Image by Thomas Hawk
(And The Way To Keep Them From Fouling Up Your YA Fiction)
In ten years, will anybody understand you should you say “fo shizzle?”
More than in almost any other genre of writing, writers of young adult content should be intensely conscious of the reality that what is cool today is ho hum tomorrow. In a youth culture tendencies apparently transform by the hour and where information is instantaneous, a great piece of writing can quickly be spoiled by out of date references.
“Any pop culture references to trend or TV shows change so fast,” says Dr. Montana Miller, an assistant professor with the Popular Culture section of Bowling Green State University. (Yes, they’ve an entire section that analyzes nothing but popular culture.) “In a way the attempt to be important to the youthful audience by putting in these references is ineffective as the references are so immediately dated.
Since the real publishing of a novel typically takes a year (not counting the time it requires to compose the very first draft), shout outs to famous people, popular television shows, political scandals, or tendencies will most likely ring untrue to young adult readers once the publication is really read. Practically, pop music stars who now are the focus of extreme devotion on myspace will likely be has beens by the time your novel is released.
Are there exceptions to this? Are there things, folks, or events that become entrenched in the head that is predominating that they’re going to fly as pop culture references? “Barbie is constantly going to be a touchstone for everybody,” Miller notes. “But I believe that very few things become that worldwide and as long-lasting as Barbie.”
Barbie, however, has consistently wormed her way to the unconscious fantasies and desires of little girls (and likely small lads also) since she was created in 1959. Barbie has earned the right to be properly used as a cultural benchmark everywhere, only by longevity. However, what about other items that are substantial? Anybody recall Tickle Me Elmo? Simply the parents who clubbed Christmas to each other one to hijack the neighborhood Toys R Us to make their kids’ fantasies come true. The thing was likely stuffed by the youngsters in a cabinet someplace, and also don’t even remember they desired it.
Media is a rough call additionally. These all, music, films, television shows are a tremendous portion of the American encounter. And individuals of the old generations had much fewer choices for media and entertainment. Casablanca was seen by pretty much everyone and understands what it really is. Pretty much everyone saw Leave it to Beaver because there were just three stations on the old black and white Zenith, and two of them did not work if the weather was not good.
Now, however, an internet search of ‘popular culture’ will net you more than 2 million entries. It is impossible that each young adult who reads will possess the very same ethnic references now, let alone recall them in ten, or five years. So, normally, the rule of thumb ought to be to avert popular pop culture references in your writing.
At least two exceptions to this rule exist, though. The sci fi geeks who regular Comic Con share a passing knowledge of things such as the Dungeons and Dragons, and more than likely understand the Star Wars mythology role playing game along with the old Star Trek show. Sub cultures have their very own history and language, thus in case you are comfortable with that world using their very own inner pop culture references might work, but you need to be totally sure you do understand what you are speaking about.
The second exception, based on Miller, is the instance where a teen writes the accounts of their very own encounter. If so, pop culture references that may go rancid are satisfactory as the bits are more like documentaries or memoirs, and thus the point of view is that of a real man who’s recounting the facts of her or his life. Although labeled as fiction, the novel draws on Guene’s own experiences, and due to this and due to her age, ethnic references in it mechanically keep their credibility.
Another dilemma in writing for the young adult crowd is the usage of slang, which Miller notes is still “extremely regional.” The term for something that is trendy in San Francisco, (“hella”) is distinct from the term for amazing in New England (“terrible”). The terms transform and mutate so fast that including them could be uncertain, since it is used by most adolescents although net and text might look worldwide. In five years will remember that? Difficult to say, but it is probably safer to leave it outside.
All in all, the best bet for YA writers will be to catch a reader’s focus with universal themes and characters rather than popular pop culture or slang. “If you are an elderly writer writing for this particular crowd,” Miller proposes, “the most crucial idea to capture the devotion and love of youthful readers will be to concentrate on subjects of relationship, gossip, envy, treachery, the matters that keep readers attached and grasped. They react to story and plot lines and subjects which are becoming even more extreme in this world that is competitive now. Children wish to see the type of pressure they’re actually under now represented in the stories they read.”