1. MsLee123
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    MsLee123 Member

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    How far is too far in teen fiction?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by MsLee123, Jan 3, 2011.

    I'm a young adult writer and have been for the last few years. Almost all of my stories revolve around young adults in high school (ages 16+). Say what you will, I've heard it all, my favorite being "young adult isn't real writing".

    Anyway, back to my question. I recently edited a YA novel for another writing buddy of mine. She and I have similar writing styles, but I was a bit taken aback by the content. It was incredibly graphic in the sex and violence portions. I tend to agree with the concept of "If it's on TV it's okay to be in a book", but how far is too far? There's swearing and love and romance in all of my novels, teen drinking, occasional drug use, and some violence, but I try to be as specific as possible without being totally graphic and it's never written in an encouraging or "cool" manner. All of these situations and ideas are relevant to today's teens, but how far is too far?
     
  2. PurpleCandle
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    PurpleCandle Senior Member

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    Have you considered that your friend is writing for a different audience than you are? Just because she is young adult, does not mean that whatever she writes is young adult or teenager intended.
     
  3. Allegro Van Kiddo
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    Allegro Van Kiddo Contributing Member

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    Purple has a good question.

    The age group most likely to engage in destructive sex and violence is young people. Novels can be a kind of problem solving tool for people in that they read about characters like themselves, or the opposite, learn what kind of problems can arise from the behaviors in the book.

    As an example, I'll use drugs. Most of the illegal drugs out there have some effect on the brain that makes people feel good, initially. Meanwhile, at school, on TV, info from parents, etc makes drugs sound like your head will explode on the first try. Then, the uninformed young person tries drugs and they're like "Oh this is wonderful, and everyone is lying to me," thus making them want to try more. What no one told them about was the fact that the "good feeling" is the real hook that gets you addicted and then over time you get the horrible stuff. So, a writer would be doing kids a great service by telling it like it is with clear descriptions. The opposite would be graphic descriptions that glorify outlandish behavior without raising questions about it.

    I struggle with the whole idea that a story has to have a moral though. All of mine have a moral, but I enoy reading SF and fantasy where people are murdering each other, and I would never kill someone unless they were right at my throat. I don't believe that consuming violent stories during the course of my life has affected me one bit, because I know they're stories. However, I do think it's best when novels have a philosophical meaning beneath the action and aren't just about craziness.
     
  4. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Age of characters, too graphic sex and length of book seem to be the determining factors in what is YA and what is adult. My second book is adult because of age of characters involved rather than anything else.
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    well, it's all on tv now [and in the video games the kids play], so it seems there is no 'line' any more... and i've been running a free books program here for 5 years, have seen it all on the covers of books for teens, so i'm sure it's inside there, too...

    thus it's just a matter of what you personally want to include in your books for teens, not of what they will or will not buy and read, since they'll buy and read anthing aimed at their age-interests, which does, sad to say, include 'sex, drugs, and rock'em-sock'em violence'...
     
  6. Darkstar
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    I believe you should go as far as it takes to make you novel as gripping and as interesting as possible. Now that doesn't necessarily mean your violent scenes have to extra gory, just make it fit well with your novel.
     
  7. MsLee123
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    MsLee123 Member

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    Thanks everyone. I appreciate the input. Someone brought up audience...my audience is generally teenage girls whereas my friend's novels are more towards teenage boys. I suppose had I thought about that before asking my above question I would have answered myself! Thanks again!
     
  8. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    My experience is books aimed at teen boys tend to be more innocent than ones intended for girls.
     
  9. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sex and violence are underrated. They're Love and Strife in their purest elemental forms. What you've got on the YA shelf should not be seen as trash but as Empedoclean philosophy in physical form -- the strongest and purest forces of the universe forever locked in opposition. Anything less is dilluded, contaminated by basic elements and weak drama.

    :D
     
  10. TokyoVigilante
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    TokyoVigilante Member

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    I'm for as much sex and violence in media as long as there's a point to it and it's used to bolster the theme of the media in question. That being said, I don't mind a splatter-ful, action packed shoot 'em up spectacle as long as it's honest about its intentions in being strictly mindless entertainment.
     
  11. Allegro Van Kiddo
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    Allegro Van Kiddo Contributing Member

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    I had to look up Empedoclean, so thanks for that.

    It's interesting that he talked about life being composed of elements because when you're young the elements of sex and violence are the most active in some people and they don't know how to control them. As I mentioned, novels help young people learn about the related issues.

    What I meant by trash is material that falsely represents what's actually going to happen in our world, if it takes place there. For instance, you can't kill all of the guys who want the girl you like and if you have a baby at thirteen, it's not going to be all wine and roses.

    Of course, I believe that anyone can and should write whatever they feel like, but I'm addressing the OP who seems to want to write responsible material.
     
  12. J_Jammer
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    J_Jammer Banned

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    Sex and violence can be in YA, but not gratuitous details.


    And if you think Toy Story III is diluted in how it handles love and death....then you're not a great writer. If you think you have to get down and dirty to be good at talking about sex and violence....you'll become a dime a dozen and just like on tv....they'll change books.

    Just like people get tired of the vampire idea (now...wasn't tired of it a year ago)....they'll grow tired of the same old same old.
     

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