One-Thousand Two-Hundred Sixty-Four and six tenths (1264.6). That’s how many miles we put on our car as Mrs. V, Theo (our cocker spaniel) and I traversed Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas this weekend.
Our first stop was in Tulsa for my fraternity brother’s wedding. I had a chance to see a lot of old friends, and I’m happy to report that the cake was excellent. We left Tulsa for Little Rock on Saturday morning, to witness one of Mrs. V’s childhood friends get married. I didn’t have any cake, but I did eat some very tasty meatballs and shrimp.
Also on Saturday, my brother and his wife had their first child, Elisabeth Marie Johnson. If I were more technically savvy, I’d find a way to put video of my niece on my blog. Unfortunately, my brother is the techno-whiz, and since he’s too busy playing Proud Papa, this picture will have to do.
Mrs. V and I stopped in Dallas on the way home to check in on my sister-in-law and my new niece. It’s amazing how small and precious a child can be. I’m really looking forward to spoiling her rotten.
Okay, enough about Elisabeth Marie; on to some writing news:
Don Tate, a man that needs no introduction to readers of my blog, was gracious enough to interview me for his blog. Please check it out and let me know what you think. As I’ve said before, Don is a great talent, and I’ll be first in line for an autographed copy of his first YA novel.
As I reread the interview, I started thinking about character development, and the level of comfort I have with the characters that I create. What type of message am I sending if I have curse words, or worse, sex scenes in my novels? Surely, not all teenagers curse and have sex. Or do they?
I find myself flip-flopping on this issue a lot, depend on how sanctified or how radical I feel at the moment. My current stance is to strike the line at the edge of what I find uncomfortable, and then to take one step over it. I want my writing to be fresh and edgy, but not edgy enough that I’ll give my mother a heart attack when she reads it.
In addition, I have a few loose rules that I tend to follow when I’m writing for teens:
Sex: I hate sex scenes. I find them very uncomfortable to write. (But as a teenager, I loved reading them. Blame it on raging hormones). Sex is a big part of young people lives, whether they’re having it or not, and it’s something that has to be address.
Let me be upfront about this: some of my characters have sex. On the flip side, I try to at least bring up the idea of safe sex in my writing, and usually at least one of my characters is abstinent. For as many people out there that are having reckless sex, a lot of people are using protection, and a lot are abstaining completely. I don’t think it’s fair to portray one side without portraying the other.
Cursing, Part 1: I tend to be pretty liberal with the “minor” curse words. I feel that this correctly portrays current culture. I don’t use a lot of sleep over these…if it shows up in the Bible, I figure I can get away with saying it.
Cursing, Part 2: F-Bombs and other “major” curse words. I do use them, but very sparingly. I try to have my main characters only use the major curse words in times of great emotional distress.
Cursing, Part 3: The previous two rules do not apply if it’s really in a person’s character to curse. If I would be changing a character wholeheartedly by removing swear words, I leave them in, F-bombs and all. I feel that I’d be shortchanging the character and my readers if I didn’t accurately portray the character.
Violence: When I show it, it’s never gratuitous, and it always has negative repercussions. I don’t have to worry about this much, as my characters aren’t usually very violent.
The N-word: I never use it a positive way. I’m not knocking anyone that has said it (because I’d be knocking myself), but that’s just one image I can’t bring myself to portray positively in my work. I have used it in my work before, but it’s very clear that any character using the word is an asshole.
Of course, all of these rules are works-in-progress, and what works for me doesn’t necessarily work for anyone else. And more than likely, I will have revised my rules yet again when I begin work on another novel. Which hopefully will be any day now….
I read the excerpts from both novels after reading Don’s blog over the weekend. EXCELLENT! LOVED THEM! I think you are going to be a writer to watch. I can’t wait to get your new book!
Great interview V. you represented your craft well.