teenage love != meltdowns.

| Saturday, November 14, 2009
I have serious layout template ADD, but I think I've managed to land on one I'll keep for a while. I have tweaked it to my satisfaction, I think. I should really brush up on my HTML and CSS again one of these days, but ANYWAY.

NaNo is going swimmingly, I must say. I'm finding it pretty doable to get out around 2,000 words a day. *ducks tomatoes* I'm sorry! If it's any consolation, the one other time I attempted NaNo, I got about 8,000 words in before the thing floundered and died a miserable death. This time, I'm closing in on 30K less than halfway through the month, and I'm feeling pretty good about that :D

I was pondering more over my post on puppy love, and I wanted to expand. I am all about the teen romance, as long as it's done well. It puts me in mind of how I felt when I was experiencing all those new, powerful emotions for the first time and trying to deal with them. It's very important to me that young adult writers try to capture the teen experience realistically, otherwise it's not going to speak to teens.

However, this brings me to my minor brainstorm (more of a brainflurry) about where to draw the line between realism and going too far into the "Not Okay" zone. It's certainly possible (maybe even probable) that a real teenage girl might tear her hair out and collapse into a sobbing hysterical mess and refuse to get out of bed for a week and then cyberstalk Facebook pages on a fake account to post vindictive comments because her first long-term boyfriend dumped her, but is that acceptable behavior? Not really. It might speak to a larger cultural pressure for people (not just teens) to feel that romantic relationships are everything and they are only half of a person until they find a significant other to "complete" them, but that's a whole other post.

Of course it is realistic and appropriate to portray teen relationships as tumultuous, addictive, and full of passion, because they are. The portrayal of betrayal and breakups including anger, resentment, sadness, feelings of loss, and maybe even a little depression is realistic. I just get worried when I start to see characters being defined by their romantic relationships, or having completely over-the-top meltdowns a la going catatonic in the woods for a day and then becoming a zombie for several months (to nab the popular allusion of the moment). It's okay to have a character mourn the loss of their first (or second, or third) love, to allow them that cutting pain many of us remember so well, but at what point to we need to snap them out of it because they're verging into a seriously unhealthy area?

I should say that it's not the sketchy behavior portrayed by some characters alone that bothers me, because sketchy behavior is a part of teenagerdom and can be done in a reasonable way. What bothers me more is when there is no growth past this behavior, or something in the plot to illustrate that while this type of behavior may happen, ultimately it's not the most appropriate way to deal with love and loss. What bothers me even more is when this behavior is rewarded in a novel. The lovestruck young hero/heroine pines and whiles away and participates in risky behavior and spends 90% of the story refusing to see the silver lining to their dark cloud, and then they get their love back as a reward for all their "suffering."

Ultimately, I think it's the choice of portrayal of these types of stories that concerns me. Character experiencing raw emotions and being torn up, but attempting to heal and live their life despite them? Cool. Character acting like a 5-year old that had their favorite toy taken away, and then getting said toy back? Not cool.

Romantic relationships do change us to an extent. We take on mannerisms of our significant others, and they take on ours. We depend on each other for emotional support, and entwine our lives together. This much is true. Loss of these relationships can shake us to our very core, but we move on - we have to. It is the choices we make on how to deal with the emotion and heartache that dictate whether we are dealing in a healthy way or not. The emotions themselves are much the same. We can show this in our novels, and we should.

And I'd like to thank *my* significant other for letting me bounce ideas off of him and helping me hash this all out ;)


{ Blasé } at: November 15, 2009 at 9:28 AM said...

We need more than "sketchy behavior"!

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