Thursday, March 1, 2018

Find Voice Over by Jaimie Engle

Young Adult Perspective in Story

“Mom, is that you?”

Ever notice how when your mom calls or your best friend or your spouse, you instantly know it’s them by their voice? Or how about the way you can tell if they are sad, happy, frustrated, even lying to you by their tone? This is the difficulty of writing in general: VOICE.

What is Voice?

Voice can be complicated. It isn’t cookie-cutter and there are many per author:

1.      Author voice – the flow or flavor that is distinct to you in the same way that a song can start and you know who is singing it
2.      Narrator voice – will always carry a bit of the author voice, no matter how hard we try not to, much in the way that an animal in the wild will always have a degree of bias in research because someone is watching
3.      Character voice – Many different authentic voices must be present to have a book that reflects reality, particularly a compelling main character

Now add to this that you’re a middle-aged woman writing as a teenage boy or girl and the party really gets started. Find voice? Over!

What is Voice in YA?

In order to write like a young adult, you have to think like one and this is not easy. Our adult lives are overburdened with:

·         life lessons
·         expectations
·         responsibilities
·         wisdom

These thwart our YA voice and cause our author voice to take precedent, crafting a story that sounds unauthentic and forced. Should we hang out with teens? Show up at the mall or stalk on Snapchat to grab authentic voice for our YA books? I wouldn’t recommend either in this day and age.

I have an advantage…

I am living with two young adults, one nearing adulthood and the other just teetering on puberty. Even still, my relationship to them is as a parent, so I’m not readily seeing life through their eyes. And in all truth, this is how you find voice over saturating voice with your own prejudices, life experiences, and judgments. Remember what it was like to be a teenager? You should if you’re writing from the POV of one. Things like:

·         Life was fragile
·         Delicate
·         Easily turned upside-down
·         Just as quick to peak on cloud nine
·         Relationships were the most important things in the world
·         If one broke, so did you

Close your eyes and imagine the first boy who gave you butterflies in your stomach. The first time you held hands with someone you liked or heard that they liked you back. Remember that moment when he crushed your heart and found someone else so fast it was like you didn’t exist. Now get away from the opposite sex and remember how uncomfortable you were in you own skin. Did you ever burp or fart in the middle of class? Say the wrong answer? Forget to wear underwear on a gym day? Life could be humiliating, and everything was a huge ordeal.

To find voice in YA, you must remember

Everything is anything and nothing at the same time. Life is music and laughter, tears and experiences. It’s a place where you aren’t a child anymore, but you still lack the skills to be an adult. It’s hugging a stuffed animal one day and having sex the next. It’s dizzying, beautiful, and awful. In a word, the young adult life is VIRAL. When something goes viral, it moves from commonplace to an elevated status in an expedited timeframe that can’t possibly support itself and eventually to becoming obsolete. That is the day and sometimes the hour in a life of a teenager. Couple that with hormones and insecurities, and you’ve found your YA voice all over again.

What a YA Voice Is NOT

I think what too many authors get wrapped up in are the trends in society and the technology that today’s teenager is exposed to. They spend more focusing on what society says is acceptable in today’s world and making that the focal point of their novel instead of showing teens as fragile, inconsistent, and somewhat predictable. They work hard to include new trending tech and jargon, without paying as much attention to the attitude and reason behind their choices. I recommend as an author that you and I stop trying to write YA and begin instead to start remembering our life as a YA.

Jaimie Engle writes dark thrillers for teens where magic turns ordinary into extraordinary. She loves weaving lore into her stories and taking her readers on wondrous adventures. Engle is a cosplayer, podcaster, entrepreneur, and speaker at schools, conferences, and colleges. She has indie published several award-winning books and created WickBooks™ story-scented candles to enhance the readers experience. Support her at and follow at


  1. So true about there being more than one voice!

  2. I LOVE this: Young adult life is viral.

    excellent post!