Friday, March 18, 2011

Craft: VOICE

Tough one.

Tougher yet: young adult voice. It comes easily to some wonderful writers. For me, after working at it and researching it, I'm wondering if it's something I can master or not. Some people say, just remember back to when you were a teen. But, it occurs to me after reading many insightful posts, maybe I never had a "teen voice" ... even when I was a teen.

Because, according to this AWESOME post by Natalie Fischer, Click Here for Her Post, YA voice isn't JUST about the WORDS ... it's also about the view. For example, Natalie says, "YA voices are very ego-centric." Which is stereo-typically true. Teens see the world and how it affects them personally. Where more mature adults see the world and consider how it affects everyone. (But, I know many adults who also see the world in an ego-centric way!)

Another great post on writing YA voice can be found HERE at This post instructs us that the voice comes through the details noticed by the character. The little things.

My infantile opinion? It's all these things and more.

How will I ever master it? Practice ... I suppose!

Do you have a great tip or link to share regarding the topic of YA Voice?


  1. Thanks for the post and links. I have trouble writing a YA voice (I think hitting puberty very late gave me a lack of angst and drama in high school). I don't think I had the same big questions or issues many teenagers did today. I just remember liking class, playing soccer, and looking forward to college. Guess I was just immature :)

  2. Thank you for sharing those links! I'd seen the first before but not the second. Interesting.

    My agent once told me that my teenage characters acted young and thought young, but talked like adults. I'm still working on finding that young voice!

    Erin @ Quitting My Day Job

  3. I think practice and read other YA, along with research. I'm not sure if I have the teenage voice down yet, but I hope one day I'll get it. Thanks for the links.

  4. I try to observe young people as I learn so much from them. It's always interesting to see how interacting with each other - both through their conversation and body language.

  5. This is an interesting point that you make. I don't write young adult but I can see how it may be applicable to my writing.

  6. Honestly, I think voice is one of the least "researchable" aspects of writing style. Because even if you manage to watch teens, or study teens, the best you can get from that is an imitation-sounding voice. If you can't remember your OWN teen voice, I wouldn't write it.

    However, you may be underestimating how well you do remember your voice. I know as a teen, I sounded a lot more intelligent in my head than the words that came out of my mouth, and more often than not, people would remark that I didn't sound like a teenager at all, and that was part of my personality. If this was the case with you, let your character be the exception. Some teens are more mature than others. Some don't cuss, and barely use slang. Some have big vocabularies, and are considerate of others.

    YA doesn't have to be stereotypical. As a matter of fact, TRYING to sound like a NORMAL teenager may not appeal to teen readers who are anything but stereotypical.

    This reminds me of a bad review Orson Scott Card got on Ender's Game. A critic once said "Children don't speak like that. They don't even THINK like that." And Orson's reply was, "No, YOU didn't think like that."

    You'll always have someone tell you your voice isn't coming across "right." The only thing you can do to ensure that it is? Is by using your own, authentic voice.

    So don't worry so much about "listening to kids" so you can try to find someone *else* inside you. Read your old journals, your high-school notes, think of memories you have, how you acted around boys...bring yourself there and go, "Why did I do that? What was I thinking? What was I really feeling?" And best yet, "Did I even realize that at the time?"

    Because this is your heart, and your voice. Not ventriloquism.

    Best of luck, and what a thought-provoking post!

  7. Great post Margo!!

    I have been attempting just this very thing. My character is struggling with how she views herself and is very ego-centric.

    My theory is that if i jump into my days at school while i am writing i come out with better voice. remember how i looked at the world.

    I agree about the words AND thoughts part too.
    i can swear and have bad grammar all i like but if the thought process isn't what teens think about then the voice is wrong. Teens see things differently and that just needs to be there... or your voice will fail.

    *out come my old journals* and *Cringe*

    i wrote poetry as a kid so they have been invaluable to me.


  8. Voice is one of the major reasons I decided to re-write my entire manuscript from 3rd person to 1st person. Before I dove in, I read countless books written from the view of a teen. And you know what I discovered? The ones that spoke most to me were not the stereotypical teen voices but ones that had their own uniqueness. So I agree entirely with Christine - find your own teen voice (whether it's angsty or not) and run with that. At least it will be authentic!

  9. YA voice is tough. I'm lucky enough to get to hear it everyday. I also read as much YA as I can get my hands on, and often re-read my old diary entries from high school.

    Great links in your post. I've read Natalie's, but not the one on Will check it out.

  10. Oh yes, that was a great post that Natalie did on voice! And DearEditor's too, to add to that. There still IS a little leeway in YA voice though, I think. It doesn't have to all be that snarky, witty, slang-filled stuff. Your character can be a little quieter and kind. ;o)

  11. There's some great exercises for voice that help, but in general it's just practice, and tons of writing and experimentation. My voice still feels forced most of the time :) Where's your 250 word opening for the blogfest?

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  13. Great links. I read YA a lot. My cousin is a high school teacher and is also very helpful. And of course practice practice.

  14. I think teens have not only a very egocentric voice, but they are also very sarcastic. They also tend to be somewhat impatient. I get a lot of eye rolls and huffs from my 12 year old nephew and his friends. Great post and links. Thank you!

  15. So hard to pinpoint that elusive concept of voice! How can we master what we can't define? It's a tough call. But at least in my case, getting into character (which I learned during my acting years) really helps.