Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Keeping it Real

I write a YA supernatural series and am currently working on the third book. While it is aimed at tween and teen readers, I have realized that a large part of my audience is comprised of women in my age group. I guess that shouldn't really surprise me: I like to read YA, too. 

So here's what I'm trying to puzzle through for my current work.

The subject of partying is going to come up. Now, neither of my main characters parties, and for good reason as will be revealed. But I have had at least one reader say to me, "Your characters are in their first years of college. How come none of them drink?"

That's a very valid question. Pretending that underage kids don't drink is to ignore what is really going on in our society. Whether we like it or not, kids get hold of liquor (not to mention other substances) and they share these things with each other, sometimes with horrible results. And this is part of reality.

So I'm trying to figure out how to handle this. I don't want to be accused of encouraging drinking in my target audience (although I'm not making a party situation look like anything fun in this story). On the other hand, I don't think I can keep writing about these characters, who are about 19 to 20-ish in the last book, without including the fact that a lot of college kids party and that they have frequent exposure to the opportunity to drink.

Some people will say that this would be a good teaching moment. Maybe. What happens to one character could certainly be considered a moral of a story, I suppose. On the other hand, I think getting didactic while writing fiction is a really efficient way to turn off readers and insure they never pick up another one of my books again.

I'm also thinking that the adults reading my books will have something to say about what I'm doing, just because adults do that. I know I'm an adult too, but sometimes my sensibilities are still squarely at the age of 19. By the way, I tried partying when I was in college and realized it really wasn't a good time for me. (Being surrounded by people I didn't know who were getting progressively more drunk or high as the evening wore on, and realizing that the only person I knew at the entire party -the one who invited me- was invariably occupied in the bedroom with her boyfriend, was a situation that got old really quick. But I digress.)

So I guess in the end, I will write what I write as well as what is true to the story and my own sense of what growing up was like. But I must admit, I'm wondering already what kind of armor I can girth myself in when all the feedback starts flowing my way. I may be gutless, but I need to be honest.

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