That can sometimes make writing a story with younger characters difficult. In fact, as I worked on one of the revisions to my first novel, I found three mistakes in this area that I continued to make throughout the early versions.
1. Even though I was a teen in the 1990’s that doesn’t mean my characters are. It certainly won’t mean my readers are.
While going through my first revision, I felt that something was missing. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it…Oh yes. There’s this thing called the internet. I believe kids today might be familiar with it. So yes. I wrote an entire novel about teenagers without one time mentioning a computer.
2. Teenagers don’t use their parents’ land line to call their friends.
I actually had a 14-year-old in my novel take the phone book (the PAPER phone book), look up a phone number, and dial from the telephone hanging on the kitchen wall. Sigh. Does anyone under the age of fifty (myself include) even know how to use a phone book anymore? And even if we did still use those clunky bricks of wasted dead trees that show up on our front porch twice a year, the chances of any personal numbers we’d like to call being included in it is next to zero.
So, no. Teens are not using phone books. On a sort of related note, double check to make sure your characters are never caught “flipping open” their cell phones. I believe I’m the only American left with a flip phone.
3. And a word about music.
Real people listen to it all the time and you want your characters to be real. But just because I liked classic rock twenty years ago, doesn’t necessarily mean my characters do. One the other hand, just because I listen to Top 40 girl bands, doesn’t mean that my characters do either. And stop smirking about the Top 40 thing.
While it’s tempting to throw in references to bands I liked when I was 15, there is a legitimate risk that it’s not relevant to the intended audience. Likewise, throwing in references to current popular music might seem trendy on the surface, but it runs the risk of becoming dated in a few months, or even worse, it could give the appearance that you’re trying to hard to pull in modern pop culture, and thus coming off as artificial.
I think the best solution to look at it on a character by character basis. If the character was a real person, what kind of music would he listen to? If it matters, through it in. If not, leave it out.
So these are just three mistakes I’ve made in the first draft of my YA novel. I’m sure there are plenty more to discover. What are yours?