First off, if you're doing NANO (which we're not...but go 50k in 50 Days! (Oct-Nov) then you may be planning your posts ahead.  If so, go HERE (chickloveslit).  It (she) may help you plan some/all of your posts. AND it keeps with a (random) theme we've started here @erica and christy as contemporary writers.  KEEPING IT REAL. 

GO CONTEMPORARY!  Shout outs for realistic ficiton...coming your way in November.  :0) 

Mom walks in the door after a long day at work, the kids rush to the door and bring her her slippers and a tall glass of lemondade.  They quietly tell her their homework is done and about how they cleaned their room and dusted the living room.  One changed a load of laundry.  The other fed the dog and made supper.  They kiss her, hug her and tell her how much they missed her.  Each has a gold star in their backpacks from their teachers.

Mom picks up the kids from the sitter and listens to them scream at each other the whole way home.  One wants the windows up,the other wants them down.  Once home, they tear off their socks,which go flying in all directions.  Mom races to the bathroom to change before all hell breaks loose.  She barely has her sweat pants on before they come screaming and crying because one took the other's toy wagon away and the other punched him in the stomach to get it back.  She settles them with a snack, each in separate rooms, and heads to the kitchen to let the dog out, feed the dog and start cooking a supper that she knows the whole family will complain about eating.

Husband walks in the door at 6 PM sharp, breaks up a fight between the kids, kisses them, tells them they're wonderful, feeds the dog, raves about how clean the house is and how wonderful dinner smells.  He tells his wife to sit down for ten minutes while he makes up the plates for dinner.  He tells her he understands how tired she must be and how he envies her for her patience with the children and is amazed by how she maintains such a regimented schedule each and every day.

Wife checks her phone every half hour past 6 PM, waiting for a call or a text that her husband is coming home late.  Finally, she dumps his cold plate of food down the garbage disposal at 8 PM and puts two overtired children to bed after breaking up several fights and forcing them to eat a dinner that lasted  30 minutes longer than it should have.  Husband walks in at five after nine and complains about his day at work and grunts when his wife tries to get a word in about the horrid day she had at her job.  Husband gets a beer and flips on the tv.  Wife does two more loads of laundry and prepares clothes and lunches for the next day.  She finally flops in bed, where her husband is snoring.


Part of my problem with (writing) YA is that I read it as an adult and probably write it for myself as an adult.  Maybe I don't have my audience in my mind as much as I need to when I'm writing.  You know the quote, If there's a book you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you have to write it yourself.  (Okay, that's not exactly it, but you get the idea. ) 

Well, I'm writing for myself, a 34 year old married mother and teacher.  When I'm having a bad day, and I'm frustrated, and driving with white knuckles on the steering wheel, huffing and tensing my shoulders and jaws...it's because I'm thinking that something is out of my control and should be different than it is.  Why do I think that?  Why do I envision certain stressful situations in a more peaceful, happy alternative scenario?

It's because I'm thinking that everyone else has the perfect life.  (I know it isn't true.)  But when I'm ticked off at my husband, I  picture everyone else's husband as loving and caring and I wonder where I went wrong.  I picture everyone else's husband smiling and up early making the kids lunches, helping out with breakfast, raving about a sumptuous dinner, and praising his wife for folding towels and putting all the laundry away.  Then he takes out the garbage and cleans up the kitchen.  And of course, as soon as he's done trimming the bushes and mowing the grass, he whisks his wife away with kisses to ask about how her day was with listening ears for as long as she wants to babble and/or cry at him.

How is this relevant to my writing?  Well....Maybe I need to write more realistic fiction, in the realest sense of the world, so that young adults don't grow up EXPECTING life to turn out differently that it really does. (Not that that's what happened to me because it isn't.) BUT YA gets a lot of flack in the media for being too real, too dark.  Well, isn't life sometimes that way?  Why shock teens in five years with the reality of life when that's just the way it is? (And some live it now, or have lived in darkness (sadness, violence) for many years already.)

 If one expects that life is going to be tough, won't he/she be better equipped to handle it? Won't reading about the ways other teens handle tough situations help them to model their own behavior after someone else who went through it?  If all they read about it romantic, handsome men with love in their eyes and selflessness in their hearts, won't that cause them TONS of marital strife when their husband becomes fat and bald and would rather flip through tv channels than cuddle and comfort her after a long day's work?  Shouldn't teens know that money stresses cause fights and that not every adult knows how to argue and make up afterward?  Shouldn't they know that parenting is hard and not all cute smiles and balloons and kisses? 

Now, don't get me wrong, I read to get out of the real world. I don't think all fiction should be dark or edgy or deal with real life problems.  I'm all for pretend and fantasy and am a HUGE fan of romance and guys and gals who take every breath for each other.  It's my favorite, actually.  And I like to write that.  BUT real love isn't always like that.  I don't think girls/women REALLY know that, even if they think they do.  A friend of mine fought with her husband all the time because he didn't spoil her with enough "out of the box" surprises or jewelry or other gifts.  She expected the fairy tale on a daily basis and was constantly disappointed.  I fight with my husband too, but it's because I want the garbage taken out or I'd like a phone call before midnight if he's staying at work late. 

Expectations vs Reality.  How can we help with that as writers for teens?


  1. Eh, I don't know that there's an answer for this. I think you just have to write whatever story it is that's dying to come out of you so badly that you can't hold it inside.

    And for what's it's worth, I get home at 3:30, and always make the dinner, but then Kelly works nights, so our family situation is not the average one.

  2. I agree with Matthew--it has to be the story you can't wait to explore.
    Your post reminded me of how I can empathize with my teen characters, but if my own teenager acts in a similar way....um, suddenly i'm having trouble remaining neutral!

  3. I think a YA audience will connect with a portrayal of marital strife and other mundane "real" things... if you write it as observed by the teen, who may hear such arguments from their parents, but not really fully get it. Like, wondering why mom gets so bent out of shape about the garbage. Good post!

  4. That's the beauty of fiction, it can be both a retreat and offer a realistic look at life at the same time. I think adding a certain sense of realism is important, even if it means showing the parts of life that sometimes suck.

  5. This is great and sort of funny and sad all at once. The perfect post:)

    As for expectations for teens, I think its a little bit like when people tell us what parenting will be like. It's not until you have a 3 month old who has just peed all over you for the third time in an hour and hasn't slept in 4 days that you say, "how come no one told me about the parts that suck?" But even if they had, would you have believed them?

    I am pro-realistic fiction for teens (as you both know), but I also expect to be hamstrung by this in selling my books. Sigh.

  6. That's a tough question. on the one hand, who wants to depress them with reality - they'll find out soon enough :) I'm kidding - I don't think reality is all that bad. It's just... reality. I'm guessing most teens are smart enough to tell the difference. Does anyone really read one of those romantic-type novels and think that's the way life is? Life has moments of romance mixed in with moments of taking out the garbage you wish your husband had taken out. I think it's all about the type of novel. If you want to escape, you choose the happy romance type. If you need to feel connected to a character who struggles as you do, you choose a book that will fill that need. That's why it's great that there are so many choices out there. Also, the hard moments of life are hard, but the amazing ones are amazing - and hopefully for most people, you get some of each.


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