Monday, May 12, 2008

Is Your Voice Majorly Slangalicious?

Tip of the Day: Nothing says Mother's Day like 1GB of storage. I got a stick drive to organize and backup my writing. It's small enough to take anywhere, so no more emailing myself files from my laptop to my desktop. What do you use for backup?

I'm reading Freaky Friday by Mary Rodgers, which I last read when I was about 13. This may be the first contemporary tween book. It's written in first person and the voice is ginormous. It's like ubervoice. It was published in 1972 and the plot devices are outdated (to talk on the phone in a different room, you have to pick up the phone extension in the other room and run back to hang up the first phone--remember that?). But the voice is so original and the main character is such a character that this book will probably never go out of print. There's a lot of slang. The washing machine breaks with "the most staggeringly horrible noise." Like when "a big crane throws dead cars into a pile and then a compressor thing mashes them all together into one large, tutti-frutti mess." Who wants to avoid adverbs and adjectives when you can use "staggeringly" and "tutti-frutti"?

Which brings me to my problem. I'm writing a book in first person with a 13 year old main character who is also a bit over the top. It's hard to be in character and not be, like, whoa, hauling out the slanginator and BaBam! BaBam! I might have to face the fact that I can't use a made-up word in every paragraph. That I can't add -licious or -riffic to the end of every word in the dictionary. Making up words is so much fun, though. Teens make up words all the time. I make up words all the time. I love verberizing my nouns in staggeringly interesting ways. Verberizing is 50% awesomer than verbing, don't you think? I know in my heart that my main character would talk this way in RL (if she existed).

Then there's the curse word issue. In older YA, it's okay for the main character to express such emotions as "Gddammit, I really f##ed up." I don't see me dropping the f-bomb in this book. I can tell you, there aren't easy substitutions for the curse words, which may be why they're so popular. Freaky Friday uses "cripes" and "crum" but they make me think of British cartoons. I've been using "rats" like Charlie Brown. But what do you think of "sucktastic"? Think I could use that?

Somehow I don't think "sucktastic" has ever made it into a John Grisham novel, which makes me wonder why anyone would write for adults when they could write this instead. The freedom to use "sucktastic" is one to be celebrated but not taken lightly. I must consider it--on revision. Because it's going in there now. BaBam!

How do you rate on the slangometer? Are you majorly slangalicious, or are my made-up words making your eyes cringe? Have you invented a word you're particularly proud of?

-- Kate, Miss Apprentice Writer


Ghost Girl (aka, Mary Ann) said...

I love "sucktastic"! It's the kind of thing kids will do. And I think you've hit the issue on the head...if you cling too specifically to currently, it won't necessarily carry for very long. But when you put together something colorful and descriptive, it's meaning can last even if the basic slang doesn't. (Did that make any sense?).

I don't mind an occasional "damn" or something in YA, but I'm not into the whole "f-bomb" dropping voices that want to be "edgy."

What it comes down to is the voice. Are your creating a vivid and believable voice? If it works, have fun with it!

Emily Marshall said...

Kate, I love this post, because I love slang. I make up words in real life all the time. Most of them I can't remember, because it's done on the spot. I agree, why write for adults when you can use fun words like the ones you mentioned.

Only problem is I've heard that slang doesn't go over well in alot of books, because it feels like the author is trying to hard. I really don't know if I agree with that or not. Made up ones are okay, but slang that can date itself is a big no-no, I think. Who knows. Juno was big and there's tons of made up slang words in that movie.

DeenaML said...

I LOVE me some slang! And I never read FREAKY FRIDAY; only saw the movie. But I like a sprinkling of made-up words in my YA novels.

I'm reading a YA now where the teen is describing how his peers laughed at him when something scared him and the word "Goodness!" popped out of his mouth. I was loling at that one last night -- sometimes the OPPOSITE of what you expect one to say is the most funny.

Kristina Springer said...

Love sucktastic. And I try not to swear too much in books because they just make me take them all out anyway. :-)

Lisa Schroeder said...

Sucktastic is so cool! I don't really make up words, but between sucktastic and manpanion, ya'll are making me want to!

Hillary said...

I always make up words! It's so much more fun that way. I'm always running around saying thing like fabutabulous and _________licious. It's just my way of talking and it's super-duperlicous funtastic!

Kate Fall said...

Talking with my writer friends definitely keeps me in "making up words" mode. Fabutabulous is way cool and Manpanion is classic.