The Dark Undercurrents of Bullying

Posted on: 12/29/14 9:00 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Nelson-Muntz-bullyI’ve been taking time off work for a few weeks during Christmas break to not only spend as much time as possible with my family, but also to finish writing my first fiction novel, a story about a school shooting on a high school campus—a sobering peek into the dark undercurrents of teen culture and bullying.

The book has been an interesting project, providing a porthole into the perspectives of various individuals: an athlete, a Christian girl, a bullied kid, a teacher, a cop… and countless other teens.

I admit, the book hits a little too close to home. As I dove into the internal psyche of the shy, teased, isolated kid who one day just explodes in a rampage (something we’ve seen far too often this year alone), I shanghaied many personal stories of being picked on, as well as the feelings that went along with that.

My most intriguing struggle has been my attempt to provide realism without necessarily highlighting the profane. In other words, how do you show a realistic glimpse of today’s secular high school campus without cuss words? How do you portray a school shooting without violence?

So far, I’ve allowed certain mild curse words (those you’d hear in a PG film), and eluded to others (using common textspeek acronyms like “FML” in their social media conversations, or ending a sentence with, “… and then he added a few choice words to get the point across.”)

The other struggle is to expose bullying for what it truly can be, show the effects it can have on a teen’s psyche… but not provide a “school shooting handbook” for teens. My answer to this dilemma has been showing actual consequences of behaviors. Showing fear, remorse, and pain. Death isn’t casual or funny… it’s tragic.

I faced some of this with my one other fiction book, my The Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide for Teenagers, but that book was much shorter and set up with discussion questions at the end of each chapter like a devotional. So of the 15+ books I’ve written so far… I’m treading new ground.

My goal is to have the novel finished in the next few weeks.

And then… finding the right publisher.