|Photo credit: Fey Ilyas on Flickr|
An issue I frequently see with unpublished YA manuscripts is the attempt to make a voice sound YA is there, but it falls short and ends up sounding like an adult who is trying to sound like a teen (I'm sure you've all seen this at some point; it's noticeable). I understand why this happens—getting the voice right can be especially challenging in why—so today I'm sharing some tips on getting the YA voice to sound authentically teen.
- Read (a lot) of voice-y YA. There's a reason it's essential to read what you write—and this is a big part of it. The best way to get a sense of voice in a category is to read—a lot. A while ago I asked Twitter for recommendations for YA with especially good teen voices, and this is what they came up with:
- Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
- Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum
- The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley by Shaun David Hutchinson
- Falling Into Place by Amy Zhang
- Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Waley
- Because You’ll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas
- Radio Silence by Alice Osman
- Scarlett Epstein Hates it Here by Anna Breslaw
- Made You Up by Francesca Zappia
- The Sound of Us by Julie Hemmerle
- Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan
- Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu
- Any Stephanie Perkins or Alice Osman book
- Listen to teens (and keep listening). TV shows and movies can help, but even better is listening to actual teens in your life, because they'll be way more up to date with how teens actually speak today. (Remember, it often takes over two years to make a movie.) Don't have any teens in your life? Go to your local mall, or park, etc. and listen to people speaking around you.
- Don't rely on outdated clichés or stereotypes. Teens don't really text like "R U going tonite? C U l8r!" anymore. I'm not entirely convinced most teens ever did, but now in the age of autocorrect, it takes a lot of extra effort to text like that and it's lost its cool shine, so most don't. That's just one example, but basically, pay attention to the changing world and don't rely on stereotypes.
- Pay attention to word choice. Remember to ask not only "are these words a teen would use" but "are these words this particular teen would use?" An art student might know that bike is vermillion blue, but one less oriented in the arts probably would just say blue (or bright blue, or intensely blue, but blue nevertheless).
So those are just a couple tips on getting YA voices right. What would you add to the list?
Struggling to get the voice right in your YA? Author @Ava_Jae shares some tips. (Click to tweet)