14-year-old male character: How discreet or explicit can I be?

The fact that the WTC reference is not “realistic” is a point in its favor. It says something about the character. Whether to keep it in or leave it out depends on whether you want your character to be characterized that way – very insensitive, for starters.

Now I realize my problem. I’m STILL fourteen. That’s why I think about sex all the time.


Leave out 9/11 and replace with either sports (with maybe a weird twinge about taking a showere with all the guys) or his mom and or sisters.

As far as noticing girls the thing I remember about being that age was being totally mesmerized by the boobies. Yep, even young boobies. So any time he could look down her shirt he MUST look down her shirt. If she yawns and streaches, he stares INTENTLY. Really very little rational thought is possible in the best of circumstances from a boy that age but when there is a shirt to be looked down he will do it. I also remember slow dancing for the first time and the thrill of having my hand on her back and letting it slide down till my fingers started curving backwards a little bit and knowing that my hand was painfully, (and yes I mean I was in pain) close to that bottom that I wanted to grab everyday as I walked behind her going up the stairs at our school. To this day I remember the spot in the auditorium we danced at and the way the mirror ball sometimes caught her face and the way her dark brown eyes were almost invisible in the dark except for the gleem. I don’t remember the song that played. And if your hero is truly distracted. He will be the last person to notice that he is getting an erection.

A thought.

When I was a teen (probably older than 14) I had it bad. Catching a glimpse of decolage (SP?) would start the old wheels turning and before I knew it I was in the midst of a full fledged fantasy. This can be a problem if you are in the middle of a conversation or trying to pay attention in class. Eventually I got to the point where I would notice my mind starting to wander those roads. I would mentally shout, “HOW 'BOUT THOSE STEALERS!”

I know that thinking about sports is a cliché but this became a sort of private in-joke. And in time the humor of the pat response helped as much as the distraction to stop “responding.”

My thought would be to make this a small story line. Maybe when first noticing girls he remembers that he should, “think about sports”, at such times and comes up with something like my, “how about those Stealers”, distraction. This can then become a sort of in-joke between you, he and the reader. It would give you a shorthand way to let the reader know that he is getting hot and bothered. You might even get him into a situation where he feels he is in over his head, sexually speaking, and he actually blurts it out.

This might prove a cool little character quirk that brings him more to life as well.

Take or leave.

I’m with paperback and Zebra. Have him think about sports. I’d run through baseball statistics (Boggs hit .356 in 1988, Brett hit .333 in 1990, etc.). It was the first thing I thought of when reading the OP.

Yeah, but thinking about sports is a cliche. Make the character interesting – have him thing of something incongruous. Maybe a list of the romantic poets, or Alfred Hitchcock movies.

Only problem with the old “think about baseball” cliché is that, in my case, it inevitably leads to thoughts about getting to second base. :wink:

I assume you mean “How 'bout those Steelers”.

Unless you’re clearing your mind by thinking about thieves.

Ash was blissfully unaware of this, reveling in the chance to have Alexandra so close without straining. Whoa, they are soft…NO! Can’t think that now, NO…must think bad things…Uncle Lou eating donuts without his teeth…that dead bird with maggots…creamed tuna…
By the way, I used to teach at a co-ed private school with kids from 14 to 18. About half the 14 year old boys had nothing but sex on the brain…the other half only had computer games and sports in their minds. You knew when the change started to hit. They would suddenly get that deer-stuck-in-the-headlights look whenever the cutest girl in school would walk by.

Zebra: Well, I’m on the right track, then, because he’s already looked! Good description, BTW!

Degrance: Thanks! I’ll take that into consideration. (And it’s “decolletage”.)

Munch: I’m starting to think about the movie Singles, and the scene wherein Campbell Scott’s character, in flagrante with Kyra Sedgwick, manages to prolong the experience by imagining one of the Seattle Sonics being interviewed. “Anything else?” “Yeah…Steve don’t come yet.”

RealityChuck: Or the periodic table of elements? (Which he’s been trying to memorize for school.)

tracer: Good point! He’s more of a basketball fan, anyway. And thank god he’s not into hockey!

DMark: You know, I wondered about that. Isn’t it true, though, that some guys take a loooooong time to get past the ogling stage and progress to actually talking, etc., with Real Girls?


it’s pretty tame stuff compared to what other writers are getting away with in YA fiction. How much reading have you done? That will give you a sense of how far you can go. However, there’s sort of a hierarchy in operation in kidslit. If you go further than say, John Marsden, it will be taken out by an editor. Marsden’s pushing the boundaries a lot in his series, Tomorrow when the War Began.

I just briefly scanned through the responses, so I don’t know if this has been answered yet, but what’s your TARGET audience? If you’re targeting teens, you might want to ease up. However, if you’re writing a book about teens for anyone to read, go as far as you want. Literature is the last real place where you can get away with anything you want and not having everyone jump down your throat.

Rap songs about booze = LYNCHED.
Movies with sex = CENSORED.
Games with violence = PULLED FROM SHELVES.
Novels with extreme violence, filthy language, and themes of cannibalism, rape and incest = The best thing since Shakespeare!

See? Leave in the 9/11 reference, even if some find it tasteless. So what? I think of a thousand things every day that should never be said out loud and I would be extremely appalled if someone else did. If you want to be honest about this character, for God’s sakes, be honest. Otherwise you’re cheating yourself and ultimately cheating your reader.

This can vary considerably either way. I knew guys who didn’t progress to talking until they were seniors. With others, there was no distinction between the beginning of ogling and the first attempts at flirting. Most of the guys I knew like this spent quite a bit of time around adult women and older teen girls before puberty, which may have provided a head start of sorts.

Oh, and Zebra’s right about girl-watching. Boys don’t stop ogling, they just learn to do it less obviously. A boy Ash’s age will typically watch girls like a starving moggy at a mousehole, until he gets caught. Getting caught results in the “Busted Dance”–quickly (and obviously) looking away, flushing, stammering, and shuffling his feet–then a return to ogling as soon as the girl looks away. Forgetting to breathe while a girl stretches is not unusual. Boys will also take any reasonable opportunity to follow a pretty girl up stairs.

Primaflora: Hm. I haven’t read YA fiction since I was a teen, in the late '80s. I mean, I’ve read stuff that appealed to teenagers as well as others, but I haven’t read a straightup teen novel in manny years. I did work at a Waldenbooks two seasons ago, and I looked at (as in flipping through while on my break) some YA novels. They all seemed to be more suggestive than explicit; if they were hardcore beyond a certain point, then they weren’t in the YA section.

[tangent]This one woman came up to the counter, all aghast, and handed me a copy of Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging. “This was in the children’s section,” she said, shuddering. “Where kids could see it. You really should be careful where you put these things!” I affected shame and gratitude that she’d brought the “error” to my attention, but in fact, I’d looked at it, and found it to be no more than a junior-grade Bridget Jones. Not something a grade-schooler should read, certainly, but appropriate for the 12-15 range. If she did find it in that section, that was where it belonged, and if it had happened to be next to the Mary-Kate-and-Ashley’s, well, people were constantly picking books up and abandoning them in the wrong section. It didn’t belong “under the counter”, is my point. Probably, she just didn’t know “snogging” means “kissing”, rather than something more advanced.[/tangent]

ProjectOmega: My target audience is late teens. I want to make it realistic, but still accessible. When I was a teenager, I often found myself caught between the antiseptic Sweet Valley High genre, which didn’t acknowedge any of the stuff I had to deal with IRL, and the I-ran-away-from-my-alcoholic-mom-and-became-a-prostitute genre, in which the characters were too worldly and the situations too hardcore for me to relate to. I don’t want to alienate readers either way.

penis penis SEX penis penis VAGINA penis penis OVARIES penis penis JACKIN OFF penis penis penis penis penis SEXY GIRL penis penis penis penis GO AWAY, FAG penis penis penis…

Otherwise, he’d get a high-sticking penalty? <rimshot>

Rilch, what do you mean by late teens?

16-20, roughly. An advanced 14-year-old would be interested, and someone over 20 might not lose interest once they outgrew the target audience. That’s what I’m hoping for, anyway.

I can guarantee, some guys never get past the ogling stage.

Damn right. If you’re serious about doing some research, Rilchiam, read Marsden’s Dear Miffy to find out exactly how far some authors are going with teen lit. There was a huge outcry when this first came out. It had the lot - and having read them both, I think the writing in this was a lot more explicit than in the Tomorrow series.

One of my favorite books as a mid-teen was Youth in Revolt by CD Paine. It’s entirely about a 14 year old boy’s quest to get laid, and it isn’t very discreet at all.

Well, of course not. Girls are scary to come up and talk to. Particularly if you’re going to talk to them in such a way that you’re laying all your cards on the table, e.g. by asking them out or telling them you like them.

I mean, they might laugh at you. Or send their big boyfriend over to beat you up. Or (when you’re out of school and in the so-called real world) file a sexual harassment claim against you.