Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Smells of the Season... and Teen Boys

Merry Christmas, YAC readers!!!

Yesterday, I began (and finished) my Christmas shopping, so I might or might not be a little loopy at the moment.

While I was at it, I got this candle that smells like apple cider with cinnamon sticks... Mmm... it's divine. It also got me thinking about all the lovely smells of Christmas.

Then I immediately thought about songs that involve smells and how icky that is... (JT is guilty of this, Lynyrd Skynyrd... who else?) EW!

One of my most popular posts about "The Craft of Writing" (read that in a pompous voice) deals with "The Olfactory Problem in YA Literature."

Or as I put it, "Smells Like Teen Boys." (I was riffing off Nirvana, did you catch that?)

It's a great refresher, and lots of fun. See what you think~

* * *

I read the funniest post ever by Crazy Writer Girl about "the olfactory problem in YA writing." (I'd put a link to it, but the blog seems to have been removed--or else Blogger's messing with me again.)

Anyway, the point of the post was that boys stink.

It was written by a wife and mother of two boys, and she noted that there's a Big Lie being perpetrated in YA literature where the overwhelming majority of male love interests emit amazingly pleasant odors.

Naturally, she wanted to know where all these fantastic-smelling teen boys were hiding as her brood ... well, according to CWG, they don't smell like fresh-cut grass (or fresh-cut anything for that matter).

As I was snorting in my coffee, I realized it's true! And I read them that way all the time without ever thinking about it (or looking over at JRM and going, "Why don't you smell like a field of clover all the time?")

Seriously, though. The reality is teen boys don't typically worry about how they smell. But if I'm writing a swoon-ey crush scene, I can't say Hot Johnny smells like a dirty gym sock.

On the other hand, I also don't want to describe his manly musk. Ew. (Am I the only person who finds the word musk extremely unappealing?)

Musk
That's a picture of a musk (or three). --->

Seriously, folks. Not hot.

Fictional males need to smell attractive. And in fairness, CWG wasn't saying to make them more realistic (i.e., stinky), she was asking for writers to associate guys with more believable guy smells.

I gotta confess. I might just stick to suspension of disbelief on this one. And I think meeting the right person can have transformative powers on both the sniffer and the sniffee.

On a related note, one of my Book Club ladies, after reading The Hunger Games, said she was bothered by the fact that none of the girls ever had a period. Seriously. The lack of menstruation stood out to her.

I told her they were so malnourished and under such extreme stress, they were all suffering from amenorrhea. But what am I? The Suzanne Collins apologist?

As a writer, again I was stunned. Do readers really notice these things? Apparently the answer is sometimes Yes.

So I have two questions for you, writer-friends:

-What do you think about staying that true to life? 
-Should we include the nitty-gritty details in our writing? 

(Do your females skip periods and your male characters smell like daffodils?)

I'm suddenly feeling the need for some light revisions...


(Orig. published on That's Write, March 31, 2011)


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