Blog Chain: It’s All in Your Head

Blog Chain time again, and I get to start! Wahoo! My question is “How do you get in the mindset of your genre? Do you research people or facts? Do you just reach into the recesses of your mind for events that would make a good story? Something else?”

This is an interesting topic to me because it’s something I get asked a lot. Do I talk to teens to get into the mindset of that age group? Do I look at old diary entries? What’s the process? I AM around teens (I still tutor, do writing workshops, spy on them at the mall), but the reality of it is that it’s not very difficult to access those emotions I felt as a teen. Even though I am happily married with an adorable 3.5 year old, it doesn’t take much to be transported back to that emotion of the first kiss, first real breakup, first friend who really hurt me or that boy I crushed on for ages who realized I existed too late. The events that shape us as teens or young adults (because college had big moments too and is just as easy for me to access) had a big impact. They made me who I am today. And while I do not necessarily think of the people involved in those moments or miss THEM, that feeling I had–that rawness–is (sometimes surprisingly) easy to access.

There’s a reason why high school reunions are this huge thing–for better or worse. Why people talk about them for months deciding if they’re going or not. You can be successful or not, happy or not, and that all plays into you going. Or you want to go because it’s a time you miss–the good and bad–and you think seeing all those people again will transport you back in time to fix whatever things went wrong back then, to show all those people who you are now, to reconnect with an old love. Why? It’s been YEARS after all. It’s just the way it is. You are not the same person, but the emotions just stay in the your crevices. Like hearing a certain song, smelling a certain smell, just brings you back to whatever moment.

I like to say (um, only half-kidding) that I write YA to give the teenage me the things I missed. Like setting up one of my MCs with the boy she so wanted and having it work out. But it’s not just a writer thing. So many of us think about the things we missed out on (or perceive we missed out on) as teens and try to get them as adults. Like it will change something. Like that’s the reason x, y, and z went astray.

For instance….When I was around 24, I dated a guy from my h.s. graduating class. We didn’t talk in h.s. Not because of anything big–we were just in different groups. BUT he was more popular than I was so if he wanted to talk to me, all he had to do was open his mouth. We went out for about a month or two and much of the time he kept saying how *I* wouldn’t give HIM the time of day back then. OK…perception because, as I said, he NEVER spoke to me. Anyway, it was a weird relationship. I got the impression that he felt he somehow got this unattainable “good girl” from h.s. Like each time we hung out he was with high school Margie and “OMG I’m kissing h.s. Margie” and so on. On my end? Well, he was still friends with ALL his h.s. friends. He still went to the same haunts that were the “in” places to go when we were in h.s. He had the same rituals as back then and I tried to keep up. Because for that month or two I was hanging with the cool kids. And I don’t think I was the girl he thought I was (not h.s. me that he didn’t know at all nor the real me of 24) and I couldn’t keep pretending to be who I wasn’t or trying to figure out who I was when I hung out with him.

So what’s the allure there? Those years of finding yourself, those years of firsts? Why are we so easily able to connect and relive our teenage years more than a decade later?

For those of you who write YA, what do you do? Do you find it easy to go back to those feelings? And those of you writing other genres, how do you get your mind wrapped around the horror, paranormal, fantasy, etc.?

To get into Laura’s psyche, check out her post next!

8 comments for “Blog Chain: It’s All in Your Head

  1. April 22, 2011 at 9:23 am

    Great question!

    I love your answer…remembering the intense emotions from teenhood can be a wild ride. It’s also fun to imagine how things would be different…writing about teen characters gives us a chance to have a “do-over.”

  2. April 22, 2011 at 9:28 am

    A great question! I think it’s easier to get into certain genres than others. I’m a big scifi fan, but wouldn’t know where to begin to craft characters or a plot.

  3. April 22, 2011 at 11:53 pm

    Great question. It’s probably a good thing I don’t write YA, because I was always a truly weird (or different maybe) kid. I never did relate to most of the things all the other kids related to. I was either too far ahead or too far behind (and I haven’t figured out which). When I went back to my 20 year “ruin-ion”, I still didn’t really fit in. Maybe it will be better at my 30 year, but I don’t know that I’ll go. I’m still kind of a strange bird and that’s okay. But I don’t think I’ll ever be able to be part of that crowd. It’s probably just me, but oh well.

  4. April 23, 2011 at 10:35 am

    Oh, man — perception is everything. I married my HS bf, so I’m very connected to those old feelings. What’s funny is I’m also in contact (email and FB) with four guys I dated before him (YAY for very secure husbands). The one I’ve been in contact with the longest (emailing for 11+ years), I knew in 9th grade when he was in 12th, and we dated when I was a HS sophomore and he was a college freshman. One of the weird things we had a lot of in the early months of reconnecting was the perception of who we were back then. I remember him as basically a MAN — we’d run into his friends when we were out and I felt like I should be wearing ankle socks and holding a lollipop. I broke up with him for that reason. But he remembered ME as all-together and more mature than he was! (I guess I had HIM fooled, lol.) I recently talked to one of the guys I dated right before my husband about HS stuff, and HE thought I broke it off because we had a bit of a class divide. I was like, “No, basically you told me to stop dating other guys, then said the L word and scared the crap out of me.” He had no idea! (BTW – one of the “other guys” ended up being my husband.)

  5. April 25, 2011 at 8:38 am

    such a great question…must stew!

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