Monday, January 28, 2013

Writing A Novel: "Innocent" Characters

One of the most surprising and frequent praises I've seen of BAND GEEK is that it's "wholesome" and "not too racy." I certainly don't mind the praise and am glad that parents feel comfortable letting their kids read my work. Truthfully, though, I had fears that my novel would be written off by the YA audience -- no pun intended -- for being too mature in certain parts.

For one thing, my characters talk like teens. And by that, I mean they swear. Josh, in particular, has a bit of a potty mouth and often uses the F-word. He even uses it to address his school's principal at one point. Meanwhile, Melinda curses at her mom during a major argument. Mind you, I don't have them cursing all that much; I felt that if every other word was a swear word, my dialogue would get pretty boring. Still, I didn't want to whitewash my kids' speech. Having them say, "Oh, golly gee, what the heck?" in 2012 just didn't feel realistic in my opinion.

On that note, there is also a big scene that features underage drinking. I don't paint it in a great light, but I don't condemn it, either. Let's just say that some characters handle their liquor better than others. In real life, I'm not a big drinker myself and wouldn't encourage my friends' teenagers to do it. But teens do drink and I wasn't going to pretend that they don't.

As for those other things that teens do, there are no actual sex scenes in BAND GEEK, but there's plenty of talk about it, some graphic makeout scenes and some very naughy band locker room behavior. My characters also say some pretty bawdy things, especially Mel's friend Lana. There is also bullying (both in person and cyber) and some minor violent acts beween students. I mean, my title is REVENGE of a band geek gone bad...

I guess my book is being called "wholesome" because compared to a lot of other YA stories out there, like the GOSSIP GIRL series or the BRENNA BLIXEN trilogy, it is pretty tame. But compared to some of the books that I grew up with, I think it's kind of edgy. Besides, I'm always surprised to see which books get knocked for having "inappropriate" content; the ALICE books, for instance, are often maligned because Alice and her friends have very frank discussions about sex. Yet Alice herself rarely cusses or does anything that out of line. Judy Blume's JUST AS LONG AS WE'RE TOGETHER also has some reviews with complaints about its "racy" content, which I find ridiculous. I LOVE that book, but the 13-year-old girls in that story from 1987 are BABIES compared to today's 13-year-old's who have exposure to so many more things.

I think what perhaps people are reacting to in my story is that there are consequences for the bad behavior and that ultimately, BAND GEEK is a tale of redemption. I don't know if I'd call my work wholesome, but I do think that there are some lessons to be learned from it.

Please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

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