Despite time never being on my side and aging always working against me, I still very much enjoy writing stories that take place in high school. I still have a lot of old assignments and even archived online conversations I like to pore over, and I really like exploring the flaws that can only come with immaturity. Even though I think I write too many of my characters to act like young adults instead of teens (and I’ll concede to the criticism of “why not just write young adults if they’re going to act like adults?”, I’ll admit writing adult-sounding characters and making them pointlessly younger is problematic).
One particular part of writing about high school is the convenience of using prominent characters. When you’re an adult in a job or even college classes, odds are you’ll see and interact with the exact same people, year after year. The friendships you make are decently rigid and consistent, with exceptions of course. I can’t speak for everyone’s high school experience, but for me, my freshman, sophomore, junior and senior years were not consistent in their friendships. Because I was put in different classes with different people and, to be frank, I was socially awkward and not great at being empathetic (and when you’re a teen, who even is), my four years of high school were marked by the “main characters” in my life.
Even now I can vividly recall and name the people I hung out with and saw the most in any of the four years, and while there certainly was some overlap, there wasn’t much. I also had a habit of making friends with people older than my grade, so when they graduated, I found myself filling the gaps with other new friends in subsequent years.
A cynic can look at Consequences and see the cast of characters that were virtually unheard of in Being More Social with one or two examples, and just say I made up new characters and pretended it was consistent with the universe of the previous story. From a specific viewpoint, that critic would be correct. I just don’t think it’s too farfetched for your social group to change year after year. I do get the occasional comment pointing out how many new names there are, though I think that might have to do with me not developing the characters too well as opposed to there being that many more names than BMS. I’m still learning, and when it comes to making a sequel, I’m still learning as I go.
When I started Consequences, my one goal was to make it not more Being More Social. I don’t mind if it’s worse, or “better,” or even for a different audience. I just don’t want it to be more of the same. Especially given the dynamic of “three main girls,” which I seem to have unknowingly inched my way towards, it’s important to me that these new characters aren’t just stand-ins for the old ones. Not only do I think it’s misogynistic to have female characters so bland you can swap them out with other female characters and it’s basically just the same thing (as if girls in erotica are just walking genitals whose only distinctions are physical), it also just wouldn’t be fun to have the same story over and over.
I hope it’s becoming clear that Sabrina and Zelda are their own characters. I also have tried to write Megan as both distinguished from her former grade nine self and clearly on a set path that readers can pick up on. Nicole is… Nicole. I was fine keeping her as the more-or-less consistent one, even if we explore her more. The difficulty with a “making it work” story is that once the main pair are in a relationship, where do you go that raises the stakes from there? As a reader indirectly pointed out, I haven’t been helping matters by making Nicole’s scenes less contextualized and more rudimentary. I need to put in more work on that front.
I do feel like I’m falling into that trap of “male author writes female characters just for the male protag to sleep with,” and I’ll want to contend with those thoughts in a future blog post. I can point to characters, male and female (I haven’t written any non-binary characters that I remember quite yet, likely partially because being outwardly NB in high school in the time period I’m writing about was incredibly rare) that don’t exist for sexual purposes, but it still bothers me from time to time. That’s likely just me overthinking though. Having sex with a lot of characters doesn’t make them valueless; hopefully, quite the opposite.
I like the parallels of Adam caring about new characters this year. People like Paul, May, and Phil, they’re gone, and Adam has new friends to be with now. That’s high school, a lot of the time. People who can be the most important person in the world at some point in your life can be just memories in a very short time later. They can just vanish (oh hey, I wonder if a character served as a metaphor for this vanishing in BMS). I can think of many people I considered important in grade nine that vanished by grade 11. Some of them even reappeared in my life. Who knows, right?
I hope you all had a wonderful 2022. Despite it probably being one of my most stress-filled years, it was also one of my happiest, and in terms of writing, one of (if not my most) consistent. Luckily, not a lot of people remember this period, but there was a time where it would take 3-6 months for me to bring out an update. I like this new consistency, and I think it would be cool if I only got better at dedicating more time (ideally more and more consistent time) to this writing as possible. I’ll talk to you all next year.