Slang is becoming more widely accepted in fiction writing these days, but like most things in life, there is a fine line to getting it right. When done wrong, a character can seem forced or fake, which will jar with the reader. But when done right, particularly in dialogue, it can add a whole lot of color to your characters, seamlessly setting them apart from one another.
Not only can slang help to distinguish your characters, but it can also help establish the time for the setting of your story.
For example, in the 1920s the cat’s meow was a popular phrase often used to refer to anything wonderful. “Wow, she sure is the cat’s meow.”
In the 1960s, you weren’t cool if you didn’t use the word groovy at least twenty times in a conversation. “Marsha’s hair is totally groovy.”
And in the 1980s, the word bad rose to power to mean better than good. “His new stone wash jacket is so bad!”
So, how do you strike the perfect balance when incorporating slang into your writing? Here are a few tips to help get you on the right track.
Use It Sparingly – A character can come off as being forced if slang is used too frequently. Like anything in life, too much of a good thing can go south¾fast. Remember to sprinkle just enough slang to add flavor to the writing, but don’t overdo it.
Use It Correctly – Believe it or not, there is a right and wrong way to use slang. If you have a particular character who loves to use these trendy word phrases, be sure to know how to grammatically use it. Bad grammar is bad grammar with or without the use of slang.
Use It Artfully – When slang is used in the right situations, it can add a colorful palette to dialogue while enhancing characterization. It is what can set a particular character apart from the rest of the cast, adding a rich layer to their uniqueness. But just as the use of slang can be one of a writer’s greatest assets, it can also be one of the greatest pitfalls, so choose how to use it in a way that naturally flows.
Play around with slang in your writing and have fun with it, but when it doubt…don’t be afraid to throw it out!
Now, get out there you cool cats and burn some rubber! (Borrowed from the 1950s) Time to #CreateYourEpic!