New Adult: Decisions, Decisions, Decisions
Today’s Brew: I have this giant box of K cups and you can’t stop me from drinking all of it today.
Melanie, my main character in Night Moves, has painted herself into a corner. She let other people, like her mom and her teachers and councilors, convince her to do something she didn’t want. Instead of majoring in history in college like she wanted to, she let them talk her into taking business classes so she can actually make some money and amount to something.
What does she become? An angry person with a job she hates and blood on her hands. And that’s where our story begins.
Melanie thought she made all the right decisions. On paper, they looked great. Her bank account was pretty sweet, too. But they weren’t the right decisions for her. She ignored all of her passions and wants because she was told what she wanted was, in essence, wrong.
In High School, I was told I couldn’t take art classes because I needed to go to college. As an adult, you might say, “Well, Kristen, why didn’t you just say F you and sign up anyway?” The person who told me no was my guidance counselor, the person who actually put the classes in to the computer for final scheduling. His say was pretty final. And as a HS student on a college preparatory track, he had a strong point. I bought it. But history proved him wrong. It took me fourteen years to get an Associates Degree I don’t use, and I support myself as an artist. Our very own Julie told me she was going to study Business in college. Um, Julie? Business? You’re a writer, bitch. That’s what you want. Julie did get her degree in Creative Writing, and for a long time, I felt a little guilty about helping influence her to study what she really loved while she worked in management. But look at our little Julie now. SHE’S A FUCKING WRITER.
Night Moves meets Melanie as a 24 year old, which puts her at the tippety top of New Adulthood. She graduated from college two years before our story starts, and is now really feeling the repercussions of giving in to what society wanted her to do. She’s a cubicle monkey who brings work home, and is losing sense of self so much she’s completely alienated her friends, her boyfriend, and most importantly, herself.
“Are you happy, Melanie? I’m fucking everything up. I’m sorry I can’t be perfect like you. But look, we both wound up in the same place, didn’t we?”–Erin, Night Moves
Last night, I participated in NALitChat on Twitter. Elizabeth Barone posted a link to her excellent blog post about her thoughts on theNew Adult category. I retweeted it, because I agree with with this article, and I think it’s important to address some of these things in the infancy of a movement so it can gain the right traction. A kick ass discussion started about the conceptions of NA, that it’s just smut with college students in it, and about what we, as NA writers, wanted it to be. Quite a few people joined in the discussion. Many people said that NA wasn’t exploring exactly what it meant to be in your 20’s, and expressed a desire to see characters who weren’t in college. Finally, Elizabeth, a few others, and I bonded over both having written homeless main characters. (You’ll meet Kyndra soon, don’t worry. Her story has a happy ending.) Elizabeth and I didn’t even discuss the fact that we both wrote rock star books.
I thought a lot about our chat after it ended. Many people say that New Adult books are coming of age stories. That’s true. Even more so, they’re about decisions.
Sure, the sex is fun, too, but there’s more than that.
When we take the training wheels off and step out of high school on the the giant game board of LIFE, sure, there are rules and guidelines. But now we have to decide how we’re going to get to the finish line. No two people do the same exact thing. Not everything is a great idea, as good as it seems at first. Not everything is a success. There are people who want you to do well and there are people who want you to fail horrendously. There are people who are prepared to support themselves and flourish, and there are people who don’t even want that. Everyone has something different that makes them happy.
But when we’ve all been cranked through the same system, we don’t get to experience all of that until a certain point.
I struggled for a long time to find my thing, the one I was supposed to be doing. So I got to spend a lot of time at the mall, working with other people in the same boat I was. So many people with talent and potential weren’t doing anything with it. Maybe because they didn’t have the money to pursue their dreams, maybe because of other circumstances, maybe because they didn’t care to do anything about it. Not everyone has to conquer the world. Some of them just didn’t believe in themselves. These were the people who fascinated me. Because their journeys weren’t straight lines, they stepped on landmines, but they got up and kept going.
And these are the people my stories are about.