Friday, April 13, 2012

L is for Language

Last week, I mentioned that I was reading DUST, by Arthur Slade. This book was amazing for all kinds of reasons, but the thing I want to talk about today is the language.

The language you use to tell your story is as much a character as the actual characters and the setting are. In the opening paragraph of DUST, set in farm country in Depression-era Saskatchewan, Slade uses words like yearning and phrases like "The sky was cloudless." We aren't transported to another era because we're told that this is happening during the Depression; we are transported because the language immerses us in that time and place.

So many books for teens today, set in all kinds of different places - dystopian future Americas, war-ravaged future Americas, plague-ridden future Americas - all sound the same. They're written sounding like today - even if the vocabulary is different with some new jargon specific to the story thrown in, everything else: the phrasing; the way people talk; the way things are explained; sounds like teenagers talking today. But the best books, the ones that stand out to me as five star books, don't.

Language is as much a part of what makes up your book as characters, scenes, and plot. Use it well.

What books have you read in which the language stood out to you as being especially well-crafted?


  1. I remember being impressed with "Push" by Sapphire.

  2. I agree. The language of a lot of YA books all seems to be the same. I enjoyed the language of Crane's 'The Red badge of Courage.' It took me back to the Civil War, and as I read I could see myself running from bullets, enemy soldiers, and living in that book. It is an awesome read, especially since Crane wrote it having never been a soldier himself.

  3. The first page of 'Speak Memory' by Vladimir Nabokov. I agree with Jeremy, When you read 'Red Badge of Courage,'
    you feel as if you are there, in battle with its lulls and action. Should be required reading along with American History courses.

  4. I definitely agree that the way you 'show' something in your story is essential to making it authentic! If it's meant to be the future, make it sound that way.