Cheap Writing

I’m reading a book by an author I can generally tolerate despite his obviously manipulative style, but this particular book irritated me from the first page.

One of the characters is a teenager. And like almost all teenagers in adult books, this one is rebellious, insolent, arrogant, and downright nasty. And those are her good qualities. Well, her only qualities.

Since this author is so manipulative, it’s possible he chose the character as one who would be, with only a few strokes of his keyboard, instantly recognizable to his readership, but if so, why? Why do so many teenagers in books have to be like this? The character has ruined more stories for me than even the serial killers who so lovingly demonstrate every single cut and cherish every single drop of blood. It’s as if no one will believe that a teenager can be other than appalling, especially since the parent’s inability to deal with the inexcusable behavior often serves as a subplot. If the teenager is as nice as many I have met (and as placid as I once was), then bang, there goes that subplot, and the author would have to think of another one.

It’s also a cheap subplot (sometimes even the entire plot) because the more terrible you make the teenager, the more obvious the character arc when the kid grows up. Whatever happened to subltety?

I suppose, since this author tends to play with such archetypes rather than breathing life into a creature of his own, it makes sense he’d build a story on such a flimsy pretext. Unfortunately, as bad as things are at the beginning of the book, things promise to get a whole lot worse by the end. Assuming, of course, I stay to the end. I might consign the kid to the fires of unreadable books long before it gets to that point.

What I would really like to see is the opposite (and occasionally, an author does present such a change) where the parent is rebellious (without being abusive) and the teenager has to deal with the moodiness. Or even better — no teenagers at all.

I used to read young adult books way into my adulthood because I enjoyed the theme of a misfit standing up to the world and its conventions, finding a fit, and becoming their own person, but I seldom come across such a storyline any more. (That also used to be plot of the Regency romances I read in my youth — the main character was always a societal misfit who ended up finding a fit. But that storyline has been suffocated under the current fad for stories that skirt the edges of porn.)

Obviously, I can’t do anything about books with horrid teenagers except not read them, and if I had time to go to the library, or if I had other book to read, I wouldn’t give this one another minute of my time.

What I can do, though, is eschew such cheapness and triteness in my own writing.

And yes, I will write another novel one day.



Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

2 Responses to “Cheap Writing”

  1. SheilaDeeth Says:

    You should write about a fine placid teen turning the vagaries of the modern world on their heads.

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