So I'm writing these books for YA readers, and I've so far chosen to stick with realism. Light romance, a little humor, situational comedy.
But about half-way through Book 3 of a series I've got going, the main female and male (teen) characters... well, let's just say they've got great chemistry.
What was that movie with (I think) Meryl Streep where she was a novelist and they would have real actors play out what her characters were doing while she watched? Or was that Nicholas Cage? Or... wait a minute... was it John Candy?!
Anyway, there I am happily typing up a scene, (teen) male lead and female lead embrace. They've finally declared their love! They kiss. They kiss a little more... that's pretty good, so they get a little closer when...
Hello! Where are those hands, mister? Missy?
I picture it something like this. I'm in my glasses with a pencil stuck in my hair and a stern look on my face with these two (naturally) great-looking teenage kids panting in front of me.
LTM (frowning): You two are not mature enough for this sort of thing.
Male lead looks guilty; female lead glares in defiance.
Yep, those are my literary babies.
So I've got those two cooling their jets in the "drawer" (it's really just a file on my computer) while I think about what to do with this.
I know it's a common concern because just yesterday I read a post about it on another writer's blog. The issue of sex in YA novels and how to handle it.
I suppose if I weren't a mom, I'd have a different reaction. I know much has changed for me since I gave birth. Whereas I used to laugh at Faye Dunaway's Mommie Dearest, now I cry, "Stop beating little Christina!"
Still, my characters are real kids, and in the kind of writing I aspire to make a living at, authenticity is everything.
I have characters who curse occasionally, although I've left out the F-bomb. I know, I know. Kids say it, but I'm not writing an episode of the Sopranos. I also haven't decided to write strictly inspirational fiction.
I've noted how some writers handle it. They'll have the chemistry kids "on break" from other relationships, and they're too honorable to "cheat" on their holding significant others.
That's good, but you can only use it so many times.
In Brand New Novel, I handled it two ways. First, the chemistry kids were separated because female lead was determined to date someone else. Then when they finally did get together, it was a natural place to end the book.
Yay! We're together now--kissy kissy, close curtain.
But that won't work in Book 3. And I'm sure I'll run into this again if I keep writing.
Even in the inspirational fiction I've been reading, I see authors grappling with this. It's not realistic for kids to get married at 17, but if you set up this dynamic... well, it's not realistic that they just hold hands either.
But good Lord, you can't go around romanticizing teenagers having sex. That's completely irresponsible.
I know! So show the potential consequences, right?
Well, that's just an enormous buzz kill. I'm trying to write for entertainment over here.
So what's the answer?
Eureka! Male lead's a 150 year-old vampire who can't have sex with female lead or he could kill her!
No, it's a tough one. And it's going to test my creative mettle.
Let me go on the record saying I don't think it's OK for teens to be having sex. But I appreciate that being a teenager is hard. And not because I buy the whole "they're exposed to more sexual images these days" line. (Read my "Madonna Earth" post for more on that.)
I'd really appreciate hearing what other writers think about this issue. Even parents of my potential readers (i.e., parents of teens), or any teens brave enough to venture into these waters. (Lord knows I played dumb on the subject at that age around adults.) Or just anyone who has an opinion. You know I'm easy.
Hey--not like that.