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Posts from the ‘Edgy teen fiction’ Category

Comparing Teen Fiction And Adult Fiction, by Sam Hawksmoor

I don’t think there is any conscious process for differentiating between a teen novel and adult.  Clearly in one the young adult must be forefront and in the other, adults.  Obviously adults can figure in both, but as my editor and the writer Beverley Birch says, one must give prominence to the young adult – never lose sight that it is about them.

I know from my own teaching I had one particular student who insisted upon populating her children’s novels with many, many adults.  I used to say constantly who is the story focused on?  Whose story is this?  The kid or the adults?  Never allow that confusion to arise.

I learned this the hard way.  I have a novel out there called Mean Tide, written under a pseudonym, which concerns a child who has had chemo and is sent to live with his psychic grandma by the river in Greenwich.  He meets another kid there, who is silent because of various traumas. The book is populated with adults, all with incredibly rich lives and opinions. To be honest this book straddles adult/children’s fiction and falls between two stools.  I couldn’t see it when I was writing it, as logic would dictate that when a kid goes to live with adults you have to show the adults and bring them to life.  Perhaps I added too much colour.  If your main protagonist is only twelve – there is only so much you can do with a young kid before it becomes unbelievable. Nevertheless as a writer you learn. (One hopes)

Writing for teens you can concentrate on their lives and reduce the impact adults have on their day-to-day existence.  Adults usually act as a restraint on the excesses of teens so the less they are around, the more that can happen.  S F Hinton’s The Outsiders featured this.  This was about teens getting into mischief without constraint and led by a semi-adult teen who did not have anyone’s best interests at heart.  Stephen King’s Stand By Me totally had this focus.  Not just about the kids but also about their perspective on life, the world around them and the risks they take.  It’s important to remember that these novels are written for teens and not adults (even though adults will and can enjoy them).  Kids know by the time they’re 12 that there is no justice in this world. Bullies get away with murder,, people lie, you lie, you haven’t yet formed your own opinions about things and you have doubts about everything.  Somehow you get up and carry on.  The whole world is a critic. You most likely suck at sport or math, and no one but Alice likes you and you don’t like Alice.  This is the teen world.

My approach to adult fiction is to have the plot or situation down first.  If based on a true-life story then it’s about fleshing out the characters, thinking not just about who they are but about their weaknesses and strengths. I like it when a readers connects enough with the character that they start to consider what they wear, eat or say on their own (until that starts to happen organically for me as a reader, I’m not truly in the zone).

With teen fiction, it’s the same process but with the added spice of knowing that kids won’t always take the logical step that may seem more obvious to an adult.  A boy or girl won’t instinctively know that the one they love is bad for them – even if others are saying so.  They have no experience to go on.  This is fresh to them.  All their mistakes are first time mistakes.  As a teacher I used to see girls suffering heartbreak, yet it was clear to me their affections were misplaced.  Now I see break-ups dealt with by text or on Facebook and how cold and heartless all that seems.  You are left to cry on your own I guess without the confrontation.  It can go the other way – irrational hysterical behaviour in the classroom when one girl discovers another is seeing her bloke and all three are in the class before you seething…

Adults generally don’t seethe. They might want to get revenge but the older you are the more numb you usually feel about things.  Kids are NEVER numb.  They can be unfeeling however.

Take Natalie Portman’s character in the movie  Leon.  She is entranced by the slightly simple hitman who protects her from Gary Oldman’s evil cop.  She is excited by the idea of becoming a hitwoman.  She isn’t thinking about moral considerations here.  She’s thinking about revenge, and Leon is simply showing her his one and only skill.  It’s not a kid’s movie but has a kid very much at the forefront.  She is what I remember.  Her pain and heartache and her loyalty.  This would be teen fiction now I think. Capture that intensity and bottle it.

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Sam Hawksmoor’s author website: www.samhawksmoor.com

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Writing Sex in Young Adult Fiction: How Much Is Too Much? by Sarah Alderson

What’s too much when it comes to sex in young adult fiction?

My editor would say anything beyond kissing.

I’m known for writing steamy, smokin’ hot romances, and yet none of my characters has done anything beyond kiss. (They can’t, because every time they try to, it gets left on the cutting room floor). What I’ve discovered though, writing thriller romance novels for teens, is that it is possible to create jaw-dropping romance and steaminess that leave your readers gagging for more, through nothing more than the locking of lips.

You don’t need to get graphic in order to satisfy…just look at Twilight…there’s not a whiff of sex, not much even in the way of sexual tension. It’s not until book four, when safely within the boundaries of marriage no less, that the reader is rewarded with a euphemistic consummation of the vampire mortal sex conundrum (I’m not sure that’s scientifically possible but hey, it’s fiction…)

A lot of books these days for teens though include sex scenes (or maybe I’m just reading a lot of books for teens with sex scenes in them) and it seems to me that the approaches taken by authors are incredibly varied. One of my favourite authors – Simone Elkeles – is much more graphic than Meyer. I love the Perfect Chemistry series (for Alex Fuentes alone). Simone writes sex well, sensitively – a little graphically – but not too graphic to offend the teen market (except perhaps those of an evangelical Jonas Brothers persuasion). Back in my day we had to rely on Judy Blume for our sex ed…that or sneak Jackie Collins books from our parents’ top shelves (for me it was The Joy of Sex which I found in a box in the attic). I wish I’d had Simone Elkeles’s books instead. They’re strong on the swoon but also on the love angle. Sure, the scenes are heavily romanticised but the message is clear: make sure it’s with someone you love.

And Use A Condom.

Can’t argue with that.

In the middle ground, I love this from John Green’s The Fault in our Stars (currently my fave read of 2012): ‘The whole affair was the precise opposite of what I figured it would be: slow and patient and quiet and neither particularly painful nor particularly ecstatic….No headboards were broken. No screaming.’

It’s realistic. It’s not graphic. It fits perfectly within the story…(I also like to think the headboard part was a jibe at Twilight).

Yet, as they say in Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility. Authors need to be responsible in how they depict sex, especially in this era, where the pressure on young people to have sex and to get it over with, is so enormous. There’s no need to shoehorn it into a book for kicks, or to be on trend, or because everybody else is doing it. Personally I think my editor is right. Hunting Lila and Fated work much better for not going there. They keep my readers hanging, daydreaming, longing. Just like the characters in the book. And the lack of physical intimacy does nothing to undermine the tension, rather it charges the atmosphere. The one kissing scene in Fated, towards the end of the book has received more comments than any other scene I’ve ever written…all along the lines of ‘I had to take a cold shower after.’ (If you’re interested it’s P.245 in the paper copy.)

So advice for those of you wondering how or if to write a sex scene into your book:

  • Don’t feel pressured!
  • Ask yourself: Is it absolutely necessary to make the story work?
  • If the answer to the above is a definite yes, make sure you emphasise how important it is to be honest, to be sober and to be in a committed respectful and loving relationship before you take the leap. Why? Because that’s the way it should be. Am I a hopeless romantic? Yes. Of course. But I want girls to read my books and decide that they are in control of their bodies and of their decision-making.
  • If you can’t write a sex scene without giggling, cringing or resorting to copying large tracts from your parents’ copy of the Joy of Sex, then quit while you’re ahead.
  • Always use condoms.
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FatedHunting LilaPerfect ChemistryTwilightThe Fault in Our StarsOn Writing Romance: How to Craft a Novel That SellsWriting the Romantic Comedy

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