book how forgiving are readers? If I describe a gun scene where something happens that would never happen in real life is that going to be accepted within my story or could it make a reader put the book down? Clearly we can’t always stick to what we know but where does the responsibility to make something as accurate as possible end?
And on that note what is the strangest/most extreme thing you have done in the name of writing research?
V is for Victor versus Victor
(Post 22 on my WIP)
No this isn’t a ‘Catching Fire’ reference for fellow Hunger Games Fans.
Victor Faber is the field survival teacher and medic at the time police academy. Because of Jane’s diagnosis of bipolar disorder she has to meet Victor regularly for check ups so they have a good relationship; Victor sees beyond her condition and recognises her potential.
Now when I was searching online for actors/actresses/people who look like how I imagine my characters, or who I think could play them personality wise, I chose James McAvoy to play Victor and posted this to Pinterest.
Then came the reVelation, the controVersy that has left me a bit discombobulated (really love this word but not necessarily the feeling). A number of my beta readers had pictured Victor as being middle aged or older and there was the feeling from them that perhaps he should be. Now I’ve read back through and I actually don’t really give any indication of age at all; Will Eisner suggests a ‘doctor prototype’ is often ‘drawn from both social experience and what the reader thinks a doctor ought to look like.’ Also I suppose Victor acts as a sort of Mentor to Jane throughout this book. Perhaps the stereotype of doctors and mentors are that they are older and wiser (my friends and I are still relatively young). But, to me, although Victor has an old soul, and a love of pudding, I still see him as not that much older than Dylan and Jamie. I think to be the academy doctor he would need to be relatively young and fit (btw I’m not saying that older people can’t be fit).
So, what do I do?
Do I put more clues in about his age as I see it?
Do I bow to beta reader opinion and make him older?
Do I leave it as it is, without the clues and just writing who I perceive Victor to be and accept that readers will see him how they want to letting some see him as older, some as younger?
Do you think as writers we always have to spell out the age, look etc etc of characters or is it OK to be ambiguous? I said that I’d failed by not making my intentions clear but is this always essential – surely readers are allowed their own interpretations.
What if I’m ambiguous and then do something that reveals his age as I see it later (not necessarily intentionally) – will that throw readers off, make them angry at me or will they accept it?
Would I be happy if a film was made about casting choices if I left it ambiguous? (Rhetorical question unless you happen to be a mind reader ;o))
I repeat again, I’m discombobulated about this and not 100% sure how to move forward (as a side note I experienced discombobulation in relation to my PhD this week too so not really sure who or where I am).
The perils/opportunities of sharing an incomplete first draft. Any advice gratefully received.