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Courtney Palooza!

November 17, 2008  Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: The Craft   5 Comments

Courtney has a wonderful guest blog on The Swivet. She talks about four prevalent myths about writing Young Adult fiction. I will now pause while you, my cherished 8.3 readers, go off and read this tasty bit of guest blogging.


Done yet? No?


Oh man, that is a topic dear and true to my heart. I was just talking about Young Adult fiction with a writer friend this weekend and BAM! Courtney’s post. It’s like Christmas came early, but, um since it’s only November 17 I guess it did not.

Anyway. Courtney asks a good series of questions at the end of her guest blog:

Are YA writers responsible for their readers? Should they worry about unduly influencing them? If you write YA, do these things concern you?

My answers: Yes, no, yes.

Are YA writers responsible for their readers?

I feel, in my heart, that Young Adult novel writers are responsible for being honest. When I write, that is not just my pledge, but a mantra. Even escapism books, for me, have to be a reflection of the theme that is real. I can spot a contrived and dishonestly built character a mile away. A plot circumstance that is trying to tell me a morality tale that is forced causes me to take the book and recycle it. Literally, I will throw it in the recycle bin so as not to foster some other poor soul with the literary equivalent of projection.

Here’s an example:  You don’t want your little girl to grow up and have sex before she is married. So you write in a character that is slutty, winds up with a STD, pregnant, hit by a car, abducted by aliens and has her hair dyed green after being branded with a sparkly “A”. I’m only exaggerating a little bit here folks.

I personally know women who, as teens, humped their boyfriends silly and are today successful artists, business women and mothers (one all three!), without getting pregnant, abducted by aliens and probed.

Should they worry about unduly influencing them?

These types of worries leak into writing and I have been guilty of it, I admit. If you stay true to your character as you are true to your friends and family, this is less of a worry. This sneaky question is directly related to the one above. If you think you can sneak some moral lesson into your book because you are smarter than your Young Adult audience, guess again. This goes back to honesty. A morality tale is all fine and good as long the novel described the situation in a real way.

To answer this question: You can only influence your teen readers if you are honest about it.

If you write YA, do these things concern you?

I’ve mentioned before, I am a demanding reader. I want to be both entertained and I want reflection. I want the enjoyment that makes me think. I want to escape but not necessarily escape to somewhere two-dimensional. I want a character that is real to me even if she rides a unicorn over a rainbow to work with the munchkins.

Young Adults want the same thing. I believe, dear 8.3 readers, they want more of it, I assert they spot the fake much better than you and I and while there may be dreck on the bookstore shelf, a proper Young Adult novel will live forever.

Of course, I am the unpublished Hack Writer, so take my answers to Courtney’s questions as you will.

How about you? How would you go about answering Courtney’s questions?

That Courtney, she’s pretty smart for a thirteen year-old!

5 comments on: Courtney Palooza!

  1. Anthony November 17, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    He he he so true so true.

  2. Amber L. Smith November 17, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    I completely agree with you about honesty. But I didn’t like Courtney’s answer.
    YA readers should not be exposed to porn, or soft porn. Not in a library. You can be true to your characters w/o describing things in all there private details (using such techniques as allusion, fade to black, etc).
    Why offend readers anyway? You want the biggest possible audience possible, so why cut out the librarys and the responsible parents/YA readers who don’t like their kids fixating on sex at such a young age.
    And let me make this clear (you can hate me all you want) SEX HAS CONSEQUENCES. ALWAYS! It can deepen a relationship that isn’t ready to go to that level, or force maturity on a person that isn’t ready. It could label on or the other party as ‘easy.’ STD’s pregnancy, groundings, misturst, lower self esteem, regret. Let’s not make things innocent when they aren’t.
    As far as the swearing, it’s like pepper. A little might add some flavor, too much, and the reader will gag.

  3. Anthony November 17, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    Sex indeed has consequences. I believe Ms. Summers’ point, however, was that the consequences run the full spectrum of reality, not just the negative.

    “Fade to black” and “allusion” are stylistic choices. I do not believe Courtney was referring to style (to describe sex or not). I believe she was going much deeper. Her questions, seemingly innocent and cutesie-poo, are far from it.

    I have enormous respect for the woman for this reason. She is exactly what the YA market needs right now.

  4. courtney November 17, 2008 at 9:10 pm

    Aw, shucks. I wish you could see my face right now–blush! Loved reading your answers. And I definitely agree with you that honesty in YA novels is essential, even if it makes certain people uncomfortable. And that honesty makes everything else fall into place. Like you said–you can spot contrived/dishonest characters situations a mile away, and I know teens DEFINITELY can. They’re very perceptive and they have to be given credit. And thanks for the back-up–I don’t recall telling anyone to put soft core porn into their YA novels (I wonder how this will affect the search terms people type in that lead them to your site? Hee!). Ah well. In any case, the respect is mutual. 🙂

  5. Pingback: Courtney, Part II « Anthony Pacheco: Hack Writer

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