InsecureWritersSupportGroupIt’s time for another meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. The first Wednesday of each month, we share struggles, triumphs, quandaries, and fears. This month’s question is:

Are you a risk-taker when writing? Do you try something radically different in style/POV/etc. or add controversial topics to your work?

I’ve written at length in many prior posts about how, until my early twenties, I often gut-loaded my Atlantic City books with over the top controversial content merely for its own sake, to goad my imagined future censors. In my juvenile mind, edgy and realistic=as over the top as possible.

Part of it was an extreme overreaction to my annoyance at the unrealistic, G–rated goody-goodies in books like The Babysitters’ Club series, kids who never encountered any normal junior high issues like peer pressure, serious fights with parents and siblings, skipping school, secretly drinking beer, etc.

Another reason was because I attended such an awful school from K–10. With no counterexample, I genuinely didn’t grasp how abnormal and concerning it is for preteens to have sex, smoke, drink, do drugs, have unchaperoned wild parties, get into knife fights, wear clothes suit for a nightclub, stay out past midnight, etc.

Without being consciously aware of it, I reveled in the worst of human nature. So many times, my characters came across so unsympathetically because they were so mean-spirited and cruel, above and beyond normal youthful cattiness and rebellion.

I think many times of the talking-to my buddy Bruce got from the junior high music teacher we nicknamed Busload, on account of the parody he wrote of “My Favorite Things.” Bruce tried to defend his assignment by saying, “Yeah, I was being satirical,” and Busload shot back, “This isn’t satirical. This is filth!” I feel much the same way about a lot of the things in my earlier drafts.

While I still don’t believe in treating young people like overgrown babies and glass flowers who can’t handle anything not 100% G-rated, my stance back then was basically “Expose them to everything! It’s no big deal!” I seriously had spoof magazines called Playteen and Playkid, and one of my planned soft sci-fi books had a porn channel for teens!

I really wish more people had had the guts or sense to ask, “These kids are twelve?” Or whatever age they were in any given scene or book. My Atlantic City characters don’t start to read their supposed actual age till they’re about fifteen.

One of my main themes is that real life isn’t like a Norman Rockwell painting or Andy Hardy movie for most people, and that kids are a lot sharper and smarter than many adults give them credit for. But that shouldn’t mean going as over the top as possible in depicting edgy, realistic content.

Hence why I’m leaning so strongly towards finally officially aging them up two years. As it is, they read that way already.

Though my declared project for April Camp NaNo is my radical rewrite of the book formerly known as The Very Last, I think I may also start work on the alternative history about Dante and Beatrice I’ve been wanting to do probably since 2004. For all those years, I only had the most general idea, and I needed a compelling reason for Dante to still write his magnum opus if he never lost Beatrice.

I have so many great ideas now, transforming it from a vague, romantic idea into a saga with lots of twists and turns. Now I only need to think of a good title.

Very, very, VERY unusually for me, I also feel drawn to doing it in first-person instead of my usual third-person omniscient. Since Dante wrote all his major works in first-person, and sometimes broke the fourth wall to directly address his readers, it feels like the most natural POV. I hope I live up to the great responsibility of writing in the voice of one of my literary idols.

7 thoughts on “IWSG—April odds and sods

  1. I am constantly amazed by what is portrayed in books and on screen these days that’s aimed at teens. Was it always that edgy? Or maybe I’ve just gotten old and can’t remember and it was like that back in my day. LOL!

    Writing in third person terrifies me. I might be able to pull off close third, but omniscient third? That would be a huge risk for me. Funny how what’s risky to one person is commonplace for the other.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I like edgy, but I don’t like graphic and gratuitous sex, F-bomb language, and violence. Give me a story that digs into human nature and issues man struggles with. That keeps me reading.

    Hope the A to Z is going well for you. It is a challenge!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The Babysitters’ Club series was sweet and careful. I believe it was done that way for a reason; the girls had to be responsible and perhaps the author had wanted to set an example. But, yes, every character being a “goody-goody” is a stretch.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Kids today know so much more than we ever did at their age. The scariest drill we ever did in school for for tornados. Now, they practice lockdowns in case some comes in with gun. So maybe your earlier works were prescient.


  5. Hey, strolling through your A to Z posts and saw this one. I was just talking about this very thing with a parent who is a fellow children’s book writer. She was asking for age-appropriate books that didn’t have every character being boy-crazy or so overdramatic about life. I confess I had a hard time thinking of some. I get that Danny Dunn and Happy Hollisters feel very dated to the tech-savvy crowd of today, but wow I wish we’d have kept a little of the innocence those characters had. Here’s my April #IWSG post:


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