1. AJSmith
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    AJSmith Senior Member

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    What is appropriate?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by AJSmith, Apr 9, 2011.

    So, I started writing my novel with the intention of it being a YA fantasy. I still think that is definitely where it fits, but I've come to wonder about what is and isn't appropriate for these books.

    I've seen just about everything in books I've read (meant for adults) but I've seen quite a bit of language and a range from sexual references to more direct encounters in YA books.

    With YA being marketed for ages somewhere between 12 and 20ish, what is the appropriate amount of sex and language to be used in these books.

    My novel has a lot in the back story that is very dark and more mature, but I think this makes the story have more dimension... How do I know where and when to use that censoring pen... what to include or omit?

    At this point, I'm just writing, and can edit in or out later, but I'm just curious.
     
  2. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's hard to say. I think the age range you mention is quite wide. Too wide perhaps?

    I thought YA catered for under-18s mostly? But I'm not an expert.

    When I was 12, I wasn't fazed by swear words, but anything overtly sexual I might have found 'embarrassing'. Come to think of it, in books more so than in films.

    My parents were quite liberal when it came to movies. I watched 15 plus, sometimes 18 plus films when I was 13 ish. But people differ.

    I guess you will have to find a happy medium.
     
  3. tcol4417
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    tcol4417 Member

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    Eargh, without entering into a socio-demographic tirade about trying to classify audiences assuming maturity based on age...

    I'm under the impression that YA means 12-18. Given movie's trend of increasing tolerance, I'd peg that at about M15 by today's standards. MA upwards tends to contain sex, gore, drugs and adult themes, which is definitely not YA material.

    You can certainly touch on topics such as sexuality - I personally think that that's a step towards helping people mature in general - but don't start embellishing on the details of the act.

    Over-exaggeration is the trademark of pulp fiction and poor quality writing when it's done in regards to romance, sex and action scenes because these three scenarios are the most appealing to escapists.

    Examples:
    - Loving rivers of loving love (see: Dialogue from Star Wars II and III)
    - Spending half a chapter describing two people getting busy (The bargain bin at your local bookstore/newsagent
    - Fifty-eyed time-travelling alien jellyfish with a hundred proton-laser-plasma-super-mega-gun-ray-thingies. PER EYE.
     
  4. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    You can get away with more than you might think. The few YA books I've read -- before I realised YA fiction authors who deal with mature themes in their writing either water them down too much or over-exaggerate the emotional response their characters have to them -- featured under-aged drinking, sex (not graphic/fade to black) & teen pregnancy, self-mutilation, suicide, occult and drug use/dealing. All YA books I've read were specifically marketed 14+ (but around 15~17 teens are starting to look more towards adult fiction than YA - I was reading through Palahniuk's bibliography at age 14 because I found YA fiction too censored to be even remotely interesting). Bad language and violence cropped up plenty - no surprise seeing as most of the children where I'm from are cursing in front of their mates by age 10~11.
     
  5. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    It is indeed 12-20ish in the UK.

    Basic guide seems to be MC needs to be YA in age, sexual themes not shown graphically (mine is a bit borderline I guess) and length of book is usually shorter.

    Mine is going to be borderline I think part of me would prefer it to be adult.
     
  6. AJSmith
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    AJSmith Senior Member

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    I think mine is a bit borderline as well... which makes me feel like it has no real niche.

    The length is a bit too long for YA from what I'm learning.

    Considering what I've seen in YA as far as theme and content, I think mine is tame enough.. though if I was more explicit about all the goings on of the back stories (rather than vague... which is how it is now) it would maybe be too much.

    I've opted away from a lot of language that I think would be more realistic to have in older teen dialogue.

    My MC is 18, there are several other central characters in that range, but then there are many characters (including my villain) who are much older.

    It seems like it would be better to either fit directly into YA or into adult, while mine seems to be straddling the fence. Should I keep straddling the fence or make some tweaks in revision to pick a side?

    Can adult have a late teen MC?
     
  7. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Why not pitch it as both has advantage you can also send it to agents asking for children's books. See what it gets picked up as.

    Mine is distinctly YA in terms of character, language and length so I am keeping it that way but I could write a synopsis that slants it as an adult books.

    Mine is borderline in terms of some of the subject matter covered, and the fact my character has a sex life. (he gets married mid way through the story) - it hasn't been graphic. I personally think it is tame but have had the odd comment.
     
  8. teacherayala
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    teacherayala Contributing Member

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    I would say look to something like Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. That series kind of pushed the envelope with the sexuality, in my opinion, but I think as long as your descriptions are not too long, and there's some sort of purpose for it being there, it's not a big deal. The complications of entering into a sexual relationship should also be dealt with and it shouldn't be viewed as promoting teenage sexuality as much as reflecting what's already perhaps part of the growing experience of most adolescents.
     
  9. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Mine is a fantasy and no there is no real downside to my MC getting married, having a sex life and whilst scared about being a young father it isn't a bad thing. (for his wife it is a different matter reproducing makes her mortal and she begins to live a normal life span rather than the centuries she could have lived).

    Personally think the friendship style relationship is healthier than several YA books portray and at seventeen both are over the UK age of consent. Guess I need to see what agents have to say about it.
     

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