I Was A Teenaged Nerd

And now?  Well…I’m not a teenager anymore.

Ahh, teenagers.  I was one.  I remember it pretty vividly but in my mind I think I was more a teenaged boy than a teenaged girl.  I liked superheroes and sci fi.

Huge props to anyone who remember this nerdy girl show.
Huge props to anyone who remembers this nerdy girl show.

I never knew a thing about makeup and I never knew a thing about boys except that I didn’t understand why girls didn’t just talk to them like they were people.  Thank goodness the talented Melanie Abrahams was on hand at our writers’ group to give us a little insight into the mind of teenaged girls.  Melanie worked as a writer at SEVENTEEN magazine for three years and now graces the internets on www.gurl.com.

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 Blogger full disclosure: I just spent about 40 minutes reading about Valentine’s Day fails, why leggings are totally pants and Mooncup vs. Tampon (Not for the faint of heart).  I thought the Mooncup sounded like something from Game of Thrones – see what I mean about being a teenaged boy.  Wait, what am I writing about again?

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Melanie gave us insight into the main differences between our minds and the minds of teenaged girls.  One of the main differences is that there’s a bunch of stuff we can do that they can’t:  drive, vote, drink – so a lot of teen media is about empowering girls and giving them a voice.  And the teen today is different than we were.  They have never not had text messages.  Soak that one in.  I’ll wait.  They want things delivered in short verse, they’re also used to crowdsourcing everything.  They also very used to having content curated for them, they’re not interested in stuff that’s not specifically for them.  Articles have to grab them in the first paragraph because most likely they’re just skimming unless something grabs their attention.before-text-messages

And then we got a most wonderful list of dos and don’ts when creating content for teens:

DO have a distinct, relatable voice

DON’T be afraid to talk directly to your reader ex. “You might think…” as opposed to “someone might think.”

DO explain new concepts, terms and ideas simply.

DON’T think anything is too complicated for teenagers to understand.

DO be self-deprecating, sarcastic and casual in your language (I have that DO down)

DON’T try to use teen slang unless it’s something you really say.

Stop trying to make fetch happen.
Stop trying to make fetch happen.

DO acknowledge when things are corny or awkward (again I’m good here, my whole life is corny and awkward)

DON’T pretend that you or your characters are perfect.  Teens already know everyone has flaws and they want to see them.

DO back up your assertions with evidence or quotes

DON’T expect them to take your word for it.

DO make pop culture references

DON’T say anything is new unless it happened that day.  A week ago is forever in high school world.  I think it’s something like that whole dog years thing.

Well, I can’t really do any better than a list of dos and don’ts from an expert, so I’ll leave with some other good resources for teens:  Oh No They Didn’t blog: http://ohnotheydidnt.livejournal.com/; Feministing http://feministing.com/; LA Times (for high school coverage), Guardian and The Daily Mail.  Well, gentle readers, looks like the rest of my afternoon is booked if you need me, I’ll be at the mall.

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Main Takeaway: In a way, writing for teenagers is like writing for anyone else – know your audience and treat them with respect.  Teenagers want to read about themselves so be genuine and relatable.

Personal Takeaway:  Melanie said that teen girls don’t have bullying, they have drama.  I thought that really rang true.  I wouldn’t say other girls bullied me in high school but man I did get drama’ed.

It was like this only not as tan.
It was like this only not as tan.

Inappropriate Takeaway:  Someone asked Melanie what doesn’t work and she said surprisingly teenagers don’t want to read anything written about TV shows.  This shocked me considering probably 70% of conversations with me are about TV shows.  I watch way too much TV.  As you can see just from this.

Mom always said, if you sit too close the ghosts'll getcha.
Mom always said, if you sit too close the ghosts’ll getcha.