Okay, so some of you may remember the above dialogue from Airplane. (It's also why occasionally I say that I picked a bad day to stop sniffing glue... for those of you wondering if I had a drug habit.) They pick the most ludicrous person of all to speak "jive" of course--the older lady.
I'm currently listening to an audiobook that makes me want to stick pencils in my ears because the author thinks she speaks jive. She sooooo doesn't. Her twenty-one year old MC has the out-dated image of what a twenty-one year old was like--well twenty-one years ago... or longer. Her dialogue is hokey. The ideas are old-fashioned. It's just not reality. The problem is that this particular writer has been writing for thirty or forty years. Her audience has grown with her and, lucky for her, they're near her age. Okay. Fine. Write for your fans. That's fine. On the other hand, keep your characters over the age of thirty or forty, because you CAN'T write from the viewpoint of anyone under that age. Ugh. It's so terrible that it defies description. I've tried to explain the sheer awfulness of it, but it's just not possible. The two MCs are like caricatures of twenty year olds. I nearly want someone else to listen to it to share the horror that is this book.
So, that brings me to the topic of "speaking jive." I think about half of us are writing for a YA audience--at least at times. We've discussed language before, but it just keeps dancing around my brain.
I once read a review on Amazon from a mom on a book that was vying for the "Breakthrough Novel Award" and she said something to the effect of: This book is simply not realistic because there isn't any swearing in it. On the other hand, I wouldn't let my daughter read it if there was swearing in it. Well, that's what we call "a paradox", isn't it? I think a lot of parents feel that way. How will our intended audience feel about it?
Do they want reality?
Do they want something that dodges around reality without getting their book snatched yet without being patronizing?
That's a fuzzy line. A really fuzzy line.
That's even before you get to slang... and my personal conundrum: texting.
I'm currently writing the occasional text conversations into this book, but I'm not writing them in "text speak" because it would make my head explode. Seriously. It would. My sister and I text back and forth, and I use full sentences and punctuation. I feel like texting is contributing to the fall of grammar as we know it. I was reading a book with text conversations in it--painful. Agony. I felt brain cells dying.
Suddenly, I find myself questioning: am I doing the same thing this author--who has nearly driven me to drink--is doing? Am I attempting to speak jive when really I'm not?
How do you handle these things?
Now, for the Seussian challenge in regards to texting conversations: "Would you, could you in a box? Would you, could you--with a fox?"
No, Sam I am, I really, really couldn't. If it comes to writing the conversations in text speak, I'll cut them--rather than make my eyes bleed. That's even besides the fact that I can't speak that level of jive. Shudder. It makes me want to climb into a corner and sing songs like Kum-ba-ya.