Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Teen Brain


Mark Twain once said, "When a child turns twelve, he should be kept in a barrel, and fed through the bung hole, until he reaches sixteen...at which time you plug the bung hole."

In my previous life, as a child and family therapist, and then a special education teacher, I attended workshops studying the teenage brain.

And the research showed there were viable differences!

Apparently, the area of the brain that weighs priorities and plans ahead, doesn't fully develop until the late 20's!

So yeah, my teenage self was really awkward and irresponsible. I put myself in situations that I only marvel at now.

Which brings me to why I write YA novels:

*Your MC can get into lots of trouble with adults and peers, which helps drive the plot.

*You can ramp up the action, while their teen brain tries to catch up. They'll spend a portion of time reasoning through it, one way or another. For better or worse.

*Your MC gets to experience all of those firsts: kisses, love, crushes, etc.

Because, if you think about it, you will NEVER have those firsts again.


(sources: Judith Newman at Parade, Brisbane Times, life123.com)


P.S. Head over to Shannon's and critique an anonymous excerpt!

17 comments:

Kelly said...

What? Teens don't weigh decisions? :) Good stuff. I'm going to try my hand at YA next. I'm excited to get into the teen mind!

Creepy Query Girl said...

lol, yes having teen characters does give us loads more ammo to move the plot along. Wow, Mark Twain must have really hated adolescents. Wonder why huck finn wasn't stuck in a keg with a bunghole...?

Anne said...

I did a lot of stupid things in my teens. Luckily I now know what advice I can give my children to keep them safe. It's a wonder I survived at all.

Melissa said...

I was totally stupid as a teenager. No kidding.

Those reasons are why I like writing YA. It's all the firsts and you can get away with so much more. And, honestly, it's more fun. (I think)

SharleneT said...

I KNEW I hadn't reached 20, yet! Thanks for the clarification, Christie... Phew! I thought I was just crazy... but, no, I just haven't grown up... LUV you! Come visit when you can...

Shannon said...

Ah, the teenage mind. It's so much fun! :)

Thanks for the shout out! I appreciate it! This week's volunteer is generating a lot of great feedback! Thanks again!

Shannon

Melissa Gill said...

We were just talking about that very thing in book club Tues night (The book we read was The 13 Reasons Why). How it realates to teen suicide and teens not being able to think through the consequences of their actions.

I agree, it makes for great story.

Matthew Rush said...

Oh man. I was an absolute TERROR as a teenager. A terror and an idiot. But eventually I grew up, learned a little something about life, and got a clue.

I'm so lucky my daughter is nothing like me. Well, actually she has the good parts, just not the bad.

But you're right; this is the exact reason it is so fun to write about that time.

Maddy said...

I must have peaked early because I was very responsible/ mature as a teen. Now, I can't keep up with my day -to-day responsibilites, especially at work! I do love to live vicariously through teen protagonists since my teen years were pretty mundane!

Ben Spendlove said...

My views on this have changed substantially since I started writing about teens. A few months ago, I wrote a long letter about this very thing to my sixteen-year-old self:

http://bcspendlove.blogspot.com/2010/06/teen-disease.html

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I read a study on just what you're talking about. I guess there are real chemical reasons why teenagers are such trials. But like you said, the decision making chaos of the teenage brain provides lots of opportunities for adventure.

blueviolet said...

Wow, never really realized how much was going on (or not) during that age period!

Meredith said...

I love writing about teenagers! Definitely more impulsive and fun than people my age :)

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Great post, Christina. I didn't know about your former life. Cool stuff.

And thanks for the reminder. I was going to link Shannon's post this morning and forgot. Better go fix that now!

Lourie said...

I was totally perfect in every way and of course I knew it all. HA! It's amazing how lame your parents are when you are 16 and wise and all knowing they become when you hit 21. ;)

Dina's Days said...

This is really interesting to me. People change a lot in their 20s too, and I'm really curious to learn what else develops in the brain during those years.

Pamela said...

I love this. I am swooning over the "firsts" aspect. You get to fall in love over and over as the writer. As the reader we get to fall in love twice, with the character and with you, the author. xxooxxoo

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