Monday, October 24, 2011

YA Voice: Vocabulary

Song of the Day: "Don't Carry It All" by the Decemberists

This is my second post on finding the right voice in your young adult literature. Read Avoiding Sarcasm here.

In this post I'm going to cover teen vocabulary. So, here are a few do's and don'ts.

Be Extremely Careful of Overusing Slang
According to Agent George Nicholson, "Slang dates good fiction more easily than any other single thing." Slang also varies by region, so too much slang makes your book non-universal. If you do use a lot of slang, make sure it reflects something about the character and adds to the depth of the story. Don't just use it to sound teen, teens are expert at picking out phony voice.

The best writing has a richness of language, not just a scramble of slang. Use vocabulary that reflects the time and place you're writing about.

Don't Dumb it Down
But at the same time, it has to sound like something a teen (specifically the one in your book) would actually say. Teens, in some ways, are smarter than we give them credit for. As long as the voice is authentic and rings true, teen readers are open to a wide range of voicing styles.

Mix it Up
Don't give all your characters a similar sounding voice. Vary vocabulary and rhythm to create contrast and interest. Some teens never stop talking, some are only one word anwerers. Some rely on humor, some on emotional extremes.

Keep the Narrative in Voice
Make sure the narrative parts are in the voice of the POV character and not the author's. Maintain continuity.


  1. Another great post! Also, we're tied for followers. Bring it on :)

  2. Awesome post! Voice is always a bit hard to talk about, but these are some great ideas. They could easily apply to voice in any genre, but definitely important for YA.

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

  3. Great post. I teach teenage writers and they have all their characters sound the same. Definitely going to share some of your pointers with them. Look forward to following you.