Writing from the teen's perspective
by Terri Morgan
In mid-November, a couple of days after I self-published my novel, Playing the Genetic Lottery, I was lucky enough to be interviewed on the radio in Honolulu by Carroll Cox for his talk show. I had sent him the first six chapters of my book, which is a memoir-style novel of a 32-year-old wife and mother who grew up with two schizophrenic parents, to read before we talked on the air. Noting that a good half of the book covers my protagonist's teenage years, Carroll asked me if it was challenging to write from a teen's point of view. I just smiled and said "that was the easy part."
Despite being in my 50s, I still have vivid memories of what it was like to be a kid. And since I have not yet reached senility, my memories of my teenage years are still very strong. Perhaps it's because I still am in contact with a lot of my friends from high school. Or, more likely, because one of my favorite sayings is "Getting older is mandatory, but growing up is optional."
That's an adage I've tried to live by. Before you envision a total slacker still living with their parents, using a scooter for transportation, and babysitting for pocket money, let me explain. I'm a responsible adult. I pay my bills on time, run my own business, maintain a household, use my turn signals when I drive, floss daily, pay taxes and my friends and family know they can rely on me to keep my word. Inside this aging body, however, is an inner child who just wants to have fun. So, at the risk of blowing my adult cover, I'm going to admit it. I not only wanna have fun, I make it a priority.
So in addition to washing dishes, reading the newspaper and deciding how to vote in the upcoming election, I play with my dog. I play outside, in my yard, at the beach or on one of the many hiking trails near my home. I play card games with my friends, and I try to laugh as much as possible. And I remember what it was like to be a kid. I remember how wonderful it was to spend hours lost in conversation with a friend, the spine tingling excitement of my first kiss, and how intensely certain songs touched my soul. I remember how good it felt to jump into a cool mountain stream on a hot day, and the thrill of riding waves at the beach. I remember trying out new identities, like Ava does in my book when she changes her name to Caitlin.
My teenage years weren't all fun and games. I clearly remember how my emotions ran wild, how impulsive and impatient I was, how much the approval of my classmates meant, and how much I worried about what my friends thought about me. I remember how my friends and I talked, sentences full of slang and four letter words. I remember, with a bit of embarrassment, how immature I was, despite thinking at the time I knew everything. I remember the frustration when my parents "just didn't understand." I remember reacting in irrational anger at sometimes minor irritants, like finding someone folded my pants in a way that left a crease down the front of each leg. Fortunately most of the angst has faded, but a lot of the fun remains.
So channeling my inner teenager was easy. She's still a big part of me.
Terri Morgan is a freelance journalist from Soquel, California. She is the author or co-author of eight books, including many for young adults. Playing the Genetic Lottery is her first novel. When not working, she enjoys surfing, romping with her dog, and shooting the bb gun her husband bought her for her 50th birthday. She can be found on the web at http://terrimorgan.net. (Where you can also read excerpts from her novel.)
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