1. kaylynwrong
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    kaylynwrong Member

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    Something potentially sketchy

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by kaylynwrong, Aug 27, 2010.

    Hello all,

    I'm just under 40,000 words (half-way) into a YA novel and have a reached a bit of a character dilemma.

    The teenagers in my novel stumble across something very frightening and potentially dangerous to them as well as the other person. In my original draft of this chapter, they freeze up in the situation, and a girl they don't personally know ends up dead. I had a discussion with my sister about this. Her argument was that this is a YA novel, and having someone die, when there were witnesses who could have helped (my 3 teenagers), is inappropriate for the age group. I wrote a different draft of the chapter. In this draft, the teens stumble across the scary situation right after it's occurred, so they cannot do anything to help at that point.

    Anyway, I guess my question is this: Is it bad character development to create characters like this (the first version)? It seemed like a normal human reaction to me, but she read it and was pretty vehemently opposed because of the age group.

    I'm saving both drafts of the chapter for the time being and moving on with the story. I wrote both drafts in a way that both versions of their reaction to the incident would fit in just fine with the rest of the book. I might need to make a few pretty minor changes here and there, but nothing serious.

    One more thing. She said if she were reading it as a book intended for adults, she would be okay with the original version. It's the age of the intended audience that makes it too sketchy for her. However, she's totally cool with reading books like The Hunger Games Series, in which the protagonist, a 16-yr-old girl, has to kill people.

    Thoughts?
     
  2. rainy
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    rainy Senior Member

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    I don't read all that much YA, but my first inclination is the emotional depth of having not done anything to prevent the death, is too deep of a topic to handle in a YA novel. Unless that was the entire point of the novel, which it obviously is not or you wouldn't be asking this question :)

    Also, considering the rest of your draft doesn't weight much on the specifics of that chapter, that tells me the story is not going to deal with the freezing up and subsquent guilt, etc very realistically.

    I could be entirely wrong--it's been known to happen ;)

    But that's my intial thought.

    Best luck,

    //R
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    YA isn't what it used to be. Teenagers today are more likely to know, or know of, someone in their age group who has died. They often have to deal with feelings of guilt, warranted or not.

    Making characters agonize over the death of a peer, and finding ways for them to come to terms with it, is heavt far for YA, but not excessively so. The Harry Potter series began to deal with peer death in book 4.

    The feeling that someone could have prevented a death is not always well-founded. More often than not, nothing could have been done anyway, and the person feeling guilty is unreasonable in thinking they could have prevented it.

    Just don't get gruesome about it, and you should be okay.
     
  4. L. Ai
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    L. Ai Member

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    I think it would have a very big impact on your characters, as well as the overall... hmm... tone of the book to have their inaction lead to someone's death. If it can go either way, I would suggest them entering post being able to do anything. If the point is more how your characters are dealing with the fallout of their part in things, or if you want to use that to flesh out a moral or a sub moral to the story, then I don't see anything wrong with it.

    But define 'young adult'. Cause I read quite a few books at thirteen labeled 'young adult' I would not put in the hands of anyone under sixteen. Then again, I say just write it how you want and see how people want to categorize it- unless your already under a contract to write a specific age group?
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i'd say go with your own conscience and the needs of your story... as cog notes, just about anything seems to be 'ok' for the YA market nowadays...

    just browse that age group on amazon and i'm sure you'll find lots worse...
     
  6. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Like Cogito has said YA books deal with difficult issues they always have.

    Pamela Brown's Finishing School comes to mind about being in a Japanese POW, but even What Katy Did dealt with a family dying. Heidi was about a small child being abandoned on a mountain with a scary old man, and the original fairytales make some of todays stories look weak willed in comparison.

    Might be worth you reading the Tales of Otori, in the first book the main character has to kill his adopted father because he has been captured and is facing a dishonorable death, he cuts off his head. The story starts with a whole village being wiped out.
     
  7. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Intelligent kids read books intended for adults. And nearly every kid watches movies in which people are killed, often in gruesome ways.

    And there are books like Lord of the Flies, in which kids don't just stand by while other kids die; kids actually murder kids - and Lord of the Flies is taught to kids in schools.

    I don't think there's any subject matter that's too strong for YA readers. Go ahead with your first version.
     
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  8. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    YA novels handle almost any topic you can think of. There's absolutely no reason to think of this out of bounds for YA. YA novels (or even younger) that I've seen handled drug use, a sister of a character meeting a guy online getting involved in drugs and alcohol and being murdered, death of parents, rape.

    The circumstance you describe is tame by comparison to a lot of what is out there in YA.
     
  9. Lyssaur
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    Lyssaur Member

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    YA- young adult. We're talking about people who watch rated R movies at 13. Kids are smoking pot, killing people in games, and reading murder mysteries. These people are trying to get their first jobs. I'm pretty sure most of the reader's can handle what you've described. I wouldn't sweat it. :)
     
  10. jameskmonger
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    jameskmonger Member

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    As a "YA" myself, I would have no problem reading that, don't worry!
     
  11. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Include it, your audience can handle it.

    I personally get very annoyed when people act like YA stuff needs to be watered down and kept innocent. Teenagers can hande rough material, and if they can't or don't want to, they're free to put the book down. They won't be scarred for life by reading some adult content, and most of all, they shoudn't be babied.

    Good luck!
     
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  12. kaylynwrong
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    kaylynwrong Member

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    Hi all,

    Thanks for your thoughtful posts. I really appreciate all the feedback.

    I think I will most likely use the original chapter. I suppose I should have been more specific when describing the age group. I intend to been for mid-teens and up. I read a lot of YA fiction and I've seen many more violent scenes than the one I've written. In particular, dystopian and supernatural YA is very popular right now and a lot of it has violent scenes.

    Thanks again! :)
     
  13. kaylynwrong
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    kaylynwrong Member

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    No, you're totally write to address that. I didn't explain it very well in my OP. When I said that it won't effect much of the rest of the story, I mean the general storyline. If I went back later and changed this chapter, I would have to make minor changes throughout the rest of the story, such as adding or deleting a scene here or there, or some of the main character's thoughts. It would be a significant amount of changes, but nothing that affects the overall plot. Thanks for bringing that up. :)
     
  14. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you want your characters to witness the death, but don't want them to deal with the guilt, perhaps they could watch the death but be unable to do anything? (It's obviously too dangerous for them to interfere, they are behind a fence, etc.)
     

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