Tag Archives: novel

Madonna = Lady Gaga: Writing with an authentic YA voice

I want all of you YA authors to pay very close attention to what I’m going to tell you now. If your story is populated with today’s teenagers in today’s world you must get your middle-aged (or 30-something or 20-whatever) sensibility out of the story. “But, what do you mean, Linda?” you may say, “My teen characters are very accurate representations of today’s teen.” Well, let’s get one thing straight right off the bat:  Most teenagers don‘t use e-mail. “Wait. What?” you’re saying. “I thought that’s all they did. I put that in to show that they’re a teenager!” WELL, THEY DON’T!!!! They text, tweet, use Tumbler, FB, BBM… We old fogies use e-mail. Teenagers, not so much.

Second of all, unless your character is quirky in this particular area, when making cultural references they should be from today‘s culture, not from when you were a teenager.  No Cheers, Seinfeld or Bugs Bunny references. No Billy Joel songs. No Back to the Future, Indiana Jones, or Star Trek movies. Do your homework! Talk to  your kids, or your nieces or nephews, or your siblings, or your friend’s kids, or that sullen looking person serving you coffee at Starbucks. Sheesh! If you’ve mentioned Madonna (the singer, not the mother of Jesus) just change it to Lady Gaga, ok? Do you even know who Death Cab for Cutie is? Please tell me you’ve watched Modern Family

I know it’s hard to accurately capture a YA voice when you’re no longer a teenager. What often ends up happening though is the teen character becomes an interpretation of a teen as seen through the eyes of an adult. That doesn’t capture an authentic YA voice! So rather than mentioning that your character rolled their eyes at their mother, mention that the mother is so effing irritating. If you’re writing for a YA reader, you have to be on their side. That’s usually not very understanding of how hard it is to be a parent, how hurt mom or dad is that their spouse has divorced them or died, how scary it is to not know if you can make a mortgage payment. Even the greatest teenagers on the planet usually have their heads up their own asses. It’s part of where they are developmentally. Include that in your story.

Take your memories of your own teen angst and put them through a 21st century filter. Then stand in the shoes of your teen characters with all those feelings and write. When you do, you will be closer to capturing that elusive YA voice. Your characters will ring more true and sound more authentic.

What do you do to create authentic characters? How do you maintain a credible narrative voice?


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I Couldn’t Keep it Up

I read Brunonia Barry’s The Map of True Places this past weekend. Oh my. What a delight. Barry is also the author of the New York Times bestseller, The Lace Reader, which I now must read. As I was reading, I tried to notice exactly what the author was doing, how she had written, what elements were in place, that were making the book so engaging. But I couldn’t sustain the noticing. I kept getting dragged back into the story, swept away by the images, gripped by the seamless dialogue. So I’d stop actively noticing what was working and by the time I remembered to start noticing again I’d find I’d read another 20 or 30 pages.

So that’s it, really. I think that’s ultimately the key to writing a great novel. Write it so your readers forget they’re reading. So that they forget the dialogue you’ve written is written dialogue. So that they forget your well-worded descriptions of images are words strung together to evoke an image. Can you do that? Can I? Brunonia Barry can.

What book has dragged you in, swept you away or gripped you so effectively that you forgot you were reading?

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of course Bacon wrote Shakespeare; but so did everybody else, including (luckily) Shakespeare

“Yes, O.K., a lot of people could see similarities.”
GEORGINA BLOOMBERG, a professional horse jumper and the daughter of a billionaire mayor, speaking of her new book, about an award- winning equestrian with a billionaire father.

I had to laugh (just a little, not a full-blown LOL) because the New York Times can be so bitchy. The accompanying article was in the NY Region section, not the Books section or even Arts. And really, poor Georgina. I mean, if I wrote a novel featuring a Jewish woman from New York, with some kids, whose house was under construction, would anyone give a shit or cast aspersions on my writing or creativity? I  think not. I mean, doesn’t everyone say, “Write what you know”? Did anyone snidely say anything to Fitzgerald when he wrote about rich Princeton guys? How about Sylvia Plath writing about depressed chicks?

What do you think? How far do we have to travel from “real life” in our fiction? Do you consider pure fabrication “more legitimate” for fiction?


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