Nostalgia, You Foul Thing

Wow, but I have just been smacked in the face. I was listening to an interview with Carrie Mesrobian, author of Sex and Violence where she spoke, among other informative topics, about nostalgia in young adult authors. Specifically, how there is a tendency to put our characters in trying situations and have them react in a way that we, as learned, experienced adults, hope they would, rather than have them react as an unexperienced, naïve, or impulsive teen would. Now, if it’s in my character’s nature to act beyond his/her years, then so be it. But not every character will be motivated to make well-thought-out decisions about EVERYTHING in his/her life, especially when they are at emotional odds. Also, not every character who does make an impulsively poor decision is a Bad Guy.
As someone who had a conservative teen experience, I look back on why I made the reserved choices from the decisions I was allowed to make, and doing so, I discover that I didn’t make “right” choices because I weighed the Pros and Cons of the situation and resolved that the result was moral and just in society’s view while it upheld my personal resolution to remain pure and unmarred by the wicked, wicked world. No. I made the “right” choice because I was fearful of the consequences presented by my parents if I weren’t to choose what they brought me up to choose, and if I were honest with myself, I was fearful to experience things outside of my comfort zone because I knew NOTHING of the outside world other than what my parents and my church told me. I don’t want to discuss religion and children, but I do want to discuss my teen cowardice and the way it is affecting my current writing.
I could have removed the veil of fear and judgment from my head and observed the “outside world” for myself, spoke to others on the border of my comfort zone, listened to their needs, desires, likes, dislikes and maybe I would have seen that I had nothing to judge or fear because my longings and their longings were the same. We could have been friends. But what if I didn’t come to that conclusion? At the very least, it would have been my conclusion and not other’s opinions that I took to my heart as fact. And that was my fault. No one else’s.
I know this now as an adult, and I purposefully keep my mind and heart and eyes open, but my teen main characters are as scared as I was to make impulsive, experimental decisions. I brought those same emotions from Way Back When to my writing and unknowingly grasp at them for character development—which totally sucks. Why does it suck, you ask? Currently, both my male and female Mains would rather talk menstrual cycles and ball sacs than discuss anything about their possible relationship or emotional fortitude. That’s why.
So, thanks to this interview, I am aware of my problem. I don’t want to dwell on the idea that after years of reprogramming, that mindset is still hiding inside me. I don’t want to brood in the gloom of What Was with arms crossed, sullen expression, and furrowed brow… as I am mentally at this exact moment. I want to step back; realize, once again, the past is the past; analyze it for what it is; and finally, use it to present life changes in characters to tell a good story.
Why was I fearful? What did I miss while I hid? What other emotions mixed with the fear (shame, guilt, regret?)? Would stepping out from under the shelter of complacency change anything, or would I have ended up the same as I am now, only with different experiences to get me to this exact point? What are the extremes? Answer—timorous reserve and dauntless openness. And somewhere in-between….. Well, hello, there, Beginning of a Character Arc. It’s nice to meet you.

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