14 March 2012

High School: Heaven or Hell?

I recently wrote a scene set at a high school dance. (I was going to share pictures from my high school dances, but they are in my attic, you lucky ducks.) The experience ignited a lot of flashbacks from my high school years.

I don't use the word "hate" often, but in this case, there is no other way to express how I felt—I hated high school.

I hated being a teenager. I hated the other teenagers. I hated the artificiality, pettiness, cruelty, awkwardness, and drama. I hated high school.

But do I still?

Since I decided to change my MC's ages from eighteen to sixteen to make my story solid young adult, I've been neck deep in a rewrite. This changes over fifty percent of my book, but that's okay. The words are flowing freely. I'm drafting all new chapters with realistic characters in real-life settings. I'm loving writing high school as much as I hated attending high school.

This surprised me. I've pondered why I'm enjoying myself and the reason I came up with is this: I like writing the bully, the Homecoming Queen, the jock, the band geek, the slut, the mean teacher, the math nerd, the principal's daughter, and the pothead. I'm in control of writing all these characters and more. It's freaking awesome! The high school in my head is WAY better than it was in reality. I'm having so much fun I'm wondering why I shied away from it for so long.

Have you ever dreaded writing a genre or scene that wound up being super fun? Have you ever surprised yourself with something you wrote? Was your high school experience heaven or hell?

60 comments:

Sarah said...

I always doubt my ability to write high school scenes well, which is why I have a teenage beta reader to let me know if it rings true or not. I think it makes sense that it's more enjoyable to write about things than to live through them, for exactly the reason you cite; it's easier to explore these things when you're in control of them! Good luck with those rewrites--it sounds like it's going well!

Kyra Lennon said...

I hated most of high school too lol.

I tried writing some short thrillers a while back, and I thought they would be terrible. They actually turned out really well!

S.P. Bowers said...

I've been contemplating a book that would involve some scenes from high school and I've been a little terrified. I, too, hated all things about being a teenager. It just wasn't fun. When I became Young Women's president in my ward I thought I'd need extensive therapy. But in reality it wasn't too bad. Much better going through it as an adult. Maybe writing it will be the same way. You give me hope.

Brinda said...

I think it's more fun to write high school than live it because YOU ARE IN CHARGE. There are no impossibilities.

Cristina said...

hmm. all my stories happen during summer break!!! somehow, I can't picture myself writing school scenes... maybe one day I'll give it a try :)
I didn't hate high school but I certainly did not love it either.

Richard said...

High school is among my most forgettable experiences. But writing about high school students is no problem.

I'm surprised by much of what I write. Did I write that scene, that story? Hmm. If I can do it, anyone can do it.

Julie said...

I am not a fan of high school right now, but I'm hoping it gets better (i'm only a sophomore).

I am currently writing a book from the POV of a girl with severe anxiety and panic disorder, and it's actually a lot more fun than I thought, but she's sort of getting annoying, so I need to work on that. But, other than that, it's going pretty well!!

Shell Flower said...

Right there with you on hating high school. It was pure torture. Writing gives us all the power to change everything we don't like about the world, so I think that is part of what makes writing YA so much fun. We have the benefit of experience and can go back and do things the way we wish we would have back then. Like turning the bully into a frog, or whatever.

Tasha Seegmiller said...

High school was okay for me, and I teach there now so I see so many of these things repeating. I kind of already blogged about the answer to your question today...maybe we are sharing a brain...sorry about that :)

Tobi Summers said...

I actually liked high school, but I went to a nerd school where I didn't have to deal with 90% of the HS stereotypes. As a result, I'm afraid my ability to write a "typical" high school scene is compromised since I never had it.

E. Arroyo said...

I didn't like H.S. either but I love writing about it. My MC is much stronger than I was to survive it.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I went to an all girls high school so I didn't really have the "typical" high school experience.

Sometimes I put off writing scenes that I know will be sad or scary or where something bad is going to happen to characters I've grown to love. But then I make myself do it, making sure I have tissues handy. :)

L.G.Smith said...

I liked high school, which is probably why I don't write YA. I'm not real angsty about those years. :P

Even though I don't write YA, the character in my current WIP starts out at sixteen, and I'm enjoying writing about her first tumble into romantic love.

Nick Wilford said...

The only things I've dreaded writing are sex scenes. And no, I didn't find them easy to write either!

I'm with you on high school. We had a "prom" in our last year which my group of freaks and outsiders didn't attend (we resented the Americanism being forced upon us, no offence!) We had an alternative prom which basically involved playing computer games and drinking cheap beer in someone's house. Only the show-offs and people who thought they were cool went to the prom.

BTW, I've nominated you for the Sunshine Award! Details are at my blog. :)

Amanda Olivieri said...

Oh man, I LOVED high school. Of course there were times I hated the stupid drama, but overall it was great, mostly because of my group of friends. There's not a particular genre or scene that I've dreaded writing, but I was always scared to write in a male POV. In my current WIP, I have two POV's, one from a girl and one from a guy, and surprisingly, I LOVE writing from the guy's POV. Who knew?

Glad you're having fun writing the high school in your head! :)

Jaye Robin Brown said...

High school was okay for me. But in a weird twist of fate, I'm back, as the art teacher. I'm writing a book now that contains a good dose of school days in it, and am glad I'm here to really know what to write.

Just be sure each of these category of kids is multi-faceted, kids today don't really lump themselves into just one clique. They are busy, busy, busy and involved in tons of stuff across lots of groups.

Cassie Mae said...

Oh gosh, I was terrified to write contemporary. I was a fantasy girl through and through, but the story in my head had no fantasy in it... but I just had to get it out, ya know.

Turns out contemp. is my genre, and a lot funner than I thought. I love writing the HS scenes, the teenage love, and the drama drama drama! Hated living it, but writing it is awesome, lol :)

Emily R. King said...

Krya, I haven't tried short thrillers. Good for you for giving them a go!

Richard, I'm surprised by what I write all the time. That's part of the fun.

Shell, turning the bully into a frog. Ha!

Madeline, I don't know if anyone has a "typical" high school experience.

Jaye Robin, I was one of those multi-faceted teenagers. I think all teenagers are. It's part of discovering who they are and who they want to be.

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

It sounds to me like you just enjoy being in control. In high school...you probably had no control. In writing it, you control everything.

Shallee said...

I enjoyed high school, but even so, I was hesitant to write YA when I got older. Then I realized everything I was writing was basically YA, I'd just made my characters too old for the story! So I changed my attitude, and have loved writing YA ever since.

J. A. Bennett said...

I liked High School. I wouldn't say it was heaven, but I knew how to avoid the drama and have a good time. And I LOVED school dances, lol :)

Leigh Covington said...

High school definitely had its hellish moments but I still loved it. Don't ask me why. I probably didn't appreciate as much then as I do now. lol.

I do think its fun to write the characters you mentioned tho. And I LOVED high school dances. I wish I still had a reason to get dressed up like that.

Am I weird or what?

Chantele Sedgwick said...

I loved high school. BUT, it was because of the friends I had. They were awesome. And our group still gets together from time to time. I could have done without the drama, especially from the girls, but I loved my guy friends. Probably why I was around them more. :)

Suzi said...

I didn't mind high school. I guess I had good friends and was probably pretty ordinary (read boring). Decent parents. Decent friends. Decent grades. But didn't get extra involved or call attention to myself. (Or maybe I'm blocking it all out!)

I like writing high school scenes and think it's fun to explore the deeper/tough issues that some kids go thru because luckily I never did.

Meredith said...

I was okay with high school. I had good friends, and I worked my butt off (seriously, I was the kid who did homework on Friday nights). And now I love living vicariously through my more adventurous high school characters!

Johanna Garth said...

The only thing I liked about high school was the knowledge that it would be over in four years! ;)

Ruth Josse said...

My high school experience falls somewhere in the middle. I had some really awesome and fun times but also some awful experiences.

Ashley Nixon said...

Not that my High School experience was either heaven or hell, I'd never want to go back. And I don't like writing real-life things...so this wouldn't be my cup of tea...but I have written a scene I dreaded that I ended up liking much better later!

I considered changing my characters ages, too...but then I just figured I'd move genres (from YA to adult)...not sure how this will work yet.

Jenny S. Morris said...

My high school experience wasn't hell but I wouldn't want to go back. I cringed when I visited another work office and there was a lot of back biting. I just can't handle the drama.

Too bad you didn't post pictures. ;)

Karen Peterson said...

I love the way you've come full circle on this journey.

High school for me was completely stupid. I was awkward and hated it. College was much more my thing.

David P. King said...

I never did the school dance thing. Except prom. Even then, I hadn't a clue what was going on. But yes, I have written scenes that I dreaded and ended up having a blast - since I could control what happened. Muahhaha! :)

Jessie Humphries said...

I loved the first two years and hated the last two years. So heavenly hell.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

People who say they'd go back and do it again with all the knowledge they possess now are nuts - high school sucked!
Wasn't sure how I'd do including a female character, as romance isn't my thing. Think I did all right though.

Shiela Calderón Blankemeier said...

I'll go down the middle and say that my school experience was more like purgatory, purging me in preparation for the wonderful experience that was college :)Glad the words are coming - that's a brave choice to change your MCs age. Playing with the same idea. Keep up the good work!

Carol Kilgore said...

Hell. After many years, I thought all the nasties must be just in my head, so I went to a reunion. OMG. Took me about thirty seconds to remember why I hated it.

I write adult fiction - LOL - but I'm glad you uncovered your niche.

Imogen said...

I don't dare write anything containing a high school because I've never been to one. I've been inside a primary school a few times (thanks to my dad being a teacher), but I know nothing about high schools. A side effect of being homeschooled I guess.

Peaches Ledwidge said...

High school was fun and hell - I got kicked out of a math class.

Emily R. King said...

Leigh, the excuse to dress up would be nice.

David, I didn't go to all my school dances, but I did do Prom.

Carol, I didn't say I'm good at writing high school, I just said I like it. Ha! :)

Imogen, you dodged a bullet. ;)

Peaches, ha! That's the kind of comment I was hoping to get from people. I never got kicked out of a class, but I did many other things I shouldn't have. Those memories are priceless.

Carrie Butler said...

I'm the same way. I hated high school, but writing about it is so much fun! :)

Lara Schiffbauer said...

Hell - highs chool was definitely hell. I give kudos to anyone who can write about adolescents. I just can't go there!

QueendSheena said...

I enjoyed going to high school. But at the same time I couldn't go anywhere else without my parents so maybe I'm not one to talk. Yeah, had those parents.

Anyway, write where the story leads you. Best of luck and all rewrites are worth a great story at the end.

Neurotic Workaholic said...

One reason that I don't really watch high school shows like Glee or teen movies is because my four years in high school were definitely not the best years of my life, to say the least. So watching those shows brings back bad memories. Even though I don't write about high school students, I like your idea about how you can "rewrite high school", so to speak. It's definitely a good outlet for all those high school memories.

Kelley said...

Wow! People have lots to say about this topic. I'm way down here at number 40 something :)

I loved high school. Yup. I really can't think of anything I didn't like about it.

Except probably my sophomore year of basketball. Sitting the bench was not fun.

But other than that I loved it. Would I want to go back? For a day or two or three maybe but I don't need to relive that whole time period. Cause I like where I'm at now.

I kind of wish I would have known so many people didn't like high school when I was that age. Truthfully, it surprises me to read that so many people hated it...

Angela Brown said...

There's mainly one genre I dread and that's horror, the scaredy cat that I am. Haven't attempted it yet, though for some forsaken reason, a horror idea is drifting along the fringes of my mind.

High school was one big blur of nerdiness and being too stupidly in love my senior year to smell anything beyond the scent of my then-boyfriend's warm breath on my cheeks. Yeah, I was so stupid. Probably wouldn't be saying that if we'd ended up together for life.

So not the case lol!!!

Laura Barnes said...

I felt the same way about high school. And yet I was always so desperate to fit in. I don't look back on it very fondly, though I did have some relationships that were the best of my life.

Medeia Sharif said...

I disliked high school. It wasn't until I taught it when I saw all the nuances I missed (since I was the anti-social kid who mainly wore black and wrote poetry inspired by Sylvia Plath). And it is fun to write about it.

I tagged you over on my blog.

Tara Tyler said...

awww. i didnt hate hs, but i didnt love it either. iloved my youth group and we went to different schools.

as for a scene to dread, action scenes are tough. i dont love writing them and worry about if they are coming across as i picture...

good for your writing flow! kiu!

Christa Desir said...

Writing high school is so much more fun as an adult than living it was as a teen. :)
I hope your YA book goes well.

Coleen Patrick said...

I didn't love high school--I was super shy. But I had some great friends and we had great times outside of school.
I write YA and I have to say I do love being the puppet master this time around-ha ha. :)

elizabeth seckman said...

High school got me out of junior high and into college. I neither loathed it nor want to relive it. The only time in my life I would eagerly journey back to is when my kids were little. Now those were glory days!

Mark Noce said...

High school is great to write about because it is hell. And you want to torture your characters so the plot is interesting What more dangerous place than High School?

Emily R. King said...

Carrie, yes it is!

Lara, I love teenagers! I just didn't think I'd like writing about them.

QueendSheena, thanks!

Tara, no action scenes for you, huh? Just imagine yourself as James Bond. :)

Mark, LOL! You've nailed it!

Morgan said...

I have a hard time writing "high school" because I think it's too easy to be cliche... I spent my high school years in a dance studio so I don't have too much experience, but if "high school" can be crafted well, man, I agree with Mark, what more dangerous place to be!

Trisha said...

The main thing I hated about high school was the ridiculous amount of work we were buried under. But I was lucky to go to a pretty cool high school where bullying, at least in my year, was pretty minimal.

Nancy said...

they say writing is one way to work through issues of the past. If so, I probably should write more about high school. Glad you are having fun with it, not sure I'm ready to visit those halls yet.

lizakane.me said...

I think I enjoyed HS while living it, kind of how I'm enjoying my paythebills job while writing novels on the side. I'm usually pretty content in my present and am always hopeful for the future. Don't get me wrong, I LONGED for independence while I was in HS and when I was able, was the first of my siblings (I'm the third child) to go away to college, even going on a mission trip to The Philippines/Japan right after my freshman year rather than spend the summer at home.
Even though I'm on OK terms with my HS years, I don't ever feel the need to revisit a HS setting via my writing. I was always daydreaming about fantastical places/people while in school anyway so writing post-apocalyptic, science fiction, adventure stories is my version of revisiting high school!
;)
PS, I LOVED my prom! one of my best HS memories! ^_^

Emily R. King said...

Trisha, we didn't have much bullying in our high school either. I think it depends on the class.

Nancy, I didn't think I was ready either. But so far so good!

Liza, I enjoyed my prom, too. I eventually married my date. : )

tfwalsh said...

I have mixed feelings about high school - some things I like and many I didn't... I can see why you'd like to write the bully, the jock etc... It allows you to be in charge and in control - I also love writing from their POV:)

Hope Roberson said...

I think high school is a mixture of heaven and hell. I would never go back! Great inspiration for your upcoming bloghop :) It's gonna be fun!

Kate Coursey said...

I'm only a year out of high school, but I loved it! It really was a good place for me. I'd definitely want to go back for a day or two, but college is great as well, and I'm excited for new adventures!

New follower, by the way :).