First off, I hate rap music, so don't read too much into the title. Diddy is basically the only rapper I can think of, or maybe Lil Wayne (is that the guy with two teeth, both of them gold?). Anyway, this post is all about slang as it relates to MG, and how it can help and hurt your writing. Example needed? Okay, here you go.
One of the things I really try to capture in my writing is making my characters “real.” We all do, I know. But not long ago, I believed I needed to include the present-day verbal ticks and mannerisms I hear all the time in my classroom. Words like “own” and “burn” and phrases like “rock my socks” found their way into my writing as a result. Not entirely bad in terms of the intent, since those words are chucked around my classroom like Frisbees on the beach, but the consequence was my writing was annoying to the reader, and these slang words also dated the book for future readers. And the way slang comes and goes, we might be calling a book with words like “own” and “burn” dated in a year or two. Heck, maybe even tomorrow. All signs point to: chop the slangish fat off the meat of the story and let the reader enjoy the tasty meal, and not cringe every time a sliver of fat hits the tongue. Hungry?
So I came to the shocking conclusion that my use of slang was actually hurting my story, not helping it. The cleaver came out and off went the fat. And you know what? I believe my dialogue still rocked the reader’s socks. Oh, sorry, there I go again, slangin’ like Diddy*. Or Lil Wayne. Or whatever.
How about you? What’s your take on the use of slang in MG?
* Um, is he still “Diddy” or must I add the “P”? Now that I think of it, maybe I should have used MC Hammer…or is he now “Hammer”? Is he even alive?