Sunday lunch was amazing. It involved the presentation of this year’s Golden Kite awards – and some great food including the chocolate book dessert pictured celebrating 40 years of SCBWI.

After lunch was Krista Marino’s session on Perfecting Your YA Voice. Krista Marino is an Executive Editor at Delacorte Press (Random House Children’s Books)

She had some very clarifying points to make about the elusive YA voice and the elements that contribute to it.

  • Young adults have  limited experience.
  • Diction – distinctive word choices and how they speak them. The way protagonist describes how they relate to the world.
  • There’s a difference between what a teen gets from the world and what an adult does.
  • When you’re young, everything feels like the end of the world. They have no experience to tell them they are going to get over the world.
  • A lot of their experiences is the first time having them.
  • Kids have nothing else to compare their experience to – nothing to tell you life is going to get better. But you don’t realise at time how tough it is.
  • World needs to be as small as your character.
  • Setting plays a part in character – where they live and when?
  • Think of cultural references you can use.


  • Verbal exchange between two or more characters. Way they speak – directly affects their perspective.
  • Dialogue is more than just words – illustrate character’s personality, move plot along. It needs to sound real.

Krista Marino


  • Dialogue only gives part of story – what they are saying but not what they are thinking.
  • Reactions, thinking, feeling – inner monologue – shows personality.
  • Tells you how they are processing information, how they are handling the situation they are in.


  • Can’t get the sense of character
  • no dramatic irony
  • feel distant from character
  • can’t put yourself in character’s shoes
  • lose backstory
  • lose all of character’s feelings
  • Writer needs to know it all but reader doesn’t necessarily need to know.


  • Write down a conversation you overhear exactly
  • Try to use it in a scene you are writing


  • Protagonist can’t be simple, needs to be multi-layered.
  • Every teen is questioning how they appear to others
  • Teenagers are complex inside
  • Don’t always do what we expect but we must know what they are feeling
  • Character needs to evolve
  • Need to show growth in character
  • Voice should grow and change by the end – and every scene is a part of this change.


Voice is made up of

  • writer’s use of diction
  • perspective
  • characterisation
  • dialogue

1.            DICTION – Speakers vocabulary use  – use of words. Use of contractions or not.

2.            PERSPECTIVE – Mental view on project

3.            CHARACTERISATION – Process of conveying info about character – demographics, hobbies, description, ambitions, motivations

4.            DIALOGUE – Verbal exchange between characters, interior monologue

  • Interior monologue lacking in many manuscripts – without this the reader has no idea what physical actions and dialogue mean.
  • Think of your characters on computer screen.
  • A voice in YA is teenager’s outlook on world how they see what’s happening, how they judge situations, beliefs, how they judge other people.
  • Think about how small your world is as a teenager. True for third person narrative and first person.


  • Closest way to get to protagonist.
  • Begin with characterisation of your protagonaist.
  • Character needs to feel real.
  • Characters need to feel real and plot needs to pull you along.

Some Reasons why readers like protagonists? How does character come to life for you?

  • Makes mistakes – gets things wrong
  • Self effacing
  • Champions underdog, great compassion
  • Honesty
  • Feel real
  • Have flaws
  • Can identify with them emotionally

Tomorrow is my final LA Adventure blog post talking about the Monday intensives I attended with editor, Julie Strauss-Gabel and the inspirational Ellen Hopkins.

Happy writing:)