Monday, April 12, 2010


Tip of the Day: There should be a word in the English language for being sure you own a book but being unable to find it anywhere.

I just finished reading BEWITCHING SEASON by Marissa Doyle (I loved it and absolutely must get my hands on the sequel) and I was admiring her use of Victorian slang. "Smashing," "He's a brick," "horripilatious" ... we wouldn't say those words today, but they're all so clear. We know what she means. If only I was having such a fun time with the slang in my work in progress.

When I was writing something set in 1910, I had tons of fun with phrases like "It's jake." But I like research. Now I'm writing a book set in the future, and I feel like my slang is incomprehensible. The book is set a little over 100 years in the future, so people will definitely speak considerably differently. I could go the Hitchhikers Guide/Red Dwarf route and make up words like frag and grok, but I haven't gone that way. It doesn't feel right. Here's what I'm doing:

1. Dropping verbs, especially in conversation between friends. People get less and less formal with speech, so it seems to me that this is a safe bet. Plus "What you doing?" is still fairly understandable.

2. Adding in foreign words. Hola for hello. I toyed with Mira for Look or Listen in dialogue, but on the page, it looked like I have an invisible character named Mira. I didn't want to add in too much Spanish, even though it's probably the easiest other language for readers to understand. My created world leans more towards Russian and Chinese influences. Guess how much Russian and Chinese I know? Nyet.

3. Twisting cliches. I don't know how well this iron bird is going to glide, but it's fun, at least. Yesterday, when a character didn't want his sister to come with him somewhere, I had him say "Who bought you a ticket to this shuttle?" I kind of like that.

The dialogue I'm writing is more 2010 than 2112, but it still needs to read well in this century. It's not supposed to be an accurate representation of how I think people will speak. But it has to sound sufficiently different from how people speak today for readers to believe they're in a different world. It's definitely a work in progress!

So advice would be appreciated. Do svidaniya!

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages


Andrea Mack said...

It sounds like you have some good strategies, Kate. I've been thinking about this issue too, because the novel I'm working on now also has a different time/place setting. Only rarely do I slip in an entirely made up word.

Stina said...

On the bright side, no one's going to call you on being inaccurate. Not like when you write historic fiction.

Sorry, I write YA contemporary. I have no advice to share. Sounds like you're doing a great job as it is. :)

Lisa Schroeder said...

Wow, I've never even thought about that as being an issue!!

I love the phrase - who bought you a ticket to this shuttle? :)

DeenaML said...

Very interesting topic! I love the Chinese and Russian popping in. Why not?

I thought the made up words in THE MAZE RUNNER worked well (slang for sh!t and other words), and I know you love FEED by Anderson which was also very cool. Channel your inner M. T. Anderson and you can't lose, right? :)

Emily Marshall said...

Interesting ideas, Kate. I tend to make up words and sayings now (just because it's fun), so it's probably similar. But I love your suggestions on making something sound futuristic.

Kate Fall said...

Thanks everyone! I don't know why I'm not going with the made up words. I guess because I'm used to seeing it in humor books. IIRC, FEED used words in different ways rather than making them up. I'll have to give it another skim.

Christina Farley said...

What a bunch of great ideas. Have fun with it!

I would make up a glossary, if you will, of words that you want to make up and use. Post them so you will keep them forefront in your mind as you write. Then they'll become second nature to you.