By day I work 60 hour weeks. At night I am a devoted father and husband to the world's greatest family. Somewhere in the non-existent time between the two, I am a writer. Join me from the beginning as I chronicle my adventures to become a successful published author.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Day 16 - The Role of Morals in Writing - Part I: Disturbing Trends IN YA Fiction

In a blog post on the blog, the May 2011 YA Contest Winners were announced. First and third place seem fine. Second, while well written, can only be classified as Erotica, ie, literary porn. Essentially, a teenage boy finds a mysterious, fully naked woman in his room. She is described in a sexual manner, as is the boy's sexual reactions to her. The F- word is used in the very first sentence.

Now this might be suitable for an adult book. I wouldn't read it, but I don't hold it against others. What I find disturbing is that it is not just sensual, it is sexualized and is targeted for the Young Adult crowd, which is the 14-21 age range. So, essentially, they awarded a 2nd prize to porn targeted at 14 year old boys and girls. It doesn't help that at the end of the first page he closes his door so they can be alone, figuring since she's naked they're past the awkward stage. Way to promote safety! "Ooh, Caveman see hot she-man naked. Never seen before. Maybe dangerous to Caveman. Ooh, I go get her anyway." That's what ran through my head. That's a caricature of stupid actions, but in the first page it glorifies the same stupid behavior.

I want to be clear, just as I was on the comments I made on their blogpost: I do not advocate banning books. I do find it most offensive that they would select this to be the second place winner for a Young Adult contest! Sure, sex sells. But let's consider the comparison outside of literature: movies and photos. Kids have been arrested for sexting, which is the practice of underage children taking naked or sexually explicit photos of themselves and sending it via cell phone to boy/girl friends. Often these get passed around a high school. Now, if kept between the two original participatory parties, I think much of the legal punishment (distributing porn to a minor is the most frequent charge) is a little much, considering those same two kids can see each other naked and legally have sex within their age group. But if those kids are making and distributing porn videos and photos for distribution to other teenagers, they would be shut down so fast and booked with criminal charges they wouldn't know what to think. So why is it okay for an adult to write kiddie porn, market it, and be awarded prizes in the literary community for targeting teenagers?

So let the person self-publish. Let the book die in obscurity. Let wise parents help teach moral principles to their children that let them know these things are not right. Let concerned parents speak out, which can be done without legislating. Just make your voices heard. Let adults make adult books for adults. But DON'T give these people a pass or even an applaud. Were there really no better submissions in the entries? Really? I think there probably were. It's not enough for a book to be well written, it must be age appropriate.

Tomorrow, in Part II of this topic, we will discuss realism, graphic realism, hyper-fantasy, audience, and moral persuasion. Part III will be how I view moral obligations in my own writing and how literary skill allows the full gamut of emotions without obsession.

Be sure to join me tomorrow, comment, and share this three part series with friends.

Writing Update:

I realize I had forgotten to give writing updates. Let me be clear: I have not missed a single day since the last time I noted it. I am now at 5,628 words, or 7.035% of the way complete. Pretty good, steady progress! I wrote 410 words today. I've come to realize while writing today that, when analyzing from the Katherine Freedman method (see yesterday's post), the character Joshua is the Safe Character, the one who is constant in guiding principle and dispenses sage advice. He's a good man, he's seen a lot of tragedy, and he's still out there helping people, especially my main character, Levi. How it turns out will be interesting.


Great post, Matt. We would never dump filth into a river, why dump it into a child's mind, especially at an age when they are so impressionable because of their changing bodies and hormones. How can kids put the bridle on when given full run of their urges.

I've always like the comment of the mother in the movie "Butterflies Are Free" when Goldie Hawn's boyfriend/director is explaining the raw, "real" stuff he includes in his movies. The mom says something along the lines that while diarrhea may be a fact of life she's not going to pay money to watch it in a movie.

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