re: Forty-Six-Year-Old Wants to Sound Sixteen

in Narrative Voice/Teen/Middle Grade Fiction by

Dear Editor…

I’ve been told that the main character in my teen novel sounds too sophisticated. I’m forty-six years old! How can I sound like a teen?

Sincerely,
Too Old in Idaho

Dear Too Old in Idaho…

I have a hunch your writing is missing a key element of the teen persona: melodrama. Think about it—with a teen, things aren’t bad, they “suck, big time.” And moms don’t get mad, they “freak out” or their “heads explode” or there’s the classic, “she’s gonna kill me!” They don’t self-analyze, they just react—and that reaction is usually overboard. They certainly don’t say, “I was curt, even to Pam.” Instead they say, “I even ripped into Pam for no good reason. Some friend I am. Here, Pam, let me shove you off a cliff while I’m at it. God, I can be such a jerk.” The things that happen to your teen protagonist should rattle her cage, big time. Let her be melodramatic about it, let her judge herself and others harshly, erroneously, and/or quickly. Inject a little melodrama into your character’s personality . . . you’ll sound thirty years younger in no time.

Happy writing!
The Editor

3 Comments

  1. Great advice, and it brings me back to my own teen years (albeit with a slightly different vocabulary)! You’re absolutely right – melodrama is the foundation of communication.

  2. This post was great! So many times you get the advice without an example, and this example was really clear.

    Can you do a post on characterization in general? (And can you let me know if you read comments on old posts or if I need to post my comment in a more recent post?)

    Thanks!

  3. I found your post most helpful, I mean groovy, I mean awesome. Any suggestions regarding ten year old characters? I would also like to second Erin – would love a post on characterization in general. Thanks!

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