Thursday, July 20, 2006

A conundrum

An ongoing problem with my novel:
I don't want this book to be so goody-goody that it's sickening, but I honestly don't feel that comfortable writing about sex, drugs etc. I don't believe in sex before marriage, and I don't want my protagonist bogged down by that kind of relationship, and I want her to have enough self confidence not to be sucked into a sketchy one-night hookup. But my book is about college kids at an elite private university, and I wonder how I can completely avoid that topic...and the truth is, I probably can't. Maybe discuss sex and drugs as they relate to other more minor characters? But I want the book to be truthful, and it seems like books about teens and college-aged kids don't get noticed as authentic and groundbreaking unless someone has a drug overdose or is in some kind of horrible soul-sucking if that's all there is to people in that age-group. I briefly considered Christian fiction, but I don't think that genre is right for my particular novel.

How to be authentic and un-bland without compromising my moral standards? I know that just because a story has sex, drugs and alcohol doesn't mean the narrative condones it...but with no drug experience and limited drinking experience of my own it's hard to write about it. And a lot of times, when I read about a protagonist I like who has indescriminate sex or is too weak to turn down drugs, I immediately loose empathy and any respect I had for the character diminishes. But at the same time, I hate reading novels where the protagonist is too good for her own good--she has no flaws and exists in some kind of bubble of no temptations or anything like that.

Harumph. Am trying to read more novels that are sort of like what I want to write. Right now I'm reading Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld at the recommendation of one of my writer/journalist friends. It's pretty good although I sometimes want to yell at the protagonist to get some guts and quit being so self-hating. But it is realistic and I can relate with much of it. So who knows. In writing, it's ridiculously hard to get out of your own way sometimes.

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