Friday, February 19, 2010

WRITING TEEN VOICE - CARRIE HARRIS

Michigan-based YA author Carrie Harris will see the release of her first novel, NO PAIN, NO BRAIN, by Delacorte Press, Summer 2011.

In Carrie’s exciting and charming hand, the Undead have never been so alive.

I know something about Carrie that I bet you don’t:    She fell off a cliff.

Carrie managed this spectacular feat while taking a Wilderness Rescue Course… learning how to save people who fall off cliffs.

Then she got her book published. In that order. Cause and effect? I’m not saying.

You can visit Carrie’s delightful writerly blog HERE. Drop by. Uh, but not from a cliff’s edge.

                Writing Teen Voice
                        By Carrie Harris

My best advice for someone who's trying to write teen voice is pretty simple: Stop trying so hard!

Teen voice isn't about the latest gadgets or the most up-to-date slang, and honestly? By the time your book is on the shelf, your cutting edge gadgets will be obsolete and the slang will be sooo yesterday.

It's not about run on sentences, or, like, a healthy sprinkling of, like, the word "like." A good teen voice can integrate any or all of these elements, but if you take them away, it'll still be good. Like, really.

So how do you write good teen voice?

Unfortunately, I don't think it can be reduced to a series of tips or list of check boxes. It can't be taught. There's a simple reason for this: All teens are not the same.

There's the good girl, the band geek, the quarterback and prom queen. There are chess nerds and drama nerds and computer nerds, and even within these groups there's a huge amount of variance.

I've met teens who are more mature than most 30-year-olds I know, and some that seem to be permanently stuck at age seven.

What it comes down to for me is less finding a teen voice and more finding my character's voice. That voice is certainly informed by the environment, the character's experiences, and so on, and these things are strongly influenced by age. I think that as long as your voice is consistent with the character's background, it will ring true regardless of age.

Wow. Don't I sound like I know what I'm talking about? I feel all kewl now.

19 comments:

Carrie Harris said...

Snarf. I predict there will be an epidemic of writers throwing themselves off cliffs now.

Thanks SO much for letting me do this. It was mucho fun!

Mireyah Wolfe said...

You're right--you do sound like you know what you're talking about. *grin* And you're completely right, we teenagers are different, but not a lot of people get that. It's always nice to find people who do. :)

Lemme guess, Carrie....there was a sparkly at the bottom of the cliff wasn't there? No lies! I know there was!

GhostFolk.com said...

Thank you for making my blog interesting! Your post is my first cliff-hanger!!

I wanted to ask you if you would mind posting a little bit about the content of NO PAIN, NO BRAIN here in the comment section?

I just love the premise so much! But I didn't want to say what your book is about becuase I might get the "aspect" wrong. I do know that I can't wait to buy this book!

Carrie Harris said...

Cliff-hanger? I am simultaneously groaning and chuckling right now.

Let's see... about NO PAIN? It's a paranormal comedy that was inspired by a very simple question: In a battle of science geek and zombie, who would win?

Dum dum DUM.

Lisa and Laura said...

Carrie ROCKS. And methinks anyone who uses the world kewl appropriately is automatically the authority on teen voice.

Kiki Hamilton said...

I love that final thought - it's not about finding a teen voice but finding your character's voice - so true!

You are awesome and kewl even if you do fall off cliffs!

Alissa said...

Great post by Carrie, I totally agree with her. I personally feel I don't have a clue as to how to write teen voice, but I might have a clue as to how to write people voice. Thankfully, teens are people too so it all works out.

p.s. Randy there is a blog award for you today over at my Slightly More Than Dirt blog.

Bettina Restrepo said...

Amen sister! Well stated that all teens cannot be lumped into one basket.

Zombies rule.

Medeia Sharif said...

Sometimes I'm reading something and I think to myself, "This author tried too hard to create a teenager." You're right, it's the character's voice, not just a "teen voice" that matters.

Kelly said...

Very well written, Carrie! You know it!

Tere Kirkland said...

Great post, Carrie!

I love it when people tell me to stop trying so hard. ;)

Suzanne Casamento said...

Like Carrie, you are like so smart. Like seriously.

No, seriously. It IS all about finding your character's voice. And your characters rock!

Great post!

Terry said...

I like your thoughts on this. Yes, teens are people too and like other people they are individuals.

Kathy McCullough said...

Knowing the brilliant and hilarious Carrie from her blog, I expected her post to be goofy and hilarious -- but it was smart, thoughtful and wise. She is a writer (and person) of many dimensions -- the best kind of writer (and person) to be. The comment about finding the character's voice is right on, and good inspiration for writers everywhere (like me).

Amy Holder said...

Fabulous post, Carrie! You're so right about finding your character's unique voice based on his/her experiences rather than trying too hard to write a teen voice. Great advice!

Carrie Harris said...

Awww... thanks for the kind words, everyone. Me feel so smart now.

gae polisner said...

nice blog, Carrie.

I skied off a cliff once, but it was unintentional so that makes it pretty much the same as falling. It was a nice lift back down by the ski patrol and 30 years before my book deal. But, still, I feel a certain kinship.

How far did you fall? And were there injuries? Or can I find such information on your blog?

GhostFolk.com said...

We really are staring the epidemic! Okay, I didn't fall off a cliff, but a guy in the cabin with me did. He only had one eye. I think that had something to do with it. One eye and no flashlight.

It was late at night and he left the little cabin in the Maine woods to go somewhere, you know, to go.

We heard him holler when he fell. Then we heard the splash. Sebago Lake.

We got to him by circling the rise and approaching along the lake shore. He was already out of the water and okay, except he was cold and wet and still only had one eye.

The only thing he said about it was "I shouldn't have let go of that tree."

I'll bet he's published by now. :-)

Terry said...

Lol, Randy. Great story.

So, you ventured up into Yankeeland? Brave soul. Hope the weather was mild for you. I rarely venture back to New England, myself.