Tap… tap… tapping into Teens

Most authors who write YA (young adult) are adults; and so we’re always on the prowl for new and better ways to capture the authentic teen experience and harness it into our current WIP. Alas, authentic teen experiences, out in the open and available for capture, are about as abundant as Unicorn eyelashes!

Teens who read are smart, savvy and discriminating. So short of jumping into the nearest time machine where can we go to find authentic teen moments?

Here are a few suggestions.

  • MUSIC: I bought Taylor Swift’s album Fearless (the platinum version) and I’m using it as inspiration for my current WIP. She writes her own material and readily admits that all her songs came from her real experiences. The platinum version of Fearless (from iTunes) includes video interviews with Taylor telling, in her own words, the inspiration for each of her songs. Very cute… and a very good resource I think. Here are a couple of my favorite lyrics from Fearless:

And I don’t know how it gets any better than this you take my hand and
drag me headfirst Fearless.

And I don’t know why but with you I’d dance in a storm in my best dress Fearless.

Well you stood there with me in the doorway my hands shake.

I’m not usually this way but you pull me in & I’m a little more brave. It’s
the first kiss, it’s flawless, really something, it’s Fearless!

  • GO INTO THE FIELD (i.e. read Facebook)  Some of my son’s friends have friend’ed me on Facebook (much to his dismay) and also a few of my friends kids have friend’ed me as well. One poor girl obviously broke up with her boyfriend over the holidays because she has been basically bleeding her status updates for several weeks now. I feel so sorry for her… but I AM a professional here (should I say don’t try this at home?) and I can’t help but take it all in… grist for the mill, so to speak. Here was her status update for today: I fell in love with this quote.

“You see that girl, yeah her. She seems so invincible right? But just touch her and she’ll flinch. She has secrets and she trusts no one. she’s the perfect example of betrayal cause everyone she trusted broke her.”

Everyone she trusted broke her?! Seriously, that’s some epically good stuff. As adults/parents we’ve sipped the Scarlet O’Hara kool aid for too long — believing that tomorrow IS another day and everything will be all better soon. But teens are living it in the moment on full blast like a live game of Minesweeper, they’re never really sure if their next step is on a safety square or squarely on a bomb!

  • OUR OWN BACKYARD: One last idea — our own kids. Mostly they withhold, withhold, withhold… but every now and then they toss out a good one. Like the day I picked my son and his friend up at a tattoo parlor. My son’s friend had just gotten a very large tattoo. My son, not yet. But I knew he was thinking about it. I launched into full mom lecture mode about the dangers (heh, kids don’t hear danger!) and then about the cost and pain in having a tattoo removed — to which my son responded, “Mom, please, by the time he wants to remove it they’ll have invented something he can spray on and then rip off.”

I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen but I have to hand it to him on the inventiveness scale. It was something only a teen would have thought to say.

Any other ideas for capturing an authentic teen experience? I’d love to hear them.

About Sheryl Scarborough

For MONEY I have written: TV series, cartoons, comic books, graphic novels, magazine articles, Business Plans, Direct Music Marketing letters (as Mariah Carey, MC Hammer and others), Corporate Newsletters, Mens Style (online) Magazine (as managing editor),screenplays (well, okay so not so much about the money there) and Restaurant Reviews (for free food!) Now… I’m writing for love and what I LOVE are young adult mystery novels.

Writing for YA

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