The Presents We Give

I have had one of those not great weeks. For me this weekend could not have come soon enough; and perhaps you have not had a great week either. This is I think an excellent way to open this post, because nothing could apply more to an author:

Indeed, time for some good, age appropriate, reading. I write for over-18s, so what is marketed at teens is not my strong knowledge spot. Through the #writingcommunity, though, I happened to find myself yesterday on Twitter’s #youngadult hashtag and about that latter all I can say here is this: “These – and a mass like them – are for teens? Dear God…”

…I was stunned by the apparent content…

…I saw as I scrolled…

…and I became more…

…and more…

…depressed to the point…

…that I began to feel…

…I, an adult, needed therapy myself.

Those are just a small sample of the “young adult” dirge out there. We wonder why so many teens today are evidently so genuinely depressed – I’m not talking about some angst that we almost all have at “16”; I mean a real consuming fear – about their lives and about their future? I mean, just look at what is being shoved at them in fiction.

I could have deleted my new Twitter account on the spot. That’s how disturbed and dark and plain awful it all struck me. Are there any recently written “young adult” books that are not about… “dystopic” hell-holes?

Where is the next 1966 version of Star Trek? We appear so desperately to need one. It must be out there somewhere?

Even on Thanksgiving, evil is always coming.

At last, a reasonable tweet about books for teens – but without the #youngadult hashtag. [Sigh.]

Bearing in mind they were written for adults – but back when adulthood arguably began in the mid-teens and not at today’s “18” – my suggestion is teens might be started with a few “classic” books and Christmas is a great excuse to buy wonderful hardcovers as presents. If teens go back to those they also see how the modern novel began to take form and will therefore be better able to contextualize those being written today and in particular will be better able to discern the good from the not as good.

For we can see in the likes of the romances of Jane Austen, and the sci-fi/fantasy of H. G. Wells, early greats in what are today those broad “genres.” And today’s “action and adventure”…

[Photo by me, 2019.]

…owes a large debt to Alexandre Dumas.

Essentially, modern romance has been greatly influenced by Austen; action and adventure almost always borrows something of Dumas; and sci-fi virtually began with Wells.

But, one good thing, at least that #NaNoNaNoNaNo is finally over. I have indeed noticed that my timeline has at last stopped being filled by tweets and retweets of “I’ve written 40,000 words in two weeks!” (Uh, huh. I’d love to read those words.) What a relief.

That is true, but I believe true up to only a point. Of course a good opening is essential; but every page, every paragraph, is also vital. You could write the best first line ever…

[Opening to Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen. Photo by me, 2019.]

…uh, and speaking of Jane Austen… but if the rest of the book is rubbish, it won’t matter.

The Iliad? Now that’s impressive. That is the epitome of a classic.

If they are naming characters out of Homer, maybe all is not lost after all? LOL!

You understand now what it feels like to be a writer.

Is that found in “How You Must Write A Novel In 100 Easy Steps?” I wasn’t aware there was a template?

You open your novel any way you want to. You be you, damn it, and don’t apologize for it.

Even if you feel you must write something that begins with awakening into a “dystopic” hell-hole.

Now, that is a way to start a day!

Have a good weekend, wherever you are. 🙂

5 thoughts on “The Presents We Give

  1. Given the wild popularity of Game of Thrones, are you surprised? I never watched it, but I’ve been told it was absolutely bloody—in the American sense, lol. I too find this devotion to blood, terror, and overall dystopia horrifying.

    Hardly an MFA class goes by where I’m not forced to critique the YA work of younger classmates. Given my intense distaste for fantasy and dystopia, each class has become an exercise in patience. At this point, all should fall under the blanket course name, “Dystopia Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and All Things Disturbing 1101” rather than “Flash Fiction,” “Narrative Journalism,” and “Writing the Personal Essay!” There’s my two cents worth of rant! 🙂

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    1. “Game of Thrones”. [Groan.] We obviously agree. I was never much for tales set in the fog populated by muddy people who haven’t ever combed their hair who wear animal skins and wave magical swords, but, eh, to each his own. (Given the ending seemed to have infuriated many viewers, eh, well, you get what you get.) You teach college age students. I haven’t in years, and I never taught English. I do recall, though, one English teacher tweeting after a student had carried out a recent high school shooting, that her students had for some time asked her if they could read stuff that was NOT as depressing and pessimistic about the future. We seem determined to listen to kids on everything else, how about on that?

      I remember us reading “Fahrenheit 451” in high school, and the teacher discussed it with us thoroughly. Frankly, I thought the book was stupid. It was not my reading taste. But we were at least not inundated with that sort of stuff as required reading.

      I have said it on here repeatedly. The “dystopian” fixation is, I feel, dangerous for kids. I think we are shoving too many hyper-serious adult themes at 12-17 year olds and they as kids can’t contextualize it properly, possibly because it is not being TAUGHT to them properly. They clearly think it is “reality.” And now young adult authors are trying to jam ADULT dystopia at them, too – dressed up and “repackaged” as for kids, when it is not really for kids at all.

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      1. I would have to agree on all counts. My high school reading—what I remember of it—included Call of the Wild, The Last of the Mohicans, and All Quiet on the Western Front. The only fantasy I’ve ever read, in my younger years, was A Wrinkle in Time and The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, and I don’t believe I read anything dystopian back then or now.

        My daughter read Enter Three Witches and The Book Thief among others in middle school and went on to read Shakespeare, Beowulf, Poe, and The Jungle—which she hated it and talk about depressing!!!—in high school.

        Must confess though, I recently stumbled across the series, Person of Interest on Netflix and was riveted throughout the entire seven seasons. It was so dark and dystopian, even my husband claimed he felt the need for a Hallmark movie when we finished all five seasons to cleanse the palate so to speak, so go figure! It actually wasn’t as farfetched as some though, so my rational mind was able to handle it, lol.

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