So when writing YA, one of the most important aspects of developing your story is creating an authentic teen voice. Every article you read about writing in this genre puts emphasis on that. If you sound like an adult, the teen readers will cry foul--you poser, you faker, you parent in disguise!
So how does one develop an authentic teen voice? For some of us, that voice comes easy, maybe we aren't that far from those years or we never grew up in the first place. For others, the teen voice is buried deep under the years of experience, grammar lessons, vocabulary expansion, and life lessons. But the truth of the matter is, we all have one under there. I confirmed this for myself last night.
Last night I went to the New Kids on the Block concert. To give you a little background, as a preteen I was totally obsessed (like most others my age) with the band. My room was plastered (walls and ceiling) with their pictures. I had the comforter set, complete with Joe and Jordan pillowcases. I wrote to Oprah begging to meet them. My wardrobe consisted solely of New kids t-shirts, a jean jacket, and oversized buttons with pics of them. My birthday parties were NKOTB themed. You get the picture.
So, last night when I attended the concert, I was excited--in my mature, adult kind of way. :) The concert was going well. I was enjoying myself. Clapping and singing like a normal 29-year-old person. Then suddenly, the venue staff started setting up a little platform in the aisle near my seats. My husband pointed it out to me and pushed me in that direction to get a spot for whatever was going to happen. I did, landing a spot right in front of the security guard. People started piling in. I figured something was going to happen, and I knew I would be cool about it. Then, the lights went out and who stepped on to the platform a mere two feet in front of me? The Jordan Knight. Right there, in the flesh, within touching distance. So much for being cool. I lost my freaking mind.
Gone was the wife, mom, quiet-natured person. I was suddenly possessed by the 12-year-old version of myself. I couldn't stop screaming and jumping. I almost got into my first girl fight when some chick rudely (using her fake boobs as a battering ram) tried to shove her way through those of us who had already established position. (She didn't get past me. I may have cussed her out and pushed back. I'm not sure. ;) ) I felt more frantic then I can ever remember feeling in my life. Pure, unadulterated, childlike joy filled me. I touched Jordan's shoulder, he smiled at me. My preteen dreams come true.
This proved to me that the preteen/teen is still inside me, she just needs to be channeled. And oh how fun it was to be back in her shoes, if even for a few moments. So, when I'm struggling with finding my YA voice, trying to find that right level of emotion or angst or internal drama, I'm going to recall this moment and let "teen me" answer the question.
So, what gets you into the right mindset to write the YA voice? Music? Memories? Observing your own teenage children? Leave a comment and let me know.