Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Wanna overanalyze?

At some point in the novel-writing process, I found myself staring at a line of dialogue, asking, "Should she say gonna or going to?" That led to more questions: Do all the characters say gonna or going to? What about the first-person narration? What about wanna and want to?

So I made a list. Under want to and going to, I listed most (but not all) of the adult characters, as well as a child character who's probably not up on the latest slang. Wanna and gonna were for everyone else.

This morning, my friend ctrl+f and I sought out all examples of such language with the intention of making them abide by these rules. And I found that they don't work. Emotions make a difference. Who the listener is and what the speaker thinks of the listener makes a difference. A character who gets excited easily is not going to slow down and say to a perceived new friend, "What are we going to do at recess?"

This novel is not gonna keep to the list.


  1. Wanna and gonna are the latest slang? The OED lists the first printed use of wanna as happening in 1896; gonna, 1913.

  2. By "latest slang," I guess I meant "the way the kids who are less socially awkward than this character talk." I rarely use actual current slang in my fiction; it would probably be dated before I even wrote it.