NaNoWriMo, Teenage Angst and 1st Person

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NaNoWriMo, Teenage Angst and 1st Person Point of View

For my NaNoWriMo I wanted to challenge myself so, I wrote my entire YA story in First Person and the theme, of course, was surviving teenage angst in a completely altered comfort zone.

Title for Now – Beautiful Mess

     Ellie is a fifteen year old girl, who thrives on being the center of attention. At school she is smart and popular, at home she rules the roost.  But, being the apple of her father’s eye, has not worked out well for him. When he goes through his third divorce, he sends her to spend the summer with her mother in the wilds of Alaska. Ellie is extremely unhappy about this, as she has little memory of her mother and feels no connection to her. She’d much rather be Tweeting, Facebooking, spending her days at the beach with her friends, listening to music and shopping.

     When Ellie wakes up in a small cabin, the size of her bathroom, she can’t believe it. How could her father send her to live with a someone she barely knows and into the middle of nowhere? Ellie lashes out, but her behavior is not getting her the attention she is used to getting. Ellie strikes up a friendship with Jonsie, a born and breed Alaskan boy, who kindly pushes her to see her mother and her summer in Alaska in a different light. But, as the days creep closer to her 16th birthday Ellie’s families past begins unraveling and she loses control. What she finds out and what happens has a dramatic life altering effect.  

NaNoWriMo, Teenage Angst and First Person

     I wrote for 14 days straight easily keeping in 1st POV easily, but after that is where my troubles began and I started to falter. I’d come home after a day at work, or working on a flash fiction piece, only to sit at my computer and will myself back into Ellie’s angst ridden, problematic mind. This was not always easy.

     I have Beautiful Mess on my New Year’s Goals to edit. Thankfully, Fiction Groupie posted a great blog titled “Writing Teen Angst” by author Julie Cross. I found her tips and examples very useful and have it saved for later reference. (Please refer the full post for her tips and examples.) Here is my summarization for staying in tune with your teenage characters are:

  1. Embrace Nowhere Land – Understand the space teens live in. It is nowhere and everything is about right now. They are not adults, nor are they children. They live and breathe in this awkward space, and are often expected by adults to navigate it.
  2. Honesty is Not Part of Your Characterr – Navigating nowhere land is difficult, especially when you throw in the combination of not quite understanding yourself or anyone one else. Don’t make your character a saint, have them lie, scream and shout-basically act out. Play with that in the dialogue and inner monologue to show the conflicted nature of your teen character.
  3. Know Your Character – Make your teen character come to life, by knowing how they speak, act talk and think.
  4. Build on Emotions – Layer and build up the emotions and don’t be afraid to leave your character hanging with no one to turn to.

Happy Teen Angst Writing!


5 Comments Add yours

  1. Lara, I love the summary and what you have so far for this story. I was smiling when I read you list re: teenage angst.

    In another life I was the Executive Director of a children’s program in Washington Heights, NY. In the late 80’s with two teens of my own, I proposed a teen employment program. The Board of Directors and everyone else involved shuttered to think we would have hundreds of these “creatures” roaming around.

    X-number of years later, two of the teens that began with us are now fiscal and executive director of the program. They run four teen programs for over 1,500 kids a year and my own two are married and on their own.

    Teenagers, now or before, are a breed unto themselves, and they can smell insincerity ten miles away in a gail wind. If you are true to yourself and you “get into” their heads, your character will ring true to your readers.

    It’s like raising the kids. Once you get over the initial shock and stop being afraid of them, you can do a great job.

    Love this idea and hope you go all the way and write the entire book 🙂

    1. laradunning says:

      That is such an wonderful story. Its so great to hear something positive! Thanks for sharing!

  2. writeanne says:

    All the best with this peice of writing. Very interesting postwith useful advice for YA authors.

    1. laradunning says:

      Yes, I found her tips very helpful. Hopefully when I get into editing that piece that it will really help me stay in character and focused.

  3. writeanne says:

    Of course the above should have ‘piece’ and ‘post with’. I shouldn’t be allowed near a keyboard!
    Sorry. 🙂

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