'Awkward's' Creator Reveals the Secrets of Writing Complicated Teens

Awkward MTV Still - H 2011

Awkward MTV Still - H 2011

It wouldn’t be too far of a leap for us to assume that Awkward's creator and executive producer Lauren Iungerich is probably on top of the world. The MTV series is getting solid ratings and good critical reviews. And as she sat on the panel for the show at the Television Critics Association (TCA) Press Tour, it was announced that the network is picking up her pilot, Dumb Girls.

All TCA Press Tour 2011 Coverage on THR

During the panel, Iungerich described where she gets her unique take on high school and more specifically the tortured world of the teen girl. 

“Yeah, there’s no source material for this, my own head, my awkward experiences as a teenager,” she says only half joking. “I think as a writer, you write about things you know. There’s a lot of truth in this… things that happened to me.”

“I spent a lot of time with teenagers when I was developing this show,” Iungerich later adds. “I went back to my old high school and spoke to about 40 of them, asked them about a hundred inappropriate questions, which they all answered, because what kid doesn’t like to talk about themselves?”

Awkward revolves around 15-year-old Jenna (Ashley Rickards), who receives a “care-frontation” letter listing all the things she does wrong, which the series reveals little by little. She becomes infamous in her community when a simple accident is blown out of proportion.

“I didn’t want it to feel like this boring episodic list that we went through,” Iungerich explains. “I tried to dash in bits and pieces of the list in different ways throughout the episodes. Each episode, I wrote from the macro to the micro and I started with theme… Sometimes, the episode is about the letter and sometimes it’s about her stigma, but you will learn everything that’s on the letter by the end of the episodes.”

While Iungerich says much about the show is based on her life and that of people she knows, she does name one person who seems to have inspired her to enter the genre of teen romantic comedies: Iconic 80s film writer, John Hughes.

“I’m not trying to copy John Hughes,” she says. “I watched Sixteen Candles when I was a little girl and it changed my life. It was the most incredible romance I’ve ever seen and it left an indelible impression for me. As I became a storyteller, I thought there was a lack of good stories for today’s teens. So, I thought this was a great opportunity to write for that universe.” 

Awkward airs Tuesdays at 11 p.m. on MTV.

Email: Jethro.Nededog@thr.com; Twitter: @TheRealJethro