Okay, I’ve wanted to say this for over a year. I think it’s totally creepy to stalk teens just to listen them to talk. It’s creepy to follow them around a mall. It’s creepy to tape record their conversations. It’s creepy to purposefully sit near them and write down what they say. Sorry. (Maybe this is the parent in me?)
When writing for kids, voice and dialogue seem to be factors that make or break a story. Plots can be tweaked, an ending rewritten, characters strengthened, but capturing that teen voice in a YA novel is crucial. Heck, capturing any voice for any age in any novel is important.
Teens aren’t robots in that they all talk the same way. A group of peers might have similar lingo but you might not want to include trendy lingo in your story because eventually it will be outdated.
Kids, even teens, talk a lot like their parents. My children talk a lot like me – similar phrasing and word usage. And as much as I hate to admit it, I sometimes talk like my parents.
And the last thing we really want is authentic teen dialogue (or any authentic dialogue). Read Joanna S. Volpe’s thoughts on the GTLA blog this week.
What’s more important is what they talk about. What they are worried about. And you don’t need to stalk them to find these answers. Read books. Read psychological development books. Read other YA books.
And then, get to know your character – that will determine voice and how he/she talks.
What do you think? What are the limits to eavesdropping? Is there a right and wrong way to go about it? (Feel free to disagree with me!)