If you write regency romance, you are excused from this lecture.
It's happened to all of us. That witty comment sounded soooo good in our head. Then it came out of the mouth of a twenty-year old. And the eyebrows of your teen audience shot up, and they thought, "I would never say something like that..."
If you want to check out how truly hilarious regency-era speech can sound in a modern plot, check out Sarah M. Eden's blog post here: http://www.sarahmeden.com/2011/02/if-every-story-were-written-like-cliche.html.
The truth is, unless your twenty-something hero went to boarding school in England and was raised in strict, traditional, butler-and-all English manor house, he can't channel Mr. Darcy, Edward Ferrars, and heaven forbid, Mr. Rochester.
It just isn't done, my dear.
I know what you're thinking. You know how kids talk now, don't you? You have teens. Heck, you were a teen once, not so very long ago, right? Do you know what the word "besty" means? Yeah, I didn't think so.
Unfortunately, there's not a quick-fix for getting your character's speech down. Here's a few suggestions:
1. Sit down and write, in a bulleted list, your character's specifications. Age, looks, likes, dislikes. Better yet, take one of those chain emails where you tell everyone all about yourself and answer the questions for your characters. Just free-write. Don't worry about grammar (gasp!), or word choice, being repetitive, etc. Just write like you would in a diary. Get to know your character.
2. Use contractions. Unless your characters has some big reason for sounding snotty and over-educated (like they were born in 1809), use contractions.
3. Find someone who is the age of your character and have a long conversation with them. Note the words they use, the phrases, the lack of grammatical correctness, and the over-usage of the words awesome and totally.
One more thing, if you're saying right now, "Well my heroine is 32. She wouldn't say awesome. Or totally. She's so mature now." (I can't believe I'm admitting this...) I'm 28. I use those words on an hourly basis. And I consider myself very mature. :)
If you're not sure, post your paragraph below. We'll have a rousing discussion! :) And I will always edit 10 pages for free. Send me a big chunk of dialog. I'd love to hip-up your 25 year-old hero.
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I've been writing since I was old enough to grasp a crayon--my grandma even has an early copy of a "book" I made her. I have a bachelor's degree in history from the University of Wyoming and will (hopefully) soon be starting a graduate program in English. When I'm not breaking up impromptu UFC fights in the living room or losing miserably to my boys at Uno, I'm ... well, writing or editing, of course! I'm married to my best friend, and we have three rambunctious but simply amazing little boys.