My lovely friend, Dominique, posted a great video/poem on her blog. She said it was genius, and I couldn't agree more. Before you watch the referenced brilliant video, let me explain why I wanted to reach through my computer screen and hug Taylor Mali.
As a YA writer, I sometimes wonder if I'm classifying myself in the correct genre. My stories blur that fine line between YA and adult. My teen characters will never be the types to, like, totally talk in that teen slang stereotype. My fictitious crew are more "mature" than most regular teens, but you'd need to read the books for that to make sense and not offend anyone. Even if my stories didn't contain characters living fantasy lives that gave them much more life experience than real-life teens, I would still give teenagers more credit. Not ALL of them say like, or totally, or whatever, or repeat the newest popular phrase or word every other sentence. I believe teens can read a story and relate to the characters emotions, decisions, trials and tribulations, etc. without having to throw in ten pop culture references and forcing their speech patterns to sound like what's popular.
First of all, that kind of writing will date your novel.
Secondly, teens and fads change fast. One old man sings a funny song on American Idol and all of a sudden the newest saying in high schools revolves around "pants on the ground." If you aren't psychic and don't know what will be popular in a year or two (because that's how long it will take your book to make it to print even if you signed tomorrow) it's next to impossible to sound current for that exact moment in time. Plus, don't you want people to read your book years or decades from now and not feel like they are flashing back to the year 2010? (Unless that's the point of your book, then by all means, make 2010 as nostalgic as possible.)
Third, --and this is the most sad, but also kind of funny--adults are starting to sound as bad as teens. (I mean that in the nicest way. I know I'm guilty of it at times.) BUT, as a writer, I hope I can write better than I speak. That I can figure out a way to make my stories and characters feel real and believable in more effective ways than by creating lazy dialogue lines. Please, good literary gods, give me the power to provide my readers with more than that.
I'm not out to change the world by taking a stand against excessive and improper use of adverbs, the word like, or adding ya know? to the ends of sentences that aren't questions. I just want my characters (or at least most of them) to be articulate. I want them to speak with conviction. I want to help make declarative sentences cool again and inspire meaningful speaking with well-spoken dialogue. Not so much that I become a historical writer, using only proper English that doesn't sound current (they have another fabulous genre for that), but enough that I can read my stories ten years from now and be proud that I only slipped in a few current bad habits into my characters speech patterns.
*Steps down off soapbox* Watch the video. You'll not only be entertained, smile, and nod your head in agreement, you'll understand what I'm trying to say...ya know?
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