tell you how excited I am to host Kate and help her spread the word about her
FANTASTIC book, FLAWED. There are not enough words to describe my love for this
book. Yes, it's dark. Yes, it's a touch taboo. And yes, it's incredible. It'll make you feel ALL THE
FEELINGS. And that's exactly what Kate is here to talk about today. Writing
about taboo/tough topics and making it likable.
And before the post, I'd like to thank Kate for taking the time to write this post and Heather Ricco for allowing me to be part of the blog tour. Now...KATE!
So glad to be here, Mandie! Thank you for having me on your blog today, and for giving me the opportunity to answer one of the questions I hear most: How do you write about tough, often taboo topics, and make them compelling enough to draw readers? The answer is deceptively simple: Focus on the characters in these tough, taboo situations. Let what motivates them drive the story, and make sure your readers see that motivation.
There’s nothing I like better than deeply-flawed characters and complex villains. I want to get under these characters’ skins, find out what makes them tick, explore what it means when I find that I identify with something inside of them. If I understand what makes them tick—what they believe in, what motivates them, what drives every action they take—I understand them, and maybe even a little more about myself in the process. There’s no greater equalizer than understanding. Even when what the person’s choices are wrong.
So why did I say letting your characters’ motivation drive the story is deceptively simple? Because to be able to write a character with more layers than an onion, you—as the writer—have to be able to put yourself inside that character completely. Feel what they’re feeling, think what they’re thinking—even the really ugly stuff. If you can’t put yourself in that place, chances are your character won’t be there, either. And if the character isn’t there, the reader won’t see what you want them to see.
There’s one scene from FLAWED that I think sums up James’s motivation for everything. He’s about to make a horrible mistake, and having to put myself in his mind for this was ugly, but his reasoning and his desperation to be enough for Sarah is clearer because I did.
James’s fury shifts to despair and he drops to his knees. “God, Sarah, do you hate me so much you had to fuck him in our room?”In the faint moonlight, I can see the misshapen lines of his face. The fight. “I don’t hate you. And I’d never purposely hurt you. I love you.”He shakes his head, his big shoulders trembling. “No, I love you. You’ve never loved me, even though it’s supposed to be me and you, forever.” He reaches for my waist and buries his sticky face in my stomach. “Why can’t I be enough? I want to be enough so fucking bad.”“You are enough!”
“I’ll never be enough and you know it.”This is horrible. More horrible than I imagined. I close my eyes and stroke his crusty hair, very quietly singing our lullaby.
His shoulders stop trembling halfway through the verse and by the end I think he’s humming along with me. I hope so. I scoot farther down on my bed so I can reach him better and because his lumpy face pressed into the bruises on my lower stomach hurts.
“I’m sorry about Leslie,” he mumbles into my shirt, which is bunching up around his face as I wriggle lower. “She doesn’t mean anything to me. Promise.”I couldn’t care less about Leslie and I am about to tell him so, but then he turns his head, moving my thin t-shirt out of the way with his big hands, and I realize how bad an idea it was to scoot lower. He nuzzles into my bare chest instead of coming higher into my arms, breathing me in and pressing his lips to my skin. I gasp and shove at his shoulders. “Damn it!” he roars. My hands fly to my ears because he’s right there in my face, tiny drops of spit flying. “Don’t you understand? Do you understand anything?”
Was it tough to write? Yeah. Is it tough to read, even now? For sure. But does my heart break for him because of his honesty and desperate need to be this person for the girl he thinks he loves? Absolutely. I’m a firm believer that anything can be compelling if—and only if—the person who picks up the book can feel for the characters, even the villains. This speaks to a much larger topic of tolerance and compassion for individuals we don’t understand, but that’s a topic for another day!
And now for the prizes! Kate is giving a $15 gift card to either Amazon or B&N—your choice. All you have to do is leave a comment about taboo and tough subjects you’d like to see more of in YA fiction, along with your email address and which gift card you’d prefer. Today’s giveaway is open to International readers.
Kate is also running an Ultimate FLAWED Fan Pack contest via the Rafflecopter listing below. Enter daily for a chance to win some really cool stuff!
a Rafflecopter giveaway