Shady's Edgy YA (or sex, swearing, drinking, drugs, and violence in YA)

JLCwrites

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Hmmm,
Zoombie, I think you've got something there. An uplifting YA sci-fi. I think you'd do a great job writing one. Something that is a bit like Douglas Adams, but (and my husband will smirk at me for saying this) better. :tongue

As far as this thread is going, I think the main point is... writers ought to be writing because they enjoy it, and getting published is the icing. I agree there are too many posts questioning if things are too edgy, or if they are writing to the correct audience. It shouldn't matter, really. Just write the story you have in your head, enjoy the process, and stop worrying about the product. Let the publishers work out the other stuff, or if nobody wants to publish it, then go to Kinkos, have it bound, and keep it on your shelf to share it with friends and/or family.

Just enjoy writing, and stop worrying if it is popular.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to jump down from this soapbox before I fall and hurt myself.:Soapbox:
 

AnneMarble

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Also, to be sure, I mean bounce as in bad things happen...and you get up and keep going. Not as in you fall from a hight, hit the ground and go boy-yo-yo-yoing and bounce down the street like one of those really cool bouncy balls.
Ooh. Somebody please write an edgy YA book with this as a major plot element. With a pink cover.
:roll:
 

Zoombie

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Hmmm,
Zoombie, I think you've got something there. An uplifting YA sci-fi. I think you'd do a great job writing one. Something that is a bit like Douglas Adams, but (and my husband will smirk at me for saying this) better. :tongue

I am/are doing/have done. My favorite line that I have written continues to be, when the MC has faked that his girlfriend is dead to throw off the antagonist (cunning, don't you think). So after the antagonist is hoodwinked and shot several times, the other characters (who are sure the MC's girlfriend is dead), cluster around him. And he's hugging his girlfriend and he's laughing because she says, "I'm not dead yet! I think I'll go for a walk!"

It is good to know that Monty Python will still be enjoyed in the year ????

I digress...bouncy teenagers is a prime catagoy for research. I will get right on it. Maybe we could genetically engineer them to be part rubber plant. That would work, right?
 

JLCwrites

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Now, go away, or I shall taunt you a second time!
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Dancre

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Dancre--

Your point is exactly what I was trying to address. I hear time after time that there is not edgy YA on the shelves, that publishers aren't picking it up, that agents aren't ready to accept it, and that's all that's available is bubblegum chick lit.

And, honestly, I don't understand. Take a good look at your local YA section. Yeah, there's some crap, there are some pink covers, some awful titles...but the good stuff is THERE. It's totally available. It's not sold in some secret underground delinquent bookstore...it's at Borders, for God's sake, and it's there and you can get it. Publishers are churning it out. It's selling.

So are people still angsting that their stuff has too much angst?

Well, you have to remember, publishers publish what folks want to read, not what we want to write. Publishers follow the trail that leads to the money. BG books sell, it's what folks want to read. If folks wanted to read edgy, then edgy would cover the bookshelves. Plus you need to remember, there are some parents out there who do care about what their kids read. And it's not edgy. So publishers don't want to deal with the screaming mom. That's why ToykoPop has ratings on all their books. They got tired of mom calling them. So that's it. Publishers follow the money, period. Someone's reading the BG books, so that's what sells.

kim
 

goatprincess

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Definitely there are some titles here to check out. :)

Edgy in my view doesn't have to mean the books that are full of the most extreme sex, violence, drugs, etc. (Sorry, I know this thread is Shady's edgy, not goat's edgy!) Just noticed that I would define it a bit differently because it's entirely possible for a book to be so full of darkness and extreme circumstances that those extremes begin to seem ho-hum and commonplace to the reader (as Zoombie was mentioning). Edgy to me pushes the envelope (the edge) of what publishers think they have a chance in hell of selling. If cutting and STDs and overdoses and rape are common and acceptable on bookshelves, then they're no longer as edgy as they once were. Not pretending to know what's at the edge of what editors think is marketable today...just throwing some thoughts out there.
 

Danger Jane

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Well, you have to remember, publishers publish what folks want to read, not what we want to write. Publishers follow the trail that leads to the money. BG books sell, it's what folks want to read. If folks wanted to read edgy, then edgy would cover the bookshelves. Plus you need to remember, there are some parents out there who do care about what their kids read. And it's not edgy. So publishers don't want to deal with the screaming mom. That's why ToykoPop has ratings on all their books. They got tired of mom calling them. So that's it. Publishers follow the money, period. Someone's reading the BG books, so that's what sells.

kim

...Shady just pointed out that at most YA sections--maybe yours isn't typical--there are as many edgy books as "bubblegum". It is selling.

I would argue that for every household where edgy books are restricted, there is another reader who scorns the "bubblegum". Yeah, maybe more people prefer bubblegum. But edgy books sell, too. It's not this invisible, impossible market.
 

Sai

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I read The Outsiders and Catcher in the Rye in school (and I also hated Catcher in the Rye), and did read the occasional edgy book on my own time as well (I still love Edward Bloor's 'Tangerine'). Growing up in a Canadian suburb, they were in a lot of ways my first exposure to things like racism and homophobia. Another thing which I loved about the books was how they make you question authority (i.e. In Tangerine the mc's parents have been keeping a huge secret from him for years just so that they can keep up the pretense of a normal family, in William Bell's Forbidden City the whole Chinese goverment goes to town with the Tianamen Square massacre). I kind of see the Harry Potter books fullfilling that role now, by showing that the goverenment, the media, even the grown-ups that you love and look-up to don't always do the right thing.

Anyway, I have a sister who's almost 13 and a consistent reader. I went on a road trip with my family earlier this month, and out of boredom read the book she had just finished reading, 'Crunch Time'. It was an interesting mix of bubblegum and edge. It was about a group of four kids with nothing in common but wanting to do good on the SATs. While there is the usual 'he has a crush on her, but she's falling for that guy even though he's a jerk,' there's also a lot about the stress of being a teen (problems with drinking, abusive boyfriends, cheating on tests, etc).

I don't really like this watered down approach to edgey material, but I can see why it would be succesful as it could hook both the BG and edgey readers.
 

Shady Lane

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Definitely there are some titles here to check out. :)

Edgy in my view doesn't have to mean the books that are full of the most extreme sex, violence, drugs, etc. (Sorry, I know this thread is Shady's edgy, not goat's edgy!) Just noticed that I would define it a bit differently because it's entirely possible for a book to be so full of darkness and extreme circumstances that those extremes begin to seem ho-hum and commonplace to the reader (as Zoombie was mentioning). Edgy to me pushes the envelope (the edge) of what publishers think they have a chance in hell of selling. If cutting and STDs and overdoses and rape are common and acceptable on bookshelves, then they're no longer as edgy as they once were. Not pretending to know what's at the edge of what editors think is marketable today...just throwing some thoughts out there.

You're exactly right. Thank you.
 

Shady Lane

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I read The Outsiders and Catcher in the Rye in school (and I also hated Catcher in the Rye), and did read the occasional edgy book on my own time as well (I still love Edward Bloor's 'Tangerine'). Growing up in a Canadian suburb, they were in a lot of ways my first exposure to things like racism and homophobia. Another thing which I loved about the books was how they make you question authority (i.e. In Tangerine the mc's parents have been keeping a huge secret from him for years just so that they can keep up the pretense of a normal family, in William Bell's Forbidden City the whole Chinese goverment goes to town with the Tianamen Square massacre). I kind of see the Harry Potter books fullfilling that role now, by showing that the goverenment, the media, even the grown-ups that you love and look-up to don't always do the right thing.

Anyway, I have a sister who's almost 13 and a consistent reader. I went on a road trip with my family earlier this month, and out of boredom read the book she had just finished reading, 'Crunch Time'. It was an interesting mix of bubblegum and edge. It was about a group of four kids with nothing in common but wanting to do good on the SATs. While there is the usual 'he has a crush on her, but she's falling for that guy even though he's a jerk,' there's also a lot about the stress of being a teen (problems with drinking, abusive boyfriends, cheating on tests, etc).

I don't really like this watered down approach to edgey material, but I can see why it would be succesful as it could hook both the BG and edgey readers.

I read Crunch Time (and enjoyed it, too) but I wouldn't call it either an edgy or a bubblegum. Crunch Time is one of those normal books...one that probably wouldn't have as much trouble getting representation/published.
 

reenkam

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(I still love Edward Bloor's 'Tangerine').(i.e. In Tangerine the mc's parents have been keeping a huge secret from him for years just so that they can keep up the pretense of a normal family

I love this book. I read it in one night and then bought it. Come to think of it...I think I've read it twice. Making it one of three books that I've read twice.
 

Danger Jane

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Yeah, Tangerine was pretty great...

And not to hijack, but--reenkam, TWICE??? Three books twice EVER???

Some of my favorite books I've read dozens of times!


I'm a media repeater. I love to watch/read/enjoy my favorites as many times as possible.
 

reenkam

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Yeah, Tangerine was pretty great...

And not to hijack, but--reenkam, TWICE??? Three books twice EVER???

Some of my favorite books I've read dozens of times!


I'm a media repeater. I love to watch/read/enjoy my favorites as many times as possible.

I have a really good visual memory. I like to say it's almost photgraphic, but I'm not sure if that's true. It's just that when I read a book, I basically remember all of it. So when I start reading again I can sometimes say the next lines verbatim. So it's very, very boring.

I'll read a page or two of certain books over, just because I liked the scene. And if I started a book and never finished I'll start over when I actual read it, if enough time has passed. But the only books I've actually read over are Tangerine, Sabriel, and Lirael, as far as I can remember...


sorry about my hijacking...to throw things back on track, has anyone read Sticky Fingers? I picked it up thinking it'd be edgy. I was very disappointed. It was as edgy as a pear.
 

Shady Lane

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Never read Sticky Fingers, but your experience sounds similar to mine with Fix.

Seriously, don't worry about hijacking.
 

Danger Jane

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I have a photographic memory, too, so I remember what I'm reading...it's just refreshing to see it for real, I guess. I don't know. I notice different tiny things every time and even if they're only minor, they make me really happy.

Yeah I've reread Sabriel and Lirael about three times each. Plus Abhorsen.
 

Zoombie

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I have seriously never read any of these books. When I was growing up, I digested Gill "The Arm" Hampton stories, explored Ringworld, wandered through Xanth and did an embarrassingly large amount of Starcraft novelization readings. Though, surprisingly, they are actually pretty good. Or, at least they were at the time.
 

javili

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What a great thread, glad you started this, Shady.

I am writing a SF book in which almost all of the main characters are teen-agers between 13 and 17 to start. They will grow to adulthood over the course of 4 books.

I didn't think of YA when I started it. (In fact, that's not somthing I'd ever really thought of ever) But it is the age group of the characters. And a very major thread in it is conflict with parents...though well beyond the usual parent/kid relationship in which everybody is human and terrestrial and everything.

I think kids would like this book. It has sex, violence, drug use and smuggling, and harsh language. In fact two languages, Spanish and ENglish. I know kids are interested in those things. Maybe little else, actually. I hear the music they listen to, which is pretty much sex, drugs and violence set to a basic beat.

So...is it ok to write that for them? Will publishers run away.

I posted a section from the book on this site. It's about an attempted rape of one of the main characters: I posted it because of a thread discussing violent response to rape.

The reaction was pretty negative. So I don't know what to think.



http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=71215
 

reenkam

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I think kids would like this book. It has sex, violence, drug use and smuggling, and harsh language. In fact two languages, Spanish and ENglish. I know kids are interested in those things. Maybe little else, actually. I hear the music they listen to, which is pretty much sex, drugs and violence set to a basic beat.

That's a really broad statement. It's not that teens like that stuff. We don't go out looking for it, or anything. Edgy doesn't mean you pack the novel with things from rap songs...it just means that it's more realistic to certain aspects of life.

And if a teen is reading the book, they're obviously interested in a little more than sex, drugs, and violence. If you just fill a book with those things it won't be interesting. You still need the character and the story to be good. The other stuff is just background and should develope the plot, no matter what.

At first it seemed to me that your works could be good for YA. I read the scene that you posted on SYW and...well, I'm not so sure anymore. Of course, you can write what you enjoy writing and also change things later if you have to.

I'd suggest taking a look at some of the edgier YA SF out there. I don't really have any recommendations, since I don't read SF, but someone else probably does. (Zoombie, maybe?) The best way to see what could work is to find what's already going on and compare.

Good luck! :)
 

javili

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Could you give me anything to go on here? I have people saying it's too rotten for adults to read but nobody says why.

After posting that something occurred to me (but I'd still very much welcome more explanatory remarks on this excerpt)

Where I live newspapers show pictures of murder and accident victims with blood on their faces of their intestines poking out. We show people who are arrested posing with the tools of their crime, often bloody and bruised from their arrest.

Papers are full of pictures of young women as naked as they be shown without seeing nippples or pubic hair.

So maybe this is just a matter of Americans not being exposed to these facets of life on a daily basis? It seems strange, when I hear the kind of music I'm talking about, but maybe it's just a softer culture?

Or I could be totally wrong. I look at this excerpt and compare it to other battle and crime scenes in books I've read and I just don't see what the problem is.

I'd love to find out.
 
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Zoombie

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I'd suggest taking a look at some of the edgier YA SF out there. I don't really have any recommendations, since I don't read SF, but someone else probably does. (Zoombie, maybe?) The best way to see what could work is to find what's already going on and compare.

Good luck! :)

Actually, there really isn't much YA sci-fi I know of...other than, say, "The Ear, The Eye and The Arm," or "In the House of the Scorpion."

But neither of those are very "edgy"
 

Harper K

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Could you give me anything to go on here? I have people saying it's too rotten for adults to read but nobody says why.

After posting that something occurred to me (but I'd still very much welcome more explanatory remarks on this excerpt)

To say that all teens are into rap music and seek it out because it discusses sex, drugs, and violence is on the same level as saying that all women are into shoe shopping (I'm not) or all men are into watching sports on TV (my husband's not). You'll find some teens who seek out books with violent scenes the same way you'll find adults who seek out thrillers and "true crime" books. I had a roommate a couple years ago who read nothing BUT true crime books. But I found them disturbing.

Also, think about the demographics of teen readers... the ones who seek out and buy books to read in their spare time. Most are girls. Most are probably above-average in terms of their intellectual ability. Most are probably not looking for books that are counterparts to rap music.

Regarding your scene in SYW, it's difficult to make a value judgment on a violent scene when we don't know the reasoning behind it, we haven't seen the characters' motivations, and we haven't gotten to know whom to root for. It's like turning on a movie in the middle and seeing only the grisly part. Personally, I'd flip away from it quickly. I suppose you'd have some people who'd say, "Oh, cool!" and keep watching. But for me, violence is not a selling point... not a "hook," as agents would say. The violent movies that I DO count among my favorites -- The Godfather, for one -- are there because they have interesting, unforgettable characters and present difficult moral situations that leave a lot of thinking to the viewer. Last year, I read Khaled Hosseini's novel The Kite Runner, a brilliant book with several very shocking violent scenes. However, they come later in the novel, and they very nearly break your heart when they happen because you know the characters so well and you've seen them through so much.

Perhaps if you posted your first chapter in SYW instead of the violent scene, we'd get a better feel for your characters and your writing style, as well as a hint of where the story's going.

Where I live newspapers show pictures of murder and accident victims with blood on their faces of their intestines poking out. We show people who are arrested posing with the tools of their crime, often bloody and bruised from their arrest.

Papers are full of pictures of young women as naked as they be shown without seeing nippples or pubic hair.

So maybe this is just a matter of Americans not being exposed to these facets of life on a daily basis? It seems strange, when I hear the kind of music I'm talking about, but maybe it's just a softer culture?

Or I could be totally wrong. I look at this excerpt and compare it to other battle and crime scenes in books I've read and I just don't see what the problem is.
Certainly that kind of violent culture is there if you want to look for it. There are a couple cable channels that seem to give viewers a steady diet of violent movies, and there's one channel that's always showing promos for fighting league match-ups. Police procedurals like CSI were hugely popular on TV for a while -- and still are, to some extent -- but people seemed to get tired of them after a few years and moved on to serial dramas. There was a fairly dodgy video store down the street from my old apartment that advertised "bum fights" videos. Apparently there's a market for that. (Who knew?) But on the other side of the coin, romance novels are the top sector of the fiction market, and family-friendly movies always do well at the box office. Rap albums sell well, but it tends to be country acts and emo bands and old-timey crooners that sell out big venues on tour.

I looked at your profile and noticed that you work in the newspaper industry; perhaps your view of how much violent imagery people take in is skewed. I say this partly because my husband works in TV news as an editor -- he sees all the raw footage and has to take out the stuff that's tangential to the story at hand, OR that's inappropriate for viewing. Me, I don't watch TV news. I get 90% of my news from the Internet and the other 10% from the radio. We have different views on some issues because of this. Sometimes he forgets just how many more dead bodies he's seen compared to how many I've seen.

But, to wind this back to the topic of crafting YA novels, the usual elements of good and popular novels still stand: you need compelling characters, tension, and stellar writing. If violence, drugs, and / or sex figure into the story, it had better have the other elements first. That goes for YA novels, adult thrillers, mysteries, literary novels...anything, really.
 
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Shady Lane

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I know kids are interested in those things. Maybe little else, actually. I

I'm glad you're joining in on the conversation, seriously, but....consider your audience.

This thread was started by a sixteen year old. Do you think I want to hear that crap?
 

Danger Jane

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well first I'm going to say that although I don't especially care for rap, I will defend the rap that is good. There's crap on the radio of every genre. The bad rap just happens to be in a lot of cases very violent.

If you're including graphic whatever, it better advance either the characters or the plot. Preferably both. So yeah, you do have to establish the characters and plot elements first.

And like other posters have said, the average YA reader is a pretty smart girl who isn't just reading to have the literary equivalent of KISS radio. And well--the dumb ones would rather read something frivolous like Gossip Girls than something super graphic. Not saying your work is dumb, Javili, just that it was very graphic and the average YA reader might be turned off by that. I might well be.

And if you're comparing to popular music, you must understand that graphic music is not really analagous to graphic writing, and can I mention that I've never heard a song on the radio reference some of the details you included in that excerpt?

I'm sure you didn't mean it but it's a little condescending. You can't assume your audience is dumber than you. You must assume they are very, very smart, if you want to succeed with them.