This is going to be tougher than I expected. After all, I haven’t been a teenager in decades, so I’m kind of out of touch. Even at work, I realize that teenagers of today aren’t like the ones when I was growing up in the 90’s. So, let’s get to it and see how lame these tips are going to be.
- If you are writing a story that takes place in modern days, you really should research teenagers. The workaround of having your protagonist not be into the same stuff as their peers while loving ‘vintage’ things can only go so far. It’s pretty lazy and can cause some story issues, especially if you don’t want them to be a social outcast. Just try to find out what teenagers are into in terms of pop culture, clothing, and slang to make the character seem more real.
- Try very hard to avoid making your teenager as mature and wise as an adult. We tend to forget this mistake when we get in the zone, especially at first. Once the character is locked into our minds, we are less likely to have them act beyond their years. Still, an author can forget that a teenager is prone to making bad decisions from time to time. They are in a big learning stage of life here, so they shouldn’t be perfect.
- Not every teenager has an interest in romance. Even if they want to be with someone, they won’t necessarily be making that a fixation. Some teenagers are more interested in friends, a job, classes, and their future in general. Hormones do play a factor, but it doesn’t mean every teenager is a lustful horndog.
- Emotions are not always stable or perfect for the situation. Teenagers can get frustrated, excited, depressed, and other extremes more easily than most adults. So, you can have them overreact to certain stimuli. For example, they may get loud and celebratory when they achieve a goal that seems minor to an adult like getting a B+ or parallel parking successfully. You have to think like a teenager and have them react accordingly. Not all the time, but enough to make sure the reader doesn’t think they’re really reading about an adult who is lurking in a high school.
- If you are writing about teenagers in other historical eras, you need to do your research. It’s the same as #1, but you can’t talk to a teenager from that period. You need to read up on things. They will always have different skills, world views, and experiences than modern teens. After all, child labor and marrying young being legal weren’t as far in the past as we’d like to think.
- Teenagers in fictional worlds can be seen as more malleable than those of Earth. You have to make everything from scratch there. An author can even have them act more mature than one would expect from that age. Maybe they’ve seen enough death and horrors to erase their innocence. This does mean you’re working with a traumatized teenager though, so looking up mental health in that age range should be done. One thing that is always true is that teenagers always have some level of immaturity even if it rarely turns up.
- GROWTH! I saved the big one for last. Teenagers are in a stage where they are rapidly growing. Not only physically, but emotionally, socially, and mentally. More so than adults, they need to change as the story progresses. It can be in leaps and bounds or oozing ahead, but they cannot go back to their original form. This is because people see teenage protagonists as symbols of maturation. If they don’t grow then they failed and there goes the connection.