Don’t Be A Geezer
by Julie Lindsey
There seems to be a common misconception out there among YA writers who are well beyond their college years. What misconception you ask? The notion that a good YA writer needs only to be young at heart. W.R.O.N.G-O. Before you start shaking your wrinkly writing fists and waving your false teeth, please read on.
YA is a very specific voice, and if you can’t make your MC believable then no one will read it. Your target audience will toss it on a pile with all the other crappy adult garbage and adults who prefer YA will pass because well, they wanted to read YA. Not some convoluted memoir from 1993.
Suggestions for creating an authentic YA voice from a YA lover:
• Watch Mtv.
• Devour magazines like Seventeen (especially if your MC is like 14, if she’s older, move on to Cosmo).
• Skip Borders and head over to the mall, then eavesdrop. Listen to your babysitter, your neighbors, and your kids.
• Go to local high school sports events.
• FIND SOME TEENS AND SPY. *Do not be creepy. It’s easy to spy because old folks blend into the wall to most teens.
• Shop where they shop, do what they do, listen to them. That gets double emphasis, LISTEN TO THEM.
• DO NOT put teens in a box. End stereotyping.
If you are trying to polish a YA manuscript, please re-read ONE more time and promptly delete any and all signs that you need a walker and sleep in curlers, or own a “housecoat.”
• Do not say anything you said as a teen unless that was five minutes ago.
• Do not quote or reference sitcoms that are not on the air, ex: that Full House baby(ies) is like 20, so your audience has only ever seen that show as a rerun.
• Shorts just aren’t “fingertip” length.
• Cheerleaders are not “the pep squad.”
• Girls wear skinny jeans not slacks – PLEASE Google for actual brands and do not ever say Gloria Vanderbelt or Z Cavaricci. Dear Heavens, Do Not.
• Don’t reference music that isn’t on the popular college station near your home. You may think it’s “classic rock,” but they may think you are their great-great- grandma.
• People don’t get perms
• Body Piercing IS cool. Smoking is NOT.
• Do not say “the bomb” or “hunk or fox”
Please, I beg you not to say pocketbook , or try to fit what being a teen was like for YOU into your MCs world, unless you’re writing a period piece throw back to the 80′s or whatever. Teens today live in and react to TODAY’S reality. Please get in touch with today’s reality before an unsuspecting reader skips home from the bookstore carrying your book and then throws it dramatically at the wall when they read about how your MC ordered a Gone with the Wind style prom dress & matching gloves for the Under the Sea themed dance. *Ugh*
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Julie Anne Lindsey is a wife, a homeschooling mother of 3, and all around caffeine addict. She is an unpublished author, avid reader and obsessive writer. Julie is blogging her journey to publication at Musings from the Slush Pile, where she also shares personal experience, book reviews and opening chapters from her works.
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I'd love to appropriate this column and send it to every romance/woman's fiction writer with a protagonist younger than herself. I can't tell you how many times I've read books about 30-something heroines with references to things that happened in the 50s, 60s or 70s. Really? Is she psychic or just she spend a lot of time with Grandma, because she wasn't born during those eras and probably wouldn't know.ReplyDelete
Patricia! This is so true, and I get very frustrated as a reader. I'd like to think that your sensitivity to this (and mine) will keep us from falling into the time machine trap. LOL. I'm so glad you liked this! Thank you for your comment!!ReplyDelete
Aren't you "stereotyping" all teens when you suggest reading Seventeen and Cosmo? Um, FYI, not all girls are interested in only the latest hair & makeup tips and dating ideas. That paints a rather shallow portrait of what YA is all about.ReplyDelete
As a YA reader AND writer, and as a high school educator, the most valuable piece of advice writers can follow is to watch, listen and learn. You'll discover more in a 10-minute conversation with a tween/teen than you will by making assumptions. Glad to see you mentioned these things!!