Justin Cronin

Swear More…Creatively

by sarahenni on September 17, 2012

I have an unusual suggestion for how to bring reality to the world of you book: swear more.

That isn’t advice you’ll hear very often from a YA writer. But let’s face it, the rhythm of normal speech (for teens and adults) is sprinkled with the occasional curse word for emphasis. For most people, swearing is part of normal conversation within our closest relationships. And what are books about besides close relationships? A book devoid of any kind of swearing can feel sanitary, unreal.

Even so, I’ve found myself avoiding those words, even if they feel right, worried that at some point it may cause an agent, an editor, a parent, or even a teen to take offense or be turned off to my work.

But there’s a way to incorporate casually foul language in a way that can actually work to enhance the world of the book: create your own.

The most simple version of this I’ve seen is in Battlestar Galactica. The show’s writers faced a dilemma: how to accurately portray the profane world of a military crew  without incurring the wrath of television censors? The show simply substituted “frak” for… well, you know. Simple? Yes. Hilarious? Often. But the word ensures that the show’s writers can keep the dialogue of their hardened pilots and mechanics appropriately gritty and is one of the most persistent reminders that the crew is not just a few dozen years in the future—they’re so removed from us that everything from their belief system to their swear words are different.

I’m reading The Twelve, the sequel to Justin Cronin’s The Passage. In Cronin’s post-apocalyptic vampire/zombie attack world, the word “flyer” is used to describe the post-humanoid creatures that the protagonists run from. It’s slang based on how the creatures can move—quickly, jumping high and far—and it makes sense that a colloquial term for the vampires would segue quickly to become an exclamation, an expression of frustration, anger, pain. The vampire creatures dictate every moment of the survivors’ lives. Using the term derisively gives Cronin’s characters the chance to exert some small control over the situation. It isn’t much, but it’s almost all they have.

A great YA example of this is of this in YA is Kierstin White’s Paranormalcy series where the the main character Evie uses the term “bleep” in place of swearing1. What could come across as cheesy, White uses to endearing humorous effect, showing off Evie’s goofy personality at the same time.

Though those examples are all from the world of science fiction and/or paranormal, I think this approach could work for contemporary writers, too. Briefly while drafting I planned to look up old-fashioned insults that are not commonly used for a character who is obsessed with historical documentaries2. Ultimately the character changed and it wasn’t necessary anymore, but those word choices would have shown a lot of her personality, and added some silly (if obscure) humor.

Down the road if you find yourself pausing where you might normally insert a swear word into normal conversation, think deeply about what your character would use in that situation. What represents frustration to them? To the people of their world? What is the most angering or insulting thing to that person or to their society? It’s a great way to think about the world your characters live in, and a good alternative if more run-of-the-mill profanity makes you nervous.

What do you think? Do you have any other examples of movies, books, or TV shows that use their own uniquely obscene language? Have you worried over using swear words in your books?

  1. White talks about her decision to do that here
  2. And I know all you Whedon fans are hunting for your Loki .gifs now. I didn’t end up using any antiquated swear words in my WiP, but thanks to The Avengers I did get to use a certain olde English word in a winning bout of Scrabble. See if you can find it…!

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Most Anticipated of 2012

by sarahenni on December 30, 2011

Just so we don’t spend the ENTIRE week getting too weepy about leaving 2011 behind, today we’re all going to discuss what books we can’t wait for in 2012! Hold onto your spectacles, because 2012 is going to be JAM PACKED with books I am salivating over.

Veronica Roth’s Insurgent

May 28

I find Tris Prior to be one of the most refreshing YA characters I’ve ever read. How she struggles with fighting for what she wants versus feeling guilty for wanting it reflects a truly painful human conflict we all battle, regardless of age. Tris suffers from an inability to bullshit the world about who she is, and people don’t always take kindly to teens (and in particular young women) who live that way. The people in Tris’ world REALLY don’t take kindly to it, and I’m so eager to see where Roth takes Tris, both in the geographic world of the Divergent series and in her emotional journey.

Erin Jade Lange Butter

Date TBA

I remember reading the Publisher’s Marketplace announcement about this book, and the concept really struck me: “A boy everyone calls “Butter” is about to make Scottsdale High history. He’s going to eat himself to death live on the Internet – and everyone will watch. He announces his deadly plan to an army of peers and expects pity, insults or even indifference. Instead, he finds morbid encouragement.” And a funny thing happened with this idea. It stuck around. I kept thinking about it when there was a rash of horrible teen suicides last year. When the Hunger Games movie started discussions about teens interacting with the world through “reality” shows. I love this concept, and most of all I’m so eager to read how Lange handled these issues in her book, and see what kind of discussions it sparks.

Kristin Cashore’s Bitterblue

May 1

I’ve struggled over the last two years with some YA heroines who are physically, butt-kicking strong, but who lack a nuanced emotional vulnerability. Kristin Cashore’s fantasy books feature leading ladies who assert themselves physically, and lead rich and complicated inner lives. Cashore brings each character such depth that their struggles with innate superpowers or neon monsters seem totally relatable. I can’t WAIT to see what Bitterblue has in store for us!

Stephanie Perkins Isla and the Happily Ever After

Fall 2012

With Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door, Perkins has crafted two stories that are some of the best contemporary YA I’ve ever read, and I’d argue the most natural, fresh voice in that genre right now. What’s drawn me to her work, along with the perfect pacing and general quirky spirit, are the boys. These are boys. By that I mean, dudes. Guys. People that I’ve met, that I’ve known, that I’ve loved. They’re imperfect, they’re not drop-dead gorgeous, they’re awkward, they’re scared to death of the women they’re attracted to. Etienne, Cricket, and Josh are the most swoon-worthy boys in YA that I’ve ever met, and quite frankly I married one of them. It’s an absolute joy to see Perkins translate the thrills of falling in love with someone so real.

(GPOAB* included in lieu of not-released book art because he/Seth Cohen typify the type of guy that Perkins writes, and also, I think she’d approve.)

Justin Cronin’s The Twelve

August 28

AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH! There is no conceivable way I can wait another eight months for this book, the sequel to Cronin’s 2010 novel The Passage (pictured above because artwork for The Twelve is being shrouded in mystery and impending terror, no doubt). I loved The Passage more than I have loved a book in a very long time, because though it clocks in at an astounding 800 pages, not a scene is unnecessary, not a word misplaced. The action is tense, the characters are vibrant, the world is, in a word, angsdngfksd. Everyone called this a vampire book, but it was really more like a vampire-zombie post apocalyptic mash-up of Mad Max and 28 Days Later. I will be pre-ordering this to my Kindle and staying awake to begin reading the minute it downloads.

 Check out what everyone else had to say!

Erin Bowman

Kaitlin Ward

Kate Hart

Kathleen Peacock

Kirsten Hubbard

Kristen Halbrook

Kristin Otts

Lindsey Roth Culli

Phoebe North

Stephanie Keuhn

Sumayyah Doud

Veronica Roth

* Gratuitous Picture of Adam Brody

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2011 in: Recommendations

by sarahenni on December 29, 2011

If you love reading (and my guess is, since you’re here, you do), you know that recommending books for others is an art. Every reader is different, so when your sister/boss/neighbor/niece asks for suggestions, a lot of thought goes into it. I find that my list of favorite books doesn’t always sync up with the list of books that I recommend most—I tend to recommend books that I think have more broad appeal, ones that I’ve seen most everyone pick up and love. So today we’re going to share the books that we’ve evangelized most for in 2011!

The Passage by Justin Cronin

This book made my “most recommended” list last year, too, and that really says something. It’s been more than a year since I read it, but Cronin’s haunting 800-page post-apocalyptic zombie-vampire cross-country journey tale still haunts me. It’s one of my favorites of all time, and I’ve yet to find someone who doesn’t enjoy it.

Graceling and Fire by Kristin Cashore

I’m counting these as one book, because I never recommend one without the other. Cashore’s YA fantasy world has the complex world-building and medieval-style throne lust that typifies epic fantasy, but they feature strong female characters, a paranormal twist, and emotional arcs you can sink your teeth into. I loved getting lost in the stories of Katsa and Fire, and most of the people I recommended it to gave it a thumbs-up.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Though I’ve been recommending it to anyone who’d listen for years, I saw a definite uptick in interest when the Hunger Games movie started filming, most especially when the trailer came out and looked BOMB. The Hunger Games is, frankly, a book I dare anyone not to enjoy, and I’m so excited for it to blow up in March with the film!

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

As soon as I started reading this book—and I woke Dr H up because I was laughing so hard—I knew I had to spread the word on the book. I’ve found it’s a great introduction to people that aren’t familiar with YA, or how the YA voice is different from the contemporary lit they’re used to reading. The combination of Green and Levithan makes for such a great balance of humor, angst, outlandish scenarios and real human stories, all in one book.

 Check out what everyone else had to say!

Erin Bowman

Kaitlin Ward

Kate Hart

Kathleen Peacock

Kirsten Hubbard

Kristin Otts

Lindsey Roth Culli

Phoebe North

Stephanie Keuhn

Sumayyah Doud

Veronica Roth

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