Writing the young-adult novel: What about the sex?

Anything and everything can be acceptable, but you have to decide what image you want to present. In Twilight, the love affair was more felt than acted out. In Lethal Weapon, the couple got together in the third movie and she was pregnant in the fourth. I wonder how that happened.

I’m sure many will disagree but I think it might be appropriate to bring back at least a modicum of morality. I see nothing wrong with giving our kids a chance to remain kids just a little longer. But most of all, I see too many people writing about sex to make up for weak stories. Good writing doesn't need titillating details to keep readers interested.

Similarly, movies based solely on special effects are usually disappointing.Your story should not depend on sex, violence, drugs, or Michael Bay style explosions to hold readers' interests. You can always go back and add more spicy details if your publisher or editor wishes. However, if your story is weak and you’re forced to take out all the spice, you may be left with far too little and need to go back to the drawing board. Also, if public school libraries and Accelerated Readers programs are something you’d like to target, I’d keep all that crap out—including profanity.

A relationship can be kept clean. Even if the two characters are doing more than just kissing, the reader doesn't need to see this. I recently finished another young adult novel about a girl who moved from one state to another at seventeen. She had her whole life taken away. Now she finds a new boyfriend. But she has problems that go beyond her love life (the plot of the novel). So she and her new boyfriend seek answers to the puzzle that confronts them. If they had to have sex, it wasn’t “on camera.” They did it in private and on their own time.

Bring out your best when writing for young people, adults, kids, or anyone else for that matter. If you don’t put your best foot forward, there’s a good chance your writing won’t be picked up by an agent, anyway. And as I always advise, keep hitting those keys. The novels won’t write themselves.

Welcome to a new edition of how to write a novel.

Bringing an entire story together without any relationships would be difficult, even if the relationship isn’t a romance. Consider Neo and Trinity, Martin Riggs and Lorna Cole, Bella Swan and Jacob Black, Harry Potter and Hermione Granger, Sam Witwicky and Mikaela Banes, to name a few.

Here are a few questions often raised in my writing group: What is enough and when is it too much? If you write for young adults, should there be sex? Young people have sex, use drugs, and drink alcohol,  but should I write about these things?

Scroll to read more Tampa Bay News articles
Join the Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state.
Help us keep this coverage going with a one-time donation or an ongoing membership pledge.


Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Creative Loafing Tampa Bay. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at [email protected]