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?
Monday, March 1, 2010
LIKE, TOTALLY GENIUS, YA KNOW?
Posted by kah
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That is hilarious AND SO TRUE.ReplyDelete
I couldn't agree with you more. I LOVE the video. I will post it on my own blog at some point to help remind us all of the importance of speaking properly and with conviction. Thanks for sharing it.ReplyDelete
Love it! I stress to my students they need to speak with conviction. Adults struggle with that too!ReplyDelete
That is a most excellent video, and your post really nails what we should do as writers. Thank you.ReplyDelete
Can't see the video. At work (Shhh! Don't tell!) But I totally agree with what you said. Maggie Stiefvater posted about this not too long ago b/c people were given her crap about her character's vocabulary. I don't want to date my writing or make the teen's voices so unbearable, I wouldn't even want to read it! :)ReplyDelete
Hahaha this video is BRILLIANT. I am loving the funky animation style of the text. *mind boggles* And it's true, not all teens talk like that. I quite enjoy being an articulte teenager. ;) xReplyDelete
I saw that video last week and loved it. I showed it to my 15 year old daughter and we laughed and laughed together. Not all teens talk in that overdramatic way, and I think they appreciate it when we grown ups notice.ReplyDelete
I'm so glad you posted this today. I was re-reading a manuscript earlier this week and wondering if I needed to add some 'likes' into dialogue. LOLReplyDelete
I remember hearing about a new upcoming genrea called "New adult" which is older more mature than teenage youth, but isn't quite middle aged. I think that's the category you probably are referring your writing to. It is called "New Adult" I believe. Check out some info on the net about it.ReplyDelete
I couldn't agree with you more.ReplyDelete
Agressively inarticulate. This may very well be my ghost typing this since I died laughing at that point.ReplyDelete
Sorry if this posts twice. Blogger like hates me today, ya know?
I haven't watched the video yet, but this is such an excellent post! I read the Outsiders in highschool, plus S.E. Hinton's other books, and I'm pretty sure those kids acted more mature in some ways, and then normal-teen in other ways. I don't remember any slang sounding weird to me. I think well-written books don't need to rely on slang to sound pertinent and real.ReplyDelete
As for talking like a teen, I'm guilty of it in the cyber world because it's so easy, but in life I'm not sure I say a lot of slang. Hmmmm. I know I say cool alot though. LOL
And congrats on finishing your wip!!! Must've been something in the Florida air... :-)
Thank you for giving some teens more credit than others. I pride myself on being a little (okay a lot) more mature than others. I'm glad to know that your characters are more mature than normal teens, it's apet peeve of mine when authors assume their audience isn't as mature as they really are. And CONGRATS on WIP completion that is very exciting!ReplyDelete
Love this! Bookmarked.ReplyDelete
Good post! You are right you want your work to be timeless. Heck be honest, you want it to be award winning...(Or at least I do...)ReplyDelete
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I totally agree. I am hugely guilty of talking like a teen like all the time, and blogging like one too. Something for me to look at and make sure I have under control ;o)
Fabulous video. Thanks for sharing!
I've been thinking about this exact same thing lately. I also make the mistake of watching way too many BBC movies, and I always having some 19th century British novel I'm currently reading. As a result, all my characters do sound a little...antiquated, YA KNOW? So I have to go back and add a few more contractions and replace a few big words. However, I stop there because I, like you, shy away from those "pop" words. I'm not a fan. You're right-those words definitely date the novel.ReplyDelete
Haha. I completely agree. There are some books that I loved a couple of years ago. When I reread them now, they just sound wrong. They were great two years ago, but not anymore.ReplyDelete
Those are very good points, Karen. I read a lot of YA and children's books to my kids and I think the timeless books have that maturity you're speaking of.ReplyDelete
You've an interesting commentary on why hyper-slang isn't good. I definitely agree that constant pop culture references give your book a super short shelf life. There's nothing wrong with more mature MCs. They're often more worth reading, because they have more to say.ReplyDelete
This is so very true. Not all teens are the same. And yes, adults are just as "hip" or "bad" as teens these days. I like books with characters who have something to say. Voice is essential in any piece of writing. :)ReplyDelete