So, she like told me to get out of her face and like mind my own business. And I like said she couldn't tell me what to do and that like pissed her off. So she like....
Seriously? I thought that Valley Girl patter choked on a wad of bubble gum and keeled over a dozen years ago.
Not long after overhearing that unenlightening conversation, I read an article in which a publisher of YA books cautioned authors not to use slang in their writing. Not use slang? The only person I know of who doesn't use slang is Alex Trebek. And who knows what the guy says off camera?
I concluded that the publisher was warning authors not to overuse slang or throw in slang that's "here today/gone tomorrow." But that left me wondering what's the right slang, how much is too much, and who can prophesy which slang will be around next week? In a TV interview with the Heisman Trophy candidates, one of them said he "had a blast" at one of the events. I'm almost positive that expression came into being when I was in high school. Who could predict college students would be using it several...years later?
A writer friend of mine who claims to spend hours googling slang Web sites swears by urbandictionary.com. When my MC was telling her friend not to snitch, I decided to see if snitch is still in teens' vocabulary. Or would rat, tattle, fink, or narc be more hip, now, or happening? I typed snitch in Urban Dictionary's search screen and found plenty of options. Punk, informer, backstabber, and squealer weren't quite right. Curtis and grass left me shaking my head. And most of the other synonyms were too raw for my writing.
What did I learn from my reflections on slang? First, use slang sparingly. Second, double-check meanings before using unfamiliar slang. Third, flash-in-the-pan slang may be gone before your book hits the shelves. Fourth, when in doubt, swallow your pride and ask a teen.
Just use slang that feels right--kickass, awesome, gnarly--for your characters and chillax. It's all good.