As many of my readers know, I am hard at work on a collection of three short stories that will be published later this year as Three Billy Maddox Stories. I’ve finished one story, “Billy and Darla”, which is available for free over at Instafreebie. The next story, “Green Bay Outsiders”, is under development and will likely be longer than expected but that’s not a bad thing.
A lot of coming-of-age stories have always irked me, and I guess that irritation ended up driving “Green Bay Outsiders”. Coming-of-age stories tend to focus on adolescence. Whether it is fantasy (think Lloyd Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydain), a story about friendship such as A Separate Peace by John Knowles or a classic such as Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage, the core years in the protagonist’s lives typically depict a time barely out of adulthood.
I mean, I get it. Society is obsessed with love–it’s the theme of just about any song you hear on the radio, for God’s sake, so why shouldn’t writing pile on too.
The problem though is that if you really want to write a coming-of-age story, you need to focus on more than just Cupid’s arrows. One’s 20s represent a much better time period. “Green Bay Outsiders” is about Carl Daniels, who first appeared in my novel, Billy Maddox Takes His Shot. Carl has just graduated from college at the University of Wisconsin–Green Bay, and has been thrown into a world where love, friendship, economic freedom and personal development apart from one’s family all come into play.
Am I wrong in thinking that one’s early to mid-20s represent the years when one truly comes of age? Even if the fiery yearnings of desire start burning in adolescence, I see a much more complex and challenging goal for authors of coming-of-age stories.
Yes, love must be a part of such stories. Or lust. But so should the ability to manage a variety of relationships and figure out how one is to survive economically.
Does that make sense? It’s not romantic in the sense of writing and reading. But it’s real.
So that’s the focus of my story. If you have already read Billy Maddox Takes His Shot, you should know that “Green Bay Outsiders” goes back to a time before Carl Daniels was a Border Patrol agent. If you remember my novel, you’ll also recall what Carl tells Billy Maddox in the Golden Burro about his upbringing in Wisconsin. That bit of conversation is the basis for my short story.
So what do you think about coming-of-age stories? Am I right? Should such tales “really” reflect adolescence? Or is one’s 20s when an individual really needs to get his or her shit together? I look forward to your comments below.