I’m breaking out of the YA Fantasy genre with my new book, stepping into an unfamiliar field. My latest novel has some crime, flawed characters, and a protagonist who doesn’t always make the best choices… and smokes like a chimney.
Now, as compared to the YA’ The Council of Twelve‘ series, I don’t have to limit what my characters say or do. I can add intimacy, attraction, passion, crime, and one or other swear word if I want.
And, I can add cigarettes. But is that a good idea? In a time when the world around us shrinks ‘smoking zones’ to a woeful nothing, where entire cities declare their public places smoke-free environment, and where health warnings are printed on every cigarette pack, should my protagonist smoke?
Theoretically, I know pretty well, my protagonist is doomed to a possible existence with lung cancer. But I also admit, I could also end her life in any other way, accidents, being shot, stabbed, poisoned, hanged… the possibilities are endless.
I know not every reader is going to agree with me on a smoking protagonist. On the other hand, as bad as this habit might be, that character does not hurt anyone else with that addiction.
Why is it that I should feel guilty to mark my protagonist with such a flaw? Is it because of the future readers of that book? Or is it simply because writing about the main character in a book spending time to smoke at least every ten pages is not ‘politically correct?’
Do I, as the writer of this book, have an obligation toward my readers? Do I need to deliver a protagonist with either a less significant flaw, or at least one that doesn’t give the reader the impression that I don’t give a hoot about someone else’s health, even if it’s only the health of a fictional character?
Considering my main character is committing a crime, I still somehow feel that smoking is one of the smaller challenges that a particular character has to overcome.
So, why do I still feel guilty about my protagonist smoking?
All fundamental questions I wish I knew the answer to.
What will you think when you read my new book with a smoking protagonist? Would you find it disturbing? Annoying maybe? Or would you simply not care because that‘s just what belongs to that particular character?
Let us know in the comments.