I’ve been known to insert an expletive here and there when I am critiquing YA manuscripts. Not because their manuscripts have me slamming my head into the desk with the perpetual comma splice or flowerily prose. Nope, rather it because there are certain scenes, certain characters that call for a bit of edginess and their manuscripts fail to deliver. And God knows I love me some edge! This usually incites a conversation about why they have purposefully avoided the edge. The most common response:
“I am not opposed to it, but what if my mother, or my neighbor, or the PTO board at my preschooler’s school reads it?”
My usual response: “Who the hell are you writing your book for anyway?”
Now, please, don’t get me wrong. I have no issue with writers who, because of their own convictions and/or feelings about the edginess of some current YA books, purposefully, with masterfully crafted intent, avoid this type of content. Fantastic, ten points for you! What drives me insane is writers who hold back their characters emotions, tailor character responses out of fear of what some random parent, most who are not even in your target market, will think.
If your character needs edge, then give it too him. If he is stuck in the bowels of the earth, surrounded by ash, facing down his knife wielding, demonized best friend, then I doubt an “oh golly gee” is going to work. So write the book you want to write. Give your characters the personality they demand. And the hell with worrying what the apron-wearing mom who sells cupcakes at the school bake sale thinks about your occasionally use of the f word.