Lately I’ve been struggling with a flashback scene of two characters, a man and a woman, who ultimately become lovers but who are, in the scene I’m now writing, merely teenagers fumbling through their first date.
I’m finding it tough. Excruciating, actually. Not because I don’t love these two people (I do) and not because I don’t have all the faith in the world that they belong together (because they do). What has me so at odds is how to write age-appropriate dialog for them. I cannot seem to “write down.”
I don’t know about you, but nothing drives me battier than when I read dialog of young characters who have the wit and vocabulary and general worldliness of people FIVE TIMES THEIR AGE.
Now I know today’s teenagers are savvy. Very savvy. They are much sharper and far more informed than I ever was, even in those uber-angst John Hughes years. But really. In any era. In any century. Gramaphone or Ipod, teenagers have to talk like teenagers.
And yet, here I am! Finding myself in danger of committing my peeve. I repeatedly make our hero and heroine too witty, their banter too clever, their interests too unlikely. Because I know how to write them at forty. The trick is figuring out how to write them with that same attraction, that same connection, at seventeen.
Anyone else have or have had this dilemma in your writing? Do you agree that it’s hard to write authentic dialog for characters who are out of your age group, be it older or younger? Are you often tempted to make their conversations smarter/sexier/wittier/generally more or less mature than you know is believable?