Thursday, April 12, 2012

Bookanistas Guest Post & Giveaway with YA Author Aaron Karo

Hello everyone! I'm excited to have debut YA author and comedian, Aaron Karo, here today to talk about the importance of voice in today's YA and how he created the voice of Chuck Taylor, the main character of Aaron's new YA novel, Lexapros And Cons (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, April 10th, 2012).

Writing in the 1st person can be tricky, so read Aaron's great post to find out how to make your MC more engaging and real, just like Chuck Taylor in Lexapros And Cons! And be sure to enter the giveaway to win a copy of this great debut YA! Take it away Mr. Karo!

My First Person
Since the the protagonist in Lexapros and Cons, Chuck Taylor, suffers from OCD, he spends a lot of time dealing with repetitive thoughts, worrying, and talking to himself. Chuck is not only the narrator, but he also carries a heavy burden of the dialogue. Therefore, I needed to make sure his voice was spot-on. So, how does a 32-year-old man write the voice of a 17-year-old boy? Well, quite simply, I wrote Chuck as the younger version of myself.
All of the OCD symptoms that Chuck suffers in the book – including, as you will read in the soon-to-be-infamous first sentence, his tendency to count how often he masturbates – are actual symptoms that I too have suffered from. Granted, not all of the symptoms hit me at once as they do Chuck (for instance, I haven’t counted how often I you-know-what since about 9th grade), but they were all very real nonetheless. So that aspect of getting inside Chuck’s head was made easier by the fact I simply had to get inside my own head.
This is my first YA novel, so developing believable dialogue between the characters was a concern early on. Before I started writing, though, I made one crucial decision: I would not “write down” to the age group. If you’ve actually spoken to a teenager recently, you know they are some clever bastards. Their vocabulary is more sophisticated than one might think and they’ll spot a faker right away. So Chuck really speaks the way I do. Sure, there are a couple of instances where he seems preternaturally introspective, but I felt it was better to err on that side rather than reining him in. 

Chuck’s friends and classmates were more of a challenge, since not only are they not based on me, they’re not based on anyone and for the most part are purely fictional. In those instances I used Chuck’s voice to guide me. A lot of Chuck’s conversations are rapid-fire repartee where I knew what Chuck was going to say and I let the other characters react to him accordingly. There are very few scenes where characters other than Chuck are talking to each other. And that’s simply because it didn’t feel as organic to me. Without Chuck in the room to tell me if the other kids were talking funny, I couldn’t really tell.

Strangely, the characters that were the toughest to develop were the older ones – including Chuck’s parents and teachers. Theoretically, I am closer in age to them than I am to Chuck. Yet it was still an undertaking to get their voices right. I’m just not privy to a lot of conversations between adults and teenagers. Oftentimes I just went by gut and then went back and massaged any dialogue that felt forced in hindsight.

Ultimately I prefer writing in the first person because it provides a captain for the ship. Without Chuck to lead Lexapros and Cons, it might have crashed and burned. Since there’s so much of me in Chuck, I really enjoyed hearing him chatter away incessantly. I honestly spent less time trying to figure out what Chuck would say next, and more time trying to get him to shut up!

To enter the giveaway:
1. Leave a comment on "voice" in writing and how you find yours or tell us your favorite YA voice from other authors.
2. Follow this blog, if you don't already, because I'm needy. 
3. That's it, easier than ordering take out! Winner will be announced this Wednesday!

More about Aaron:
In 1997 Aaron Karo wrote a funny email from his freshman dorm room that eventually spawned his celebrated column Ruminations, the humor website, and three books: Ruminations on College Life, Ruminations on Twentysomething Life, and I’m Having More Fun Than You. Also a nationally headlining comedian, Karo has performed on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, and his one-hour special Aaron Karo: The Rest Is History premiered on Comedy Central in 2010. Lexapros and Cons is his first novel.

Find Aaron on Twitter! 

More fab Bookanista reviews!
Christine Fonseca  gives a shout out for REGRET
Carrie Harris swoons for STRUCK
Corrine Jackson cries heaps over STORY OF A GIRL
Stasia Ward Kehoe loves up THE LIBERATION OF MAX MCTRUE
Debra Driza gives away WANDERLOVE
Katy Upperman delights in GRACELING
Tracy Bangha shares some CLARITY and PERCEPTION
Jessica Love delights in THE SCORPIO RACES  


  1. Oooh, I've wanted to read this since I first saw that snazzy cover :)

    I totally agree that first person makes voice a lot easier to digest--I can never seem to get a handle on third person voice.

    I think my all-time favorite voice author is Salinger. He's the reason I started writing with any amount of seriousness.

    1. Crystal, it's a great book with a great voice! You'll love it! I just started writing my first novel in the first person and it's such a different feel. I'm very connected to the MC! :)

  2. Love to hear other writers' takes on getting voice--1st person in particular--to fit the novel just right.

    Thanks, Hilary and Aaron!

    1. Tere, it's so important in first person and tricky. I've read a few 1st person voices lately that have fallen flat. Aaron did a great job of creating a dynamic MC!

  3. Candie Mertog4/17/2012

    This book is great! Just finished it last night!

  4. CRYSTAL IS THE WINNER!! CONGRATS CRYSTAL! I sent your addy to the publisher and the book should be on its way soon!


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