Seriously, why don’t characters have to deal with the following:
acne, painful back-ne, braces, split ends, glasses, experiments with hair dye, menstrual cramps, embarrassing bathroom accidents, borrowing tampons, growing hair in weird places, change in voice, mono, stuffing bras to look bigger, the early bloomer and the male attention it creates, dirty jokes, curfew, allowances, the Ramen/ Hot Pockets/ Pizza bagel snack right after school, embarrassing relatives, the trauma of seeing your parents naked, summer jobs, fake IDs.
Drivers Ed, parking passes, detention, sex Ed in health class, the special Ed class, paper football, that one cool teacher, guidance counselors’ useless advice, the ineptitude of assistant principals, boring school assemblies, anti-drug rallies, band, flag squad, picture day, half-day, fire drills, bomb threats, infamous make-out spots, holiday decorations in the hall, stealing food from the lunch line, free lunch, school fights, rent-a-cop security, the shame of taking the bus, carpools, smoking in the bathroom, comparing body parts in the locker room, sweaty gym mats, sports other than football and basketball, home Ec., parenting class and that electronic baby you have to carry around all day, lewd drawings in old textbooks, brown paper book covers, cheat sheets, take-home quizzes, dirty clothes and old food in lockers, back pain and overflowing book bags.
Jansport, Eastpack, Northface, LL Bean with initials on the back, key chains with more decorative tags than keys, kids going to the nurses office when they have to go number two, back-to-school shopping, the school supply store, broken vending machines, year book signing, spirit week, after school programs and the cool feeling of being in empty halls after hours, volunteer work in the front office, the mystique of the faculty lounge, drama club, substitute teachers and the respect they never get, the weirdness of seeing a teacher in the grocery store, class trips out of state, and the weird foreign exchange student.
These are only a few of the many odd memories that come to mind. These are all events that every high school goer can relate to and it can help make your story that more genuine. Little touches here and there will make the story pop and not make it so damn generic. Dig deep and find the root of the teen experience—nothing big, but encounters that you might have overlooked. If you have any more cool benchmarks of high school, feel free to share them in the comment box. I’d love to hear them.