A genuinely wonderful agent at a recent conference suggested that my MC’s voice was not YA, and I should age her up. She was absolutely right. It gave me a lot more options plot-wise and I got a full manuscript request.
That said, what the hell is a YA voice? I’ve known more than a few 16-year-olds who enjoy discussing Martin Buber and a 9-year-old who can tell you all about winemaking in scientific terms.
I’ve read, on the other hand, that agents hate it when your teen characters overuse “like” and “like, you know.” Sadly, many highly intelligent young people* can’t get through like six sentences without like saying like, like—like two if they’re, like, talking to someone their own age.
Pontification warning (prepare to jump ship)
I’m a nurture over nature person. Voice is more than a product of age or raw intellect. Content, vocabulary, inflection, etc. are generally a reflection of what we hear and are regularly exposed to. Some 10 year-olds sound like adults and vice versa.
“So what is your conclusion, Carol?” I hear you ask.** A character’s voice needs to be consistent with who she is, and ‘teenager’ is only part of that.
*At my age that would mean anyone under 35.
**Of course I didn’t hear you. That was a figure of speech, you silly.
I have returned from three days in NYC, bearing bagels, my creative energy radiating from every pore. When I win the lottery or write a runaway best seller,* I shall acquire a pied a terre** in whatever the coolest new part of Brooklyn happens to be.
*It still behooves me to understand why you would want your novel to run away.
**Sorry, but I’m tired of looking up “How to type accents on your Mac.”
As I’m getting little done on my novel today (ok, I did add to the list of notes and spreadsheet, but seriously?), I shall again spotlight my son, who is absolutely getting things done. He’s the guy with what Tiki Barber refers to as a ‘Squishy Afro.’
So two agents LOVED my pitch for a novel that I’ve had to age up from YA to Cozy Crime/Chick Lit mashup. I think it’s my milieu* Fluffy, silly, funny (I presume), romantic wiseass is my voice. No good at lush and meaningful.
*I actually spelled that right on my first attempt. All those years of French were good for something.