The Art Of Slang

A couple of months ago, I received an ARC – an advanced copy of a book to the layperson – and the first thing that jumped out at me when I was reading it was that the exposition had a lot of slang.  Like, modern day slang, and  found it so distracting that I actually had to stop reading it.  I mean, I’m well versed on the slang of the day, but the story wasn’t flowing smoothly because that little voice in my head – the one that just reads a page, ignores the dialogue tags,  and just lets me get lost inside the story – wasn’t there.  And I’m not saying this author’s story telling was shitty, because the story in itself was okay, but the I had a hard time getting a feel for the setting because it wasn’t being shown in the traditional sense.  It was being told in the first person narrative, and it was much like listening to a sixteen year old girl telling me about her day.  It was exhausting.

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I’m not sure I can even finish reading it.  So, now I’m thinking that one should be careful when using slang in exposition, and perhaps save it for dialogue.

The novel I’m writing takes place in 1925, and the slang from that time was the bee’s knees.  While some of the words are still used today, a lot of them are not, and if I narrated the story to you in the speech from the time in which the story took place, you would fucking want to murder me.  [Hell, I’d probably want to murder myself trying to write that way.]  Worse, you wouldn’t want to read my book.  And everything wouldn’t be jake.  I’m not criticizing the author who sent me the ARC, because everyone truly has their own style of writing.  I’m critiquing it because the author has essentially dated his/herself, and a hundred years from now, no one is going to be able to read it without being completely lost.  I think this can be prevented by keeping the gratuitous slang out of the exposition. IMO.

I’m not picking on slang.  I love slang.  Words are beautiful, and  the more I read, and practice writing, the more I fall in love with them.  Words are paired to make up beautiful prose, like Bukowski’s “Something else is hurting you – that’s why you need pot or whiskey, or screaming music turned so fucking loud you can’t think.”  That’s just some lovely shit right there.  It’s even better when they say something funny.

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Slang can be bomb, and when you live in a house full of hockey players, slang is pretty much going to be a second language.  My middle child refuses to cut his sick flow, and all my boys’ dangling skills are off the hook, and these skills are performed by silky mitts, and sometimes result in sniping dirty goals past a sieve.  Yet if I was going to write a book about hockey… I would actually want people to read it, so yeah, I’d ditch the slang.  Or at least limit its usage.

But I’m not writing about hockey, I’m writing about gangsters, and when I publish it, I’m gonna be all, this is my ‘mixtape’ bitches, and it is FIRE!

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