Picture it, you’re at your desk. Your fingers are flying over the keys, you are writing the wittiest crap of your life. The characters are fully dimensional, your story just perfect. Except one thing, that you’ve been trying to deny. One of your characters is not American! dun dun dunnnnnnn….
You researched slang that the British use, you are now armed with knowledge on what to use in a situation. Instead of having your character say eraser you have your character say rubber. Instead of shoot you have your character say bollocks. You’ve nailed it! And then you have your character say something like. “I’m out on the pull tonight”. The average American, who isn’t a anglophile, would have no idea what that meant. So, this average person who picks up your book would throw it away. “I don’t understand!!”
That is a bummer, cause your book was GREAT! So the question begs, how much and when should you use real slang?
When you watch movies directed and written by Guy Ritchie you get it. In fact you are super soaked that British gangsters are cool. And if you are anything like me then you use “Snatch” like a damn bible for writing.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, regarding medical terms, slang has to be sort of explained. There are several ways to do this. For example, using the sentence above. “I’m out on the pull tonight”, you could have the main character explain this in their head. This way you can keep difficult unknown slang in your story.
Let me show you.
“I’m on out on the pull tonight.”
I laughed, there was no way that Stewart was getting laid tonight. Or any other night.
See,now your non anglophile reader will think, “Awe, I understand.”
Now, when do you use this language? When it feels right? When your character tells you?
The answer to this is both. Exploring languages is apart of writing and reading. Including different sayings and slang in your story isn’t going to kill your plot and if done right it will not alienate anyone.
Some examples for you!
So let’s say your characters are in France. They are American but they hear a French gangster or police officer say something using the word, “balle.”
Well, again you will need to explain that this word is meant for “bullet.”
Or your character is in Italy investigating some stolen art. They may come across the word “BASTA!” which means stop right there.
The point I am trying to make is don’t be afraid to step out of your bubble. EXPLORE!! That is part of the beauty about writing. If you have never been to England or anywhere in Europe, don’t worry that is what the internet is for. Use slang when you can. Language in your write has to be natural, and in real life people do not always speak super proper. For example: Normally we say, “Can I have some?”
The proper way should be, “May I have some?”
Now remember, when researching slang or sayings form other countries it might not hurt to look deeper into the culture. I mean you wouldn’t hear the Queen of England say something like, “Going for a slash”. Which means going to the bathroom. Your character might not be right for the language you are trying to use. So you will need to know what type of language a person from different backgrounds would use.
It is the same if you were writing an American character. You wouldn’t have a debutante saying things like, “Yo, I gots to get to the store.” Nor would you have someone who grew up on the other side of the tracks say something like, “I say, Charles bring the car around.”
Research here is your best friend. You can research many ways, online, in books or traveling. Get out there and pound the pavement. See people in their elements, people watch!!!
How do you incorporate slang and common language into your writing? I would love to hear! Sound off in the comments or PM me!
Until next time!
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