The definition of Teen Speak is muddled at best. Too much teen slang and you’re trying too hard. Too little means your characters might not be relatable enough. Too much melodramatic fluff and your characters are insipid. Too many heavy themes and you could run the risk of writing over the reader’s head or worse, boring them.
This past weekend, I was on the phone with my younger sister who is very much in the throes of teenagedom. While talking with her on her home phone, her cell phone rang. Below is the side of the conversation I was able to hear:
“Oh my God. Are you serious?”
“I can’t believe it.”
There were a few other things said (things that I’m certain were beyond the tiny realm of coolness I occasionally get to visit). I won’t bore you with the rest, but you get the idea. Not exactly the stuff novels are made of. And, really, not all that different from how we adults speak at times. But after she hung up, she told me what the conversation was about and . . . there was the story. Something that could be the plot or subplot in a YA book. Something that would make people want to stay tuned to see the outcome.
Being the older sister, I listened and sympathized while in the back of my mind I wanted to tell her it wasn’t the end of the world. That life would go on and what seemed liked the most horrible thing in the universe at the time, wasn’t. But I didn’t. Bottom line: it mattered to her.
Pop culture, slang, or any other thing writers use to relate to teens will never make a story as relatable as understanding the way they think and feel. It's hard to keep up with the teen speak, and really, it isn't a necessity. A simple journey back to that time in our own lives will help us write something that will resonate with the youth of today.