How To Write For Teen Girls

By Ben Epstein, Writer/Director

A Question for my Therapist: Why Do I Write for Teenage Girls?

Writer Ben Epstein

Writer Ben Epstein

I am a 29-year-old man and I make much of my living writing about teenage girls. I wrote on the gone-too-soon ABC Family series 10 Things I Hate About You, wrote an MTV movie called The Scene, and two of my feature sceenplays, Confessions of a High School Secret Agent and Who Are You People feature adolescent female protagonists. There are a lot of obvious jokes here: “Wow, teenage girls? That’s awfully pervy of you.” (I promise, it’s not.) “Are you actually a teenage girl yourself?” (No.) “Do you want to be?” (Probably not.) And, as a female friend who knew me growing up said, “Ben, if you understood teenage girls as well as a teenager as you do now, high school would’ve been a lot more fun.” (True.) So how did this happen? Or, perhaps, more importantly, why did this happen?

I don’t have an abiding love of teenage girl culture; I don’t cover my walls with Twilight posters, I don’t squeal over American Idol, I don’t care about shoes or spending a lot of time getting hair ready. Honestly, I arrived at writing teenage girls by accident. When my writing partner and I dreamed up the premise to Confessions, our manager asked if we felt comfortable writing authentically about girls, since we were, last we checked, guys. “Sure,” we said. “That won’t be too hard.”

And it wasn’t, mostly because I remember what it was like to be a teenage boy. I recall what it felt like to be smart but isolated, quippy but insecure, obsessed with girls who may or may not have known of my existence. I remember being on the outside looking in, unsure of how I felt into my body, and uncertain of how that body fit into the larger world. I suppose telling stories for and about teenage girls is just what all good stories are about — finding the truth, and writing it down. All I do is change the pronouns. And maybe sprinkle in a few extra uses of the word “totally.”

Ben Epstein is a Writer/Director living in Los Angeles. He can be followed on Twitter: @benmepstein

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