Monday, July 13, 2015

SCBWI Florida Workshop Part VI- Holden and Augustus: What We Mean When We Talk About Voice in YA

This is my sixth post from the 2015 Florida SCBWI young adult workshop with Erica Rand Silverman, an agent with Sterling Lord Literistic, and Jacquelyn Mitchard, author and editor-in-chief at Merit Press. Click here for Part I  (Why Write Young Adult); Part II (Querying); Part III (Pitches); Part IV (Marketing Yourself and Your Work); and Part V (Building a Lasting Career).

Jacqueline Mitchard
facilitated this part of the workshop 
    Using Augustus Waters from Fault in our Stars by John Green and Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger as examples, Jacqueline Mitchard made the following points about creating voice:

  • This is not the time to be restrained.
  • Teenagers are dramatic. They’re over the top. Now or never. Black or white. Let them tell their stories. Speech can be overblown. Let out the drama queens!
Examples of how teens talk:

“My life is over.” 
“No none is ever going to love me again.” 
“I’m a total loser.”

  • Teens blurt stuff out. They make mistakes in judgment.
  • They're self-centered. A girl doesn’t care if the world blows up, unless it ruins her hair. What they care about the most is themselves.  Madly self-invested.
  • Teens focus small. Is she going to get what she needs to survive?
  • Write in bursts. Not necessarily grammatically correct. Use syntax and rhythm to create patterns. Awkward speech mimics the natural and conversational talk of teens.
  • Teens have heartbreaking passion and honesty. All their money is in the middle of the table all the time.
  • The way the character perceives the world shows who he or she is. Using this information develops deep POV.
  • Teens are all about self-sacrifice and loyalty. Who you are within the tribe is very important. Novelists must create a personality and moral structure. The novel will be about how the character changes and grows.
Erica Rand Silverman added: Teens have a strong sense of fairness and justice. Most of them are dedicated to learning and school. They have lots of thoughts and a lot of time to notice things.
Personal note: Writing this blog post legitimized the fact that both of my protagonists in Half-Truths are prone to exaggeration. It also made me think about how I was the same way as a teenager--self-absorbed in my own heady thoughts! Remembering my own life experiences will help me make Lillie Harris and Kate Dinsmore more authentic.  


Here is a narrative exercise to help you work on the voice of your characters. Write twelve lines of dialogue in which one teen has a secret that he or she is trying to keep from the other teen. Use ONLY speech. No tags or descriptive beats allowed! Feel free to share your writing in the comments if you try this exercise.

This series of posts concludes next week with Erica's and Jacqueline's answers to some FAQs and other miscellaneous nuggets. I'm glad that these posts have been helpful to many of you!


Vijaya said...

What a great summary! I should tape this to my computer to remind myself that thou shalt not let your story-teen sound like a 35 yr old woman.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Vijaya. This is one of the most challenging things for me to do!! We have to "put off" our adulthood and get back into thinking and talking like teens again!

Rosi said...

I am enjoying this series and learning a lot. I particularly like the line "All their money is in the middle of the table all the time." That really does describe how teens tick. Thanks for the posts.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Rosi. Glad you've enjoyed these posts. Jacqueline's lines were so wonderful--I couldn't write them down fast enough!

Linda A. said...

Hi Carol,
Who would ever have thought we should have paid more attention to the drama queens when we were growing up? I thought these tips were great reminders for YA writers. Thank you, Jacqueline and Carol.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Linda. I know what you mean!

karastewart said...

Very helpful! Thank you!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Kara! Glad to hear.

sheri levy said...

Great comments. It is hard to remember those young, emotional days. But if you are around teens, listen to their conversations and watch their mannerisms, it will come back.
Thanks, Carol, for your great posts!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Sheri. Glad you've enjoyed this series!

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