1. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Unintentional Teen Feel

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Oscar Leigh, Feb 4, 2016.

    So I have this idea. It's not something I'm actually writing as book or anything, doing something else as my main. And I showed it to my brother and he thought it had a bit of a "teen feel." This is not a story appealing to a teen audience. I never want to appeal to a teen audience. Every good teen story is good because it has elements of more mature, realistic adult fiction rather than the simplistic, sentimental, pandering style of the genre. This story is actually about the concept that everyone's just human in the end. In this world, an alternate modern earth, there are people who have recently appeared with superpowers. These people don't wear costumes and rarely masks, mostly either they live mostly normal lives or don't need cover. Their activities are not like a game or a play, it is serious and complicated and it actually matters about and to the normal world. Essentially, it's a superhero storyline where nobody acts quite like a superhero. In this storyline, the roles are actually somewhat ambiguous; characters like Talia Kane aren't a hero though she acts as an ally to various heroey characters.. There a bunch of R-rated themes, including explicit sexual activity and violence. I also explore adult concepts, like employment issues and coping with mental illness. Almost everything about this idea is screaming "not tee', so it would be bad if it felt that way. So, with that in mind, could you read these segments? There are spoilers since they're from later on and yes, I know Dan is involved in all of them. He's is quite important and I like his character.

    Oliver- (On Dan and Jason) “I can’t just accept this.” Clara- “Oliver, I know it’s strange to you, it’s strange to me, but this is a different time!” Oliver- “So we bow down to pressure? We just be okay with this because other people have forgotten why we used to say “no”?” Clara- “I don’t think they have.” Oliver- “What?” Clara- “I think they heard an argument and they agreed with it.” Oliver- “All those people saying that you can’t say no anymore, it gets to people I think. Hell, even I’ve been lying about it to save my career but I will not just let this go. It may not be the worst thing in the world but it is not okay.” Clara- “You’re wrong.” (Oliver flinches, shocked at her defiant attitude.) Oliver- “How would you know?” Clara- “Because I’m one of the people who listened to the argument.” Oliver- “What do you mean? Are you saying you want our son to be different, to be unnatural, to be sinful?” Clara- “No, I’m saying I want our son to be happy. I saw him with Jason again today. I’ve seen the way they are. And I realised that I couldn’t think of a single real reason why they shouldn’t have that.” Oliver- “Clara, I know it’s difficult to have to fight our son on this but-” Clara- “-Oliver, no. I think they’re falling for each other. It won’t be long, maybe a few weeks. And you want that, something we’ve always wanted for him, to go away? I can’t do this anymore.” (Pause) Oliver- “What are you saying?” Clara- “I’m going to file for divorce. You go too far Oliver, you’ve been doing it for a long time. ” Oliver- “Clara, you can’t do this!’ Clara- “I can. And I am. “ Oliver- “Clara!” Clara- “You always were a man trying to hold things together. I just didn’t want to admit you were trying to hold them against their will.”

    Emily- “Why are you so afraid of my powers? No-one’s ever been that scared of them.” Dan- “I never want to be controlled again.” (Pause) Emily- “Your dad. He’s a bully, isn’t he? I heard a rumour he’s a homophobe. Did he ever beat you?” Dan- “No! There were, a few smacks, but, he’s not...” Emily- “Do you think he’s a good father?” Dan- “No, not really.” Emily- “So why defend him?” Dan- “Because I still love him.” Emily- “Like you love Jason?” Dan- “That’s uh, a completely different relationship.” Emily- “Seems like a better one.” (Dan freezes) Dan- “Um.” Emily- “Why don’t you give up?It’s not going to work. Some things don’t change.” Dan- “... Maybe, I guess.” Emily- “Do you want me to kill him?” Dan- “No! No!” Emily- “ He doesn’t know how to love you right. You should stop caring.” Dan- “But I just want my father.”

    Dan- “You must think I’m so weak.” Jason- “No.” (Jason kisses his neck softly) Dan- “ I can’t even shoot a guy without getting teary.” Jason- “ Dan, look at me. The world needs people like you. People who never
    like the bad things. People who will hold us to standards we can’t reach. Because without you we’d never be able to stop.” (Jason gives him another little kiss) (Dan shakily gets up and wipes the little bit of tears of his face) Dan- “Thanks, I needed that.”
     
  2. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Hmm. I don't think that just reading these small excerpts—which are hard to follow because they are set up like dialogue exchanges from a TV script, with very little in the way of setting, body language, pacing, emotion, etc—is going to answer your question. If I were you, I'd quiz your brother closely as to what made him think 'teen' when he read your story. And make sure he knows you're actually looking for truthful answers, and that you appreciate the fact that he's pointed out a potential flaw. (I don't know how old your brother is, either. If he IS a teen, this might be a compliment. It might mean he's really enjoying it.)

    Feedback like that is very valuable. You didn't think you were writing a teen book when you wrote it, but that's what your brother thought it was. Has anybody else read the whole thing yet? If you could get another beta to read it, and don't let on about what your brother said, you might get an interesting response. If they don't also point out the 'teen feel,' you could directly ask. But if they do point out a teen feel to the piece, you probably do need to work on your tone—unless you plan to sell it as YA fiction.

    It could just be the notion of superpowers ...which I admit certainly sounds 'teen' to me. What if you called their powers something else? Or maybe didn't refer to them as 'powers' at all? That's become a clichéd term of late, so if you could come up with another way to refer to these abilities, that might be all your MS needs. When a person says 'superpowers' or 'special powers,' I immediately think ...uh oh, teen TV.

    I don't remember Gandalf's abilities being referred to as 'special powers' or 'superpowers' in Tolkien. He just did stuff that nobody else could do, because he was a wizard. No big deal. Same with Galadriel and other elves. The cloaks she gave to Frodo and Sam didn't give them 'special powers' ...it gave them the ability to blend into the landscape and hide from enemies. You might want to take a leaf out of Tolkien's technique, which appealed to readers of all ages, and just concentrate on what your characters do and the consequences of what they do ...and skip the labels as much as you can.

    It will also help if your characters act in a mature manner. By mature, I mean not constantly obsessing over teen things such as angsty romance (as opposed to real love.) Or childhood resentments. Preoccupation with parents, siblings, teachers, mentors etc. Wishing for, or working to gain, the approval of peers. "Saving the world." (Mature people may want to make a difference, or do good things, but they know they're not going to 'save the world.')

    It also helps make a story sound more mature if the characters in it don't make naïeve choices, such as falling for stunningly obvious tricks. Don't let them get easily influenced by the manipulations of others.
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2016
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  3. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Well to clarify, it is envisioned as a TV series. It's just an idea at this point so the format is not subject to feasibility concerns. And my brother does not like teen stuff.
    To address your direct suggestions.
    The super aspect is not referred to a superheroes or superpowers except informally because of pop culture. The official term is Enhanced, with their powers as Enhancements. There is a derogatory term that has popped up, the Enhanced being new and minority, "superfreaks". They also do not necessarily use their powers, their "Enhancement" for anything special. Some of them even hide it and act like nothing's different. And when they do there's no costumes, if they disguise themselves it's with normal means, and often guns are involved. The central thesis is they are still just people being people.
    The romantic relationships in series have elements of angst but it's more like tension and confusion exacerbated by circumstance rather than "what if he doesn't love me" bullshit. The relationships also don't suddenly become perfect once the problems are solved, they still argue, and new problems pop up. I've my parents as a comparison: they argue all the time. And Dan is 29, so his father influence on his life is actually rather invasive and a plot point in itself. Most of the other other character's parents are barely mentioned. Also it's actually kind of encouraging a degree of freedom while also discouraging recklessness and chaos. Approval of peers is explored but in a larger societal context and popularity contest crap is not done by many people especially not protagonists. There's no saving the world, it's smaller scale and often more personal problems. I have the characters make mistakes but not adolescent kind of stuff.
     
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  4. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I'm not passing any kind of judgement on your writing—because I haven't actually seen it anyway. And if it is a TV script, then I back off totally, because TV scripts are not something I know how to write.

    Perhaps your brother is very wrong about the teen feel to your story. If you don't believe he has a point, then just carry on.

    However, you did give it to him for feedback, and that's what he said to you.

    My post was more about receiving feedback than trying to re-jig your story in any way. If somebody says something to you about your work that makes you go ...what? ...then it's a very good idea to dig into why they said that. Nothing whatever wrong with creating a 'teen feel' if that's the effect you're after. However, if it's not what you wanted—and apparently it's not—you need to figure out (hopefully with his help) what made him think 'teen' as he read it.

    My suggestions were not directed at your piece specifically ...because, again, I've not read it ...but at YA tropes in general. If you find these tropes in your work, they might be what's causing his reaction.

    If you're still not convinced, why not give your story to a few other people (of differing ages and interests) and get beta reads from them. Don't tell them what your brother said. Just get their reactions. If they all tell you it's a very mature piece of work, then you can probably scrap your brother's comment as not being the majority view. If anybody ELSE picks up on 'teen,' then you know you're doing it. And then decide. Do you make changes, or do you keep it as it is and maybe market it differently?

    The most important thing with feedback is to suck it up. Don't spend a lot of time defending what you wrote—although that's a very natural reaction. I've been there, and I can assure you I did the same thing at first. It's natural. What you wrote is yours. You created it and you're proud of it, and you want your readers to like it the same as you do, and for the same reasons. When they give you feedback that isn't what you expected to hear, then it's natural to go ...no no no, they're wrong, I meant THIS. But what you meant obviously didn't get across to that particular beta, did it? It's a good idea to discover why.

    You may decide that your beta is wrong, and that you're not changing anything about your story. And sometimes betas ARE wrong, or have other agendas. (Does your brother still think of you as a teen yourself? Does he figure you're not mature enough to write an adult book?) But feedback is so valuable, it's wise not to dismiss it without honest consideration. You're wrote the story you wanted to tell, but until the reader feels it too, you're only half there.
     
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  5. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Would you like more samples/some plot details/both?
     
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  6. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    No, not really. I might like to read your finished story at some point, but I don't need 'convincing' here. It's up to you to decide whether or not your brother's point is valid. If you truly feel it's not, then just dismiss what he said. He's wrong.

    However, if you suspect he might be right, but find it difficult to discuss the issue with him, then find a few betas who aren't aware of what he said and get their feedback as well. It's always a good idea to get as many betas to read your story as possible. Not only does that give you a better idea of flaws (something about your story that hits nearly all your readers the same way) but it gives you a good idea of what your target audience looks like. Obviously not your brother...? :)

    One of the best bits of feedback I ever received was this: You won't be standing at the shoulder of everybody who reads your book, explaining things, answering questions, telling them what you actually mean. What you 'mean' is contained in the writing itself—or it's not.
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2016
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  7. Cattlebruiser
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    Hey there!
    I would say it's the whole romance thing. If not written in a certain style, it could feel like a teen on a keyboard (which could actually be the case, but eh!)
    Maybe since it's more like a script, and well, there's not much "style" to be observed in scripts, it gives off the teen feel you are describing.

    note: I also feel it's a little bit teen-ish, mainly for the reasons above. And the powers thing. The theme of fear, power and romance when mashed together without careful tinkering can give that feel.
     
  8. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Well, the whole point of the series is that they aren't very comic-book style super-characters. There's less theatre and role-play to it, more individuality and ambiguity. Surely that makes the power less corny. Especiallly with the grittier, slower, more personal story. And if the romance element feels corny, how do suggest I write those subplots? What should I avoid in the dialogue? I do want some cute going on in that section of the show, but I want to be more than that. Just a small note, the emphasis on Dan in those segments is misleading. He's only one of multiple main cast members, and his romance with Jason is the most stable, happy relationship in the whole idea, not that's it idealized but the problems are never massively damaging, so emphasizing him gives a false impression. The thing is I've been working on that subplot a lot recently so I've got more dialogue written down for it. Also, I would be happy to give a more in-depth description of the images in my head. I could even do an over-descriptive narration that prattles on and doesn't leave much to imagination.
     
  9. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I think you are going about this the wrong way (we all have our opinions ;), mine's not more than that).

    You have a story brewing in your head, you like it, I would wager. It has elements you find interesting. But maybe you want the thing fleshed out too much out before you begin writing. Or maybe you have elements without a story thread.

    Take a step back. What is the story you are interested in telling? I don't mean the details, I mean the overall concept. Too often people think a story is interesting because of the fun ride it takes the reader on. What they don't see is the underlying theme that ties that ride together.

    You are getting feedback that some element of the story is not giving the potential reader the ride you want them to take. There are more elements than the just threads of the theme. Is it the characters? I started a book a couple days ago that I gave up on today. The characters simply bored me.

    Or is it that you have a slew of story elements with no theme threading the elements together?

    What is the story you want to tell? I had a hard time pulling it out of your OP, but I think I managed.

    ... earth, ... people ... recently appeared with superpowers. These people don't wear costumes and rarely masks, mostly either they live mostly normal lives or don't need cover. Their activities are not like a game or a play, it is serious and complicated and it actually matters about and to the normal world.
    That stuff is not relevant to tell me.
    Essentially, it's a superhero storyline where nobody acts quite like a superhero.​
    OK I got it up to here.
    In this storyline, the roles are actually somewhat ambiguous; characters like Talia Kane aren't a hero though she acts as an ally to various heroey characters..
    I don't care.
    There a bunch of R-rated themes, including explicit sexual activity and violence.​
    Why? What is your goal? Just to titillate the reader, or something else?
    I also explore adult concepts, like employment issues and coping with mental illness.​
    There's your theme, or at least part of it.
    Almost everything about this idea is screaming "not tee', so it would be bad if it felt that way. So, with that in mind, could you read these segments? There are spoilers since they're from later on and yes, I know Dan is involved in all of them. He's is quite important and I like his character.​
    OK, so now you have an important character.

    Rather that analyze the 'not quite an excerpt' , what I suggest is you take what you have and start writing. If it comes across as too young, fix it. You can do that after you've begun writing if you keep your theme in mind.
     
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  10. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    "The not quite an excerpt", do you not realize it was three different sections of three different scenes? And the Talia bit was important, because it was an example of a character who is definitively not fulfilling a conventional comic-book role. Which is the main theme; that nobody would act like a comic-book super-characters with the names and costumes and the weirdly game-like setup.
    Now the R-rating is for three reasons. Firstly I like doing intense stuff, call it morbid but I makes the story more dramatic, humans like thrills. Secondly I also find it more real, to portray realistic violence and actual sex is just exposing people to what these things are like. And thirdly, this is about going against what you expect from the genre, as the most basic, central theme.
    As for Dan, "now you have an important character." I actually have all the main cast already decided and developing. I also have a plot outline for a good two thirds or so of the first season. So it would helpful to keep in mind I am not asking for help developing it out but rather help making sure the result achieves the goals.
    Thanks for the input so far people.
     
  11. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    First, excerpts need to be posted in the workshop if you want feedback on them and second you said, "It's not something I'm actually writing as book or anything." So I took your word for it it was not an excerpt.

    My point wouldn't be any different. If it's a excerpt, post it in the workshop. If you are asking the question you asked about your story concept, you have enough to start writing. Don't worry if it seems too young, fix that by tweaking the characters or the story.
     
  12. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    To elaborate on the themes and feel of it for you, the story follows six different main characters: Derek Holborn, Jason Valentine, Talia Kane, Anthony Pierce, Anna Morse and Daniel Moretti. All of them have different moral stances and attitudes to the law. The action is small-scale, often relatively quick, and not particularly frequent, so it's not action. I leave it up to the audience to decide which of them is the best, which is a representation of complex morality, it being subjective. (I doubt anyone's going to pick Talia though). The plotline follows numerous different threads; romances, family and friend stuff, employment issues, the situation of the Enhanced, and most importantly, the struggles of the characters to do what is right to them. The whole point is that people will always just be people, and there's no ultimate right way just whatever choices we make. The world just is and what we make of it is all we have have.
     
  13. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    @Oscar Leigh - I think I've lost track of what you wanted us to help you figure out. Can you restate it? You seem to just keep telling us what's supposed to happen in your story in more and more detail ...all of which will be do-able if you work it right. So what is your actual question again?

    I picked up, from your original post, that you had written something your brother said had a 'teen feel' to it. And I thought you were asking us how to fix that, so it didn't seem slanted towards teens any longer. My initial responses were geared toward fixing that problem. However, I'm now not sure if that was actually your question.

    If you wanted us to decide WHETHER your writing has a teen feel to it, @GingerCoffee is right. You need to put a longer excerpt in the workshop. If it's a TV script and not a novel, put it into the 'script' section of the workshop so the right people get hold of it for critique.

    Confuselled. :bigconfused:
     
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2016
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  14. Cattlebruiser
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    That is a heavy thing to revolve your book about, it's nice to have more than just pewpew action (albeit I love that).
    It's ultimately how you write it. I say just go ahead and type your thoughts down, and if it's not ok, tweak it.
    As an example I just had to change my whole scrap after a year of not writing (reviewed like 70 pages) and just erased the last 30 because they weren't as good as I thought they were a year ago.
    But it made the base much more solid which was awesome.
     
  15. matwoolf
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    Gross
     
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  16. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    LOL.
     
  17. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's super teen. And....you are teen. So there you have it.

    Keep reading and writing and don't worry about your ideas right now.
     

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