Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Teenage Dream: How To Hone Your YA Voice Part Deux

On my first edition of Teenage Dream, I suggested you find lyrics with meaningful teen stories. For the second part in the series, I'm going with something I've loved for years.

Teen magazines.

Sure, there are tons of articles that highlight what's hot with teens these days, but that's not what I want you to focus on. Think about it: what makes you buy any magazine? Is it 100% the articles you'll find inside? Or is it...

the person on the cover?

I can hear you all shouting together: "what's so important about the person on the cover, Amparo???"

Simple. That person is interviewed.

Teen magazines feature the most popular young celebrities out there. Just like with pop songs, you don't have to listen to them if you don't like them. You read their lyrics and save yourself the agony of enduring the auto-tune overload. Same goes for teen magazines--don't read the whole thing if you don't want, but definitely take a look at the interviews. 

Not all young celebrities are created equal. Different people see the world with different sets of eyes. Want a frivolous, OMG-type of POV? Read Miley Cyrus. Looking for someone a bit more socially conscious and mature? Emma Watson's your girl. 

My point? Word choice makes or breaks your narrative. Interviews are very contained, short experiences where the artist has to come up with *decent* answers at the drop of a hat. You'd be surprised at how well most teen celebrities handle them. They can be smart, witty, or a bit distant (when personal stuff gets thrown in the mix). Not all teens express themselves the same way. Neither should your YA characters. 

So my second tip would be: read interviews from teens with meaningful lives. 

By meaningful, I don't mean those who make trillions of dollars to shake what their mama gave them. I mean teens who know about the world and have an opinion to share. Teens who've seen the worst and have come out of it stronger than they ever expected. Teens who had a dream and turned it into reality.

Teens you'd easily find in YA books. :)

Now raise your hand if you read teen magazines *raises both hands and stands on tiptoes*


  1. Once in a while I sneak my daughter's magazines. I find it interesting what the articles say about out ya crowd out there. =)

  2. Love this. It's so true that certain celebs can give insighst into teenspeak, but so can real teens. That's where having two teen cousins come in handy. :)

  3. Oh, my heck! What a fab idea! Direct teenspeak. Awesome.

  4. Er... if I say I used to read and hoard and hog Just Seventeen many moons ago would that count?

    Take care

  5. Well, sounds like good advice. I read and followed the advice to read Girls LIfe for more middle grade people. There are comments and posts from real girls and it def gets in that age frame of mind

  6. I feel almost silly for never thinking about using teen magazines in this way. Great advice.

  7. Great point. Hmmm, I never thought of researching using the teen mags. Must remember that!

  8. My daughter saves Seventeen and TeenVogues that she thinks are good for me to use as research. :) I listen to her music too...

  9. Thank you for this. I never thought about using teen mags for research.