The Maze Runner & the Evolution of Language
Today, I'm going to talk about the language Dashner uses. In the first chapter, it's evident that Dashner developed a new slang language for his characters.
For me, this is very realistic. The base of change in language is slang. It's the first thing to change, and typically has the most dramatic change. In my day, something awesome was "cool." My students said it was "beasting." My parents called it "groovy."
And, of course, there are curse words. I think the potency of curse words evolve. In the Middle Ages, "zounds" was rather harsh, but "piss" was common. A Victorian lady wouldn't stand to hear anything as offensive as "damn." Whether you think it's right or wrong, "WTF" is certainly doing it's part to make the "f-word" more acceptable in daily use.
Language evolves based on location, too. When I took my students to England, I warned them that "Sorry," implied you'd passed gas, and to not use it when you bump into someone on the Tube. And the two-fingered peace sign means something completely different in England.
What Dashner did so well with his evolution of language was create words based on past words. "Shuck" seems to have replaced the obvious rhyme, and "clunk" is another word for, erm, poo. And while the new language may be a bit off-putting at first, it does have a logical progression for why it exists. Shuck has the rhyme--our words do tend to evolve based on sound--but clunk seems (to me) to have been the sound of, well...I imagined metal bed pans or similar...
When writing works of the future, I do think it's important to consider language. In my own novel, I altered slang and dialect to differentiate between the people from the past and the people from the future. It's based on what we currently have--with a few new words thrown in.
Another good thing to think about in language isn't just slang and curses words. It's also catch phrases. We all use crutch phrases when we talk--some people overuse "like" or "just" or "you know." In THE MAZE RUNNER, a common phrase the characters use is "good that." It's equivalent to everything being kosher or being agreeable with something.
FIREFLY (have you noticed how much I love that show?) also uses a progression of language. "Gorram" and "rutting" have obvious root words in our own language.
When we work on stories about the future, I think it's important to also consider language. It shouldn't overwhelm the story, but, much like a pinch of salt can make a dish perfect, a touch of language can make the story sing.
So, are there any stories you can think of that use a new type of language?
The League of Extraordinary Writers is a group of debut YA authors who write science fiction and dystopian works. The ten of us have works that run the gamut of near-future mind control to far-future space travel, but they do have one thing in common: a future where the Earth we know now is twisted, gone.