Hello, dear readers, and welcome to another Wednesday post!
Today I have an interesting post, spawned from a discussion with my writing friends and sister-in-law. I hope you enjoy it!
Also, be sure to stop by my Crimson Sterling blog for Writer's Wednesday Inspiration: How Do We View E-Books? Readers VS. Writers.
Also, an announcement: I wanted to let everyone know that I'll be writing a few less blog posts from here on out, on the Crimson blog and on this one. With all of the projects I have going, it's getting to be too much to handle. So, I'll be posting on the first and third Wednesdays of the month from now.
Onto the post!
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I had an interesting conversation with some people who are very close to me the other day, concerning books, and writing for kids (mainly teens, in the conversations).
My sister-in-law just finished the last book in the Divergent series, and she was not very happy. Now, I only read the first book (I didn't like it that well), but I haven't read the rest of the series, so I can only go by her opinion. However, she pointed out two things that concerned her:
1) The main character is often putting herself in dangerous, suicidal situations, and says she doesn't care about her life (I saw a bit of this in the first book).
2) The main character and her love interest have an age gap between them. I don't recall how old the man is, but he's over 18, a legal adult, and the protagonist is under 16, a minor. Not only are they in a relationship, but they end up sleeping together.
Again, I haven't read it, and of course you could argue that it's a Dystopian world, and the laws are different, but in the end, I think it's less about the rules of that world, and more about how kids and teens in our world will look at the contents of the story, of any story.
The book worried my sister-in-law, a teacher, because her students are reading the series. Teen suicide is a large problem, and to her, it seemed very much like it was being glorified, which isn't good, especially because some of the kids she knows have had friends commit suicide. And of course, the bad relationships in teen books are frustratingly rampant, and a book where a minor and adult are together in every sense doesn't really help matters any.
I believe that, as an author, if you write kids or teen books, you have a certain obligation to think about -- really think about -- what you're putting into your books, and how the ideas in said books will affect your young readers. Are we perfect? No, of course not, and everyone has different ideas about what is moral and not, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't seriously consider the implications.
Kids are still growing, teens are still growing, figuring themselves out, figuring the world out. A child isn't going to think like an adult does, because they haven't reached that level yet; there isn't anything wrong with it, it is simply what it is. You can put a book, full of pretty much anything -- awful characters, situations, etc. -- in front of an adult, and it will impact them somehow, but they are old enough to judge and fully understand -- and a child isn't, not in the same way.
When I was a teenager, I read the Twilight series, and I liked it. I thought it was romantic, etc., etc., as many teens did, but when I got older and revisited it, I didn't like it nearly as much, not really at all, because I could see all of the flaws, romantic especially. As an adult, the book made much more "sense", but as a teen, I didn't see it in at all the same way.
I have read so many authors' comments about how it's not their job to babysit kids, that they aren't parents, teachers, etc., but I disagree. We can't do all of the teaching, and we shouldn't, but that doesn't mean we should ignore the issues -- or the opportunity. If you are writing for teens or children, you choose to write for teens or children, and that means you should think about what you're putting into your stories. Lessons are good, and you can use bad situations to make a point in the right direction, if that's what you want to write about, but we should also be responsible with our writing.
You have the chance to make a difference in a kids' life -- a good impact, a good difference. Maybe the child who picks up your book has parents who both work two jobs, and don't have nearly enough time for them, though they try their best. The child may spend more time with you, the author, through your book, in a week than they do their parents. Is this your fault? No, it's not anyone's "fault". It simply means that the writer has a unique chance to do good in that young person's life. Growing up, my mom worked a lot. She would spend time with me, but she still worked plenty of hours, and I know that I definitely spent more time with books than with her; my young life, and many of my thoughts, were shaped by the stories that I read.
Nobody is perfect, and no story is perfect, but the next time you sit down to write a story for kids, try and think of how they are going to view it, and what you can do to make it the best story possible for them.