Getting in touch with your inner teen

I’ve been meaning to do this post for ages, since the week of Octocon actually, when part of the workshop was a ‘how do you write realistically about teenagers? How do you get inside their heads?’

The answers:
1. I cheated for the first few books, which were written in my teens.
2. I am fifteen at heart. Or occasionally thirteen. Seventeen sometimes. Yes, I have moments of grown-up sensibleness – but so do teenagers at times.
3. Paying attention to things that remind me of the intensity, first-time-ness, unfairness, joy and pain of being a teenager.

For #3, music is a great way of doing this and tapping into teenage angst and ecstasy. I think there are some songs and artists that naturally lend themselves to this regardless of how old you were when you first heard them – Avril Lavigne, Taylor Swift, Alanis Morissette, the Smiths, Placebo – and others which will stand out for certain people.

Here be dragons the annotated list of some of the songs that help me channel my inner teen, and why:

Goo Goo Dolls – Iris
I’d like to say this song doesn’t turn me into a ball of angst every time I hear it, but… This one I associate with teenage discos and with whoever it was you liked being with someone else. Or teenage life and whoever it was you liked being with someone else. Or not being with you. (Oh, the agony, the agony… and so much terrible poetry.)

Pink Floyd – Another Brick In The Wall
‘We don’t need no education’ – surely explains itself.

Europe – The Final Countdown
We used to sing this one in school, coming up to the Leaving Cert. Very apt.

Don McLean – American Pie
Wistfulness and nostalgia and joy. This is the song that’s played at the end of every disco at nerd camp, where I spent four of my teenage summers, learned a lot, developed various crushes, and made some terrific and long-lasting friends. So, yeah…

Bellx1 – Eve, the Apple of my Eye
Not one from my teen years, but it played one of the Valentine’s Day episodes of The OC, which I loved passionately for the first two seasons.

The Ally McBeal soundtracks
You’d think these would channel the grownup, career-vs-love, dreamer-vs-realist parts of me. Or even the ‘yum, Robert Downey Jr’ part of me. But I loved Ally McBeal in all her neurotic craziness and in particular because she does so many of the things that you do as a teenager, especially wanting and feeling. And, all right, Robert Downey Jr does sing a couple of tracks as well…

Dire Straits – Romeo and Juliet
Purely ’cause this one was recommended to me by a friend when we were teenagers and I listened to it a lot.

Smashing Pumpkins – Tonight, Tonight
Or any Pumpkins song, really, but there’s something about this one – the promise of something magic and life-altering about one night – that echoes the nights you have sometimes with groups of people, friends or acquaintances. The kind of times you feel ‘infinite’, as Charlie puts it in the perks of being a wallflower.

Jessica Riddle – For Wowzer
Jessica Riddle (now Jessica Jacobs) is a good one for capturing teen experience in general, but this one I like because it’s about friendship and admiration and awe and a little bit of envy all mixed in together, the kind of stuff that tends to get left out of ‘grown up’ songs.

The Moulin Rouge soundtrack
Epic love, high drama, silliness and parody all mixed in together. So, you know, adolescence. With costumes and a lavish set and a nineteenth-century brothel thing going on.

Ani DiFranco – Not A Pretty Girl
Partly because one never feels like a pretty girl in one’s adolescence (unless you did, in which case, what’s wrong with you?*), partly because this is all about the strength of not being reduced to a cute little damsel-in-distress figure.

Michelle Branch – Goodbye to You
Mostly because it was used at the end of the ‘Tabula Rasa’ episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which is a sequence that’s stuck with me, especially Buffy’s I-shouldn’t-but-things-are-kinda-messed-up-now scene with Spike.

The Killers – Somebody Told Me
Jealousy! Angst! Something you can dance to! What more do you need?

The Spring Awakening soundtrack
19th-century angst with a 21st-century soundtrack, and the voices of Lea Michele and Jonathan Groff. The play/musical is about sex and knowledge and growing up, and the songs serve as interior monologues. One of my favourite soundtracks and a definite slipping-back-to-adolescence listening experience.

*Unless of course you felt like a pretty girl while being male, which brings its own issues.

About clairehennessy

Writer (mostly YA fiction), creative writing teacher, tea drinker, book junkie. View all posts by clairehennessy

14 responses to “Getting in touch with your inner teen

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