Wednesday, September 17, 2008

We Don't Actually TALK Like This

*Note: the Flowers in the Attic review is taking a while to materialize. Taren asked, so if she remembered I said yesterday that I'd post it today, maybe someone else did, too - this is to let you know.

*clears throat*

Up I was, during some weekend I can't remember, reading a book the title of which I can't remember, and neither the author, and as you can tell, I'm really on top of stuff. (It's the reviewer-shuffle-of-books thing in play here.)

I do remember, however, that the expression "all the rage" was used. And that I cringed when I read that - who talks like that?

And now I've just been super focused on how the author's "teen" voice is like. It's not so much that the narrative needs to sound like a teen - I learned my lesson with Take Me There by Susane Colasanti. It's more like, does this captivate me? Will it captivate other teens? In fact, Ally Carter said it best:

There is no such thing as a "teen" voice. And no amount of hanging out in shopping malls and eavesdropping on the kids at the next table is going to teach you to write in a manner that will appeal to those kids.

Furthermore, trying to mimic those readers is an almost surefire way to make those kids hate your book. They know imitators when they see them. They don't take kindly to pandering.

Then my friend emailed me today with some WTF phrase from a book. So I had to make a post. Maybe create some sort of a teen-slang-don'ts guidebook in the comments section (but all thoughts are welcome, really) if anyone's got a horror story to share.

12 comments:

Amee said...

Haha, I'm the friend! :P

Khyrinthia said...

Someone used the expression all the rage? Really? When was that book published? xD

Now you're making me think of stupid phrases I've read, but I can't think of any. This is going to bug me now.

Kelsey said...

Same here, Khyrinthia. There are a few books I've read that the "Teen" language was a big time imitator, it was embarrassing. But most of the time, they're spot on in my opinion.

Ruth said...

Some of my pet peeves:

The word bling. In all forms. If you change it into some even stupider version of itself (blingalicious, blingtastic, etc.), I hope your editor and your teen readers smack you.

Valley Girl speak. Excessive use of the word "like" or "so". (Especially if it's elongated to "sooooooo".) Example: "He's like sooooooo gangsta!" Do not use the movie "Clueless" to refine your teen voice.

Multiple exclamation points. I agree with Terry Pratchett, they're a sure sign of a diseased mind.

"All that and a bag of chips." Please, this was lame three seconds after its debut in 1995.

Fly is a noun or a verb, not an adjective.

"Word up." No. Just, no.

Same goes for "Booyah" and "Yeah, boi!"

"I'm hangin' with my peeps." You hang out with marshmallow chicks?

Taren said...

Oh my gosh, yes. I can't stand authors that try to be "with it". Thus, every book is inundated with dozens of pop culture references that are dated in six months. I don't know about anyone else, but I'm perfectly capable of having entire conversations without mentions of Britney, Lindsey, the Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus, and whoever else is in the gossip magazines this week. My advice to those authors: stop trying so hard! The older you are, the more pathetic it looks. Chances are, if we're reading your book, WE READ BOOKS. We can handle it if you'd like to put some substance out in the world.

CC said...

Curse words are the only teen "expressions" that won't date a book. The F word is today what it was yesterday, and what it will be ten years from now. It is literally better to use "sh*t" in a novel than it is to use a current slang phrase that, by the time the book reaches shelves, will most likely be passe.

C. Leigh Purtill said...

I completely agree with CC...one of the biggest concerns as a writer is "dating" a book. Slang, TV and product mentions are surefire ways to make sure your book is old before it even makes it to the shelf. I try *really* hard not to do that unless it's to be ironic or make a statement.

Alea said...

I think it can be hit or miss. I love the slang in the movie Juno! I wish I talked more like that then I actually do. I know some people were annoyed with it but I loved it!

Amee said...

I agree Alea, I loved the Juno talk. If only I had been that creative when I was a teenager. :P

Little Willow said...

Slang can really date a book (or a movie, or anything). The acceptance of or irking due to slang in books definitely depends on the context and the frequency. I agree that some try too hard to be hip and timely - and some even cite things that are hot during the first draft but already passe or old news by the time they are published.

Megan Kelley Hall said...

Your post made me nervous, so I did a quick search through my manuscript to make sure that my book wasn't the one you were talking about.

Actually, I made a conscious effort NOT to use those type of "teen" phrases in my novel, because I completely agree with you: it's insulting to the reader. Plus, once you use a popular phrase or shorthanded way of speaking (LOL=UGH!), you automatically date your writing.

I think YA and college-aged readers are better read than most of the "adults". I remember reading a study that said that the average person reads less than five books a year after they graduate from college. So you guys are reading a heck of a lot more than the adults in this world, which is why it's frustrating to see YA authors writing down to you.

I think that most YA writers, however, are making a conscious effort to keep the quality of their writing higher because your expectations are a lot higher than when most of us were teens.

Feedback like this is great. You have no idea how wonderful it is to have a dialogue between authors and readers. It helps us as much as it benefits the reader. As always, I must say how much I love YA bloggers. You guys rock! (Oh, did I just date myself by saying that? Should I have said 'da bomb! Just kidding...) ;)

m.

Steph said...

Just a quick note cos I gotta run - Megan, it wasn't directed toward your book :P

But I would agree - generic slang is fine ("rocks" is still in circulation), but, like, "fo shizzle"?

Yikes.

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