Last week, I talked about how we censor ourselves and I wanted to continue that discussion this week. So first, I ask you is anything really taboo in YA?
Just think about it for a second. What topic has NOT been touched upon in YA? A few months ago, I would have said sex was a topic that could only be broached so far. You could have the insinuation of sex, but the actual act shouldn't be described. And this wasn't just my own rule regarding the topic. I actually thought it was an industry standard. Some topics were just too mature for teens (especially when you figure how young some readers of YA are). But then I remembered a particular author I'd read growing up. You might have heard of her (actually, she's many authors using the same pen name): V.C. Andrews. Some of the scenes in V.C. Andrews books are straight up erotica. It's almost embarrassing to read it's so graphic. And yet, they're all considered YA.
So what is taboo? Drugs? Murder? If sex isn't taboo, how about rape?
As far as the industry is concerned, it seems there are no taboo subjects (well, that's not really true, and we'll get to that eventually). If the industry doesn't put up blocks on subjects, do you?
I've been thinking about this a lot this weekend and I've decided censorship of one's own writing comes in two forms.
Either your own morals, beliefs, what have you keep you from delving deep into certain subjects OR you delve deep DESPITE your morals, beliefs, etc. because you think you have to, thus censoring your own feelings.
These morals and beliefs can arise from anywhere (you don't have to be a religious person to sympathize with this). The truth is we all have a belief system and morals taught to us by our parents, our community, and society as a whole. Censoring happens when you think one of those groups wouldn't agree with what you have to say and you try to please them.
Let me interject right here that if you don't think you're censoring yourself, you probably aren't. So if you still fall into one of those two forms of censorship, but you don't feel your writing is affected by it, then you aren't a victim of censorship--you've simply found a place you're comfortable writing in.
HOWEVER, if you do feel your writing is constricted, then you need to take a step back and figure out what's getting in your way.
I'll admit again that I censor my writing, absolutely. I feel enormously constricted by all three groups (parents, community, AND society). On the one hand, I'm afraid of delving deep into the normal topics of sex, violence, etc. because my parents will read what I write and I don't want to offend them. On the other hand, I view the world in a different way than the vast majority of people in the artistic community and I wonder how I can write about my beliefs and glorify God in my writing while not alienating people who have come to view Christians as bigoted morons.
Do I still delve into sex and violence despite my fear of my parents? Yeah, I'll have to say I do (now). One of my betas actually described my MC from ELEMENTAL as an anti-hero, and I think that's a perfect description because she struggles with wanting to kill people all the time. My MC from MORCAH has to face a lot of sexy bits and temptations (and threats) because she's a paranormal that typically personifies innocence and purity. I wanted to challenge that personification and make her fight through it.
It would be the other two groups I still have trouble with wanting to appease. It's not that I'm trying to find a way to write something that would be offensive, but I do want to make people question their view of the world, not in an agenda type way, but in a "hmm..." way. This is something I can't NOT do. It's who I am as a writer, and the longer I try to fight against it, the longer my writing will remain mediocre.
Discussion: Are there subjects that you find personally taboo in YA or any other genre? What subjects WON'T you go near, and why?