How can someone who so irresponsibly condones teenage pregnancy get on her high horse about other writers?
Now, obviously there are several logical problems with that statement. But they’re so obvious I won’t bother to address them. However, the comment does raise something that comes up A LOT for YA writers. The idea that if we write about something we approve of it.
Thus Holly Black and Ellen Hopkins in their searing acounts of teens using drugs are all for drugs, E. Lockhart approves of Broadway musicals, Chris Lynch approves of rape, and Stephanie Meyer approves of vampires. And, I, of course, having written of a teenager getting pregnant clearly think that’s a fabulous idea.
Except that I don’t. Nor do Holly Black or Ellen Hopkins condone drug use; Chris Lynch rape or Stephanie Meyers vampirism. (Though I suspect that E. Lockhart really does like Broadway musicals. Repent, Emily! It’s not too late.)
We’re writers. We write about people, things, worlds, situations, acts we don’t approve of all the time. There is an argument about the existence of God in one of my books. One of the characters believes and the other is an atheist. If the mere act of writing something means I believe it then I must be profoundly schizophrenic. A character of mine is brilliant at mathematics and loves it; I am not and I hate it. Another character hates all fruit and vegetables; I love them.
I am not my books. No author is. Not unless they’re writing autobiography and even then that’s only a part of their life and a part they’ve massaged to turn into a good story.
YA writers depict the lives of teenagers. Some teenagers take drugs, many have sex, some get pregnant, a few kill other people, and some themselves. These things happens in the real world. How does writing about them in a novel make us responsible for these activities or just as bizarre approving of them?
We YA writers try to write about teenagers as honestly as we can. Even when our books also features vampires and dragons and magic and Broadway musicals. It would be dishonest to leave out the parts of teen experience that some adults are uncomfortable with.
Many of my characters do things I disapprove of and make decisions I think are deeply unwise. But if they didn’t they wouldn’t be themselves and I wouldn’t have a story to tell. Without conflict there is no story. There’s a reason that dishonesty, misunderstandings, and villiany are so frequent in novels: They create conflict which creates story.
I see my duty of care in writing for people who are not yet adults like this:
- Do not condescend
- Be honest
That is what I set out to do in all my novels.