Monday, November 5, 2012

Guest Post: Immaturity As a Character Trait by K.Piet

In my newest book, Making Ends Meet, my co-author S.L. Armstrong and I decided to tell the story of a seventeen-year-old gay teen who experiments with his female friend in high school and ends up with sole custody of the daughter that resulted from that experiment. One of the things that some reviewers have pointed out in the past when S.L. and I have written younger characters is that those characters act immature. When this happens, S.L. and I often look at each other, blink, and say in unison, "Well... yeah. He's only seventeen years old."

Immaturity is a word we often use with disdain. "Jeez, my little brother is so immature I'm embarrassed for my friends to ever see him!" or "That joke wasn't funny. Stop being so immature!" are just examples of a society that expects people to grow up quickly and smoothly, to be well-transitioned at a young age so they can tackle the world as they move into adulthood. The problem is, this happens at different times for different people in different aspects of their lives. In Making Ends Meet, Zach becomes a father at a very young age. As such, he's forced to mature in certain ways and accept responsibility of his daughter. He is a young man who has been raised to deal with the consequences of his actions, and that means changing his perspective on life and re-evaluating or putting aside some of his aspirations in order to raise his daughter, Mae.

In some ways, we have written Zach to be very mature for his age. When he becomes responsible for Mae, his entire life focus shifts. It's no longer just about him. Every action he takes will have consequences for his daughter, and that means he always looks at situations from that new perspective of a father trying to do right by his daughter. Mae is never just set dressing (as S.L. brought up in one of our other blog tour posts), and she is considered in every decision Zach makes, right down to whether or not to continue his relationship with his love interest, Wil, when things start to get rocky. In this way, he's very mature, thinking of his daughter instead of just himself.

In other ways, however, Zach is still very much a teenager who has been thrown into a world he didn't really have time to prepare for. He may have researched enough to try to take care of Mae on his own, but there are still times when he freaks out, like when Mae gets sick and he isn't sure exactly what to do. There are still situations that get him riled up and emotional, usually about the ever stressful issues of time and money. And there are certainly times when he imagines what his life would be like without Mae, the life he might have led if he were just a simple seventeen-year-old kid taking his first semester of classes at college without the added baggage. There are moments when he gets giddy over the little things, throws a bit of a fuss, can't communicate as those around him would like, or even lashes out because of pride. These are all parts of his immaturity, and where it really shines is in his utter inexperience with relationships. We wrote Zach as having only had the kind of boyfriend you hold hands with and sneak a kiss or two with during school. His first sexual encounter was with that close female friend for the sake of experimentation, but that resulted in him becoming a parent. Through the storm of legal custody being signed over solely to him, he certainly didn't have time to find a boyfriend during the remainder of his high school career. When he meets Wil during college, he's never been with anyone in a true dating, courting, and eventually intimate relationship. It's such new territory for him that he makes a lot of mistakes.

And that's the crux of the matter. No seventeen-year-old is perfect. It's the age when so many of us were/are still trying to figure ourselves out, find out which direction our life is going. It's a time of transition, and most of us don't have to do that with an infant child dependent upon us. (For those who have stuck it out through teen pregnancy and parenthood, I sincerely salute you!) With that in mind, it's understandable for someone like Zach to have a certain level of immaturity as he attempts to take on the entire world all at once. Writing him any other way would have not only compromised the depth of his character, but it also would have removed some of the drama and angst that makes this kind of contemporary romance compelling and realistic.

It's our hope that those who read Making Ends Meet will find Zach to be your typical teenager thrown into extraordinary circumstances, and that means celebrating the traits that make him a good father to Mae... but also occasionally wanting to slap him upside the head for his mistakes. Immaturity might often be referred to in a negative light, but without immaturity, there would be no journey for characters like Zach and Wil. As readers, we hope you all take the journey with them and find that, through their immaturity, they're able to grow not only as individuals, but as a couple and a family.

K. Piet is the marketing director of Storm Moon Press and the co-author of Making Ends Meet and Other Side of Night: Bastian & Riley. She can be found on her website or on Twitter @k_piet.

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