It's been awhile since I've done a Music Monday, hasn't it? Here is Stone Sour, and their song "Through Glass."
You can read the lyrics here, but I highly recommend watching the video--both for the sound, and for the super-cool special effect where people turn into cardboard cut-outs.
In the song, the verses say: "So while you're outside looking in / Describing what you see / Remember what you're staring at is me."
Those lines really struck me. As writers, we must always strive to describe our characters not as characters but as real people with real identity. Even background characters need to have their own story, just one that's not necessarily told in the current work.
Maybe it's because I'm working on edits and writing and all that good stuff, but this song totally reminded me that I need to make my characters real. In the video, the band is the grungy, nasty gate-crashers at a high-class Hollywood party. But...these people are real, and the clean-cut nice looking Hollywood type are nothing more than card-board cut-outs.
One of the things I love about the really good spat of recent YAs is realistic characters. In, for example, Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely, the main good guy, Seth, has the appearance of an angry punk kid with piercings and an intimidating presence...but he's really a sweet, wonderful guy. (Thanks for Kiersten White for reminding me about Seth at the perfect time.) And what's more important: he's more realistic because of that.
I see this a lot now as a teacher. I'm not one of the teachers who cares about what kids look like, and so, very often, the Goth/scene/emo/fill-in-your-stereotype-here kind of kids tend to flock to me. While some of the (older and--let's be honest--more prejudiced) teachers are shocked by some of "the kids these days," they're really not that different from anyone else.
Just because the kid wears black doesn't mean he's a bad guy, no more than the cheerleader has to be a slut just because she's pretty.
Personally, I'm glad that in the past decade or so, YA has been breaking through the stereotypes surrounding kids. Let the hardcore punk be a softie, let the cheerleader be brilliant, let the "perfect" child be the bad kid and the wimpy kid be the hero.
And since this topic really inspires at me, let's celebrate with another video along the same lines. Here's Panic! At the Disco's song, "I Write Sins Not Tragedies." The lyrics (which do involve cussing, fair warning) are about not judging people and jumping to conclusions, but the video shows a wedding between "perfect" people and circus people...with an interesting twist at the end.