Holy Crap, I’m Writing YA: Part 3

Word choices.

Always a pain in the arse.

I don’t typically drop F-bombs in my writing, and I don’t write smut. (There’s never any time for lovin’, Doctor Jones. Not with all the action!) I’m not writing insane epic fantasy that requires a thousand words of description about the weather and I don’t write 5 pages of feasting.

So I shouldn’t have a problem with this.

I find that most of the guides telling yo how to write for a “young adult” audience will tell you that you can’t use big words because they don’t have the right ‘feel’ to them. Or something similar.

I agree with this idea, but not for the reasons you think.

If I’m reading an action scene and I see a words that I don’t understand and isn’t discernible from the context, and I have to go look it up, it utterly ruins the flow of the story. Same with coming across an unfamiliar word in a sex scene. Or a dialogue.

Unless it’s 100% necessary due to region, dialect or other factor, then why would you use a word that only people with a huge IQ and the OED memorized would know? To make you sound smarter? Trust me, it doesn’t work.

My BIGGEST example of this happening (and pissing me off, FYI) was in TWILIGHT.

The sentence was something like “and my clothes were too PERMEABLE for Washington weather.”

Maybe this is just a me thing, but using ‘permeable’ to describe your flimsy, light, airy clothing that aren’t waterproof and are made for living in the Arizona desert and not so good for the rainy, muggy weather of Washington state just doesn’t sit well with me. And I was already having trouble getting ‘into’ the book, so to see a word choice that makes no sense in the context just rips me right out of the narrative and makes me lose interest.

The point I’m making here is that people who read YA aren’t as dumb as these guides seem to think that they are. No, you shouldn’t be using words that require a dictionary to look them up, especially since the YA market is broadening to include kids as young as 9-12. Mid-grade books sure, then you can dumb the word choices down about two notches, but teenagers aren’t stupid. (Okay,, maybe they are but that’s in a totally different kind of way than what I’m talking about here.)

Yes, permeable is a perfectly acceptable word to use, but that was a poor choice of word within the context.

I’m not changing my writing style to suit a specific genre. I have a beat to my writing that I’m comfortable with and matches the stories I’m telling. I’m not using the longest words in the dictionary when “red” would work to describe the colour of the shoes that my romantic interest is wearing.

To me, YA is more about the context, not the words. The situations and characters make a story YA. Not the word choices. Not entirely.

I feel that stressing out over word choices is a waste of time.

Speak plainly, your point will get across no matter what.

Are there any more noteworthy mentions of strange word choices in YA? Remember, this is a new thing for me.

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About kaikiriyama

I'm a writer. I write everything from shorts, to novels to screenplays and then some. I like comic books, ponies, zombies, pokemon, monsters, demons, vampires and mythology. I walk a fine line between badass, scary and girly. View all posts by kaikiriyama

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