The Use of “Gonna” in YA Lit

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This topic contains 37 replies, has 16 voices, and was last updated by  paulc 10 years, 4 months ago.

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  • #470970

    Michael J. Bugeja
    Participant

    What are your thoughts on the use of the word “gonna” in Young Adult Literature? Do you feel it’s professional writing when “gonna” sneaks into dialogue?

  • #324604

    Michael J. Bugeja
    Participant
  • #470971

    Booker
    Participant

    IMO you can do just about anything in dialogue. It’s when it sneaks into the narration that you have a problem.

  • #470972

    born2scribble
    Participant

    I think ‘gonna’ is fine if that’s what the character would say. If the character would say shmeckerfield- then have at it 🙂

  • #470973

    ljb1947
    Participant

    It probably didn’t sneak in. Most likely it was used deliberately to show how the character talked. I don’t like an over-use of that kind of thing but lightly used it can be effective.

  • #470974

    Mikala Engel
    Participant

    Sure, “gonna” is fine. Good dialogue is a condensed version of how real people talk. It’s an illusion, a distortiopn of reality, but teh read must believe the illusion. So you take out most of the “er,” “ah,” etc., you don’t let the character drift off topic as often, and you don’t let him talk as much, but he still must sound real.

    A reader need to believe the character really would talk exactly like you have him talking, so the quetsion becomes “If this character were real, and you met him, would he use teh word “gonna”?

    If the answer is yes, then you need to let him use it.

  • #470975

    Nancy Parish
    Participant

    Most of my characters would probably say, “gonna.” However, I opt for “going to” instead.

    If the character uses it once, it only makes sense to have them use it every time. And, ‘going to’/gonna is something that creeps up frequently in conversation. To me, it just feels weird to see “gonna” over and over again throughout a story. It starts to annoy me after a while.

  • #470976

    SunStar
    Participant

    We are talking about YA lit… There is a good portion of it written in first person, and the narrator, being a kid would probably say gonna. So I’d say it makes complete sense…

  • #470977

    Ann Emmert Abbott
    Participant

    It doesn’t matter which lit. If the narrator speaks with a casual, hip, whatever style, the use of “gonna” is perfectly fine. Ditto dialog.

  • #470978

    mlghaley
    Participant

    Yes, I believe using “gonna” is perfectly acceptable in any lit, considering that’s what the character would say.  I don’t think I would’ve been able to really picture the Joads, (in Grapes of Wrath), saying “family” instead of “fambly” as they did.

  • #470979

    Michael J. Bugeja
    Participant

    Thanks, everyone. It’s gonna be gonna then.

    What are your thoughts on, “Billy is out back,” versus, “Billy’s out back?” My main characters are teenagers. In my mind they would say, “Billy’s out back.” Actually, I’m not a teenager and that’s what I catch myself saying. One of the concerns with my manuscript by an agent was that the dialogue was stilted. Trying desperately now to get my characters off the stilts. lol In one of my fiction writing classes, my professor said NOT to write casual dialogue, although I see it written this way quite a bit.

    Thank you again.

  • #470980

    ljb1947
    Participant

    Well, professors are often idiots–and that would be my diagnosis in that case. If the character is one who would speak casually, why would you not make the dialogue casual?

  • #470981

    Ann Emmert Abbott
    Participant

    Dialog without contractions is fine for robots and aliens from outer space.

  • #470982

    kajufa
    Participant

    Hi Sonya:

    I think it depends on the teenager who is speaking, how how the young adults speak.  I think in dailague it would be okay, but I think proper english throughout the non-dialogue portion of the book needs to be written in proper english. Then again, I don’t write YA,

  • #470983

    CSachjen
    Participant

    If that’s the way someone talks, that’s the way someone talks.

  • #470984

    Mikala Engel
    Participant

    TerryT – 2008-06-01 10:01 AM Most of my characters would probably say, “gonna.” However, I opt for “going to” instead. If the character uses it once, it only makes sense to have them use it every time. And, ‘going to’/gonna is something that creeps up frequently in conversation. To me, it just feels weird to see “gonna” over and over again throughout a story. It starts to annoy me after a while.

     There’s a time and place for both “gonna” and “going to,” but it depends on the situation.  What matters is what’s true to the character.  As in many other areas, consistency in dialogue is important.

    But if any word appears too often, the problem is probably with the dialogue itself, not the word choice.  Even in a novel, a character shouldn’t have opportunity to say either “gonna” or “going to” very often.

  • #470985

    Mikala Engel
    Participant

    Susan – 2008-06-01 3:44 PM

    Hi Sonya:

    I think it depends on the teenager who is speaking, how how the young adults speak.  I think in dailague it would be okay, but I think proper english throughout the non-dialogue portion of the book needs to be written in proper english. Then again, I don’t write YA,

     

    As long as it isn’t a first person novel, yes, I think you’re right.

  • #470986

    Mikala Engel
    Participant

    Kirby – 2008-06-01 2:42 PM Thanks, everyone. It’s gonna be gonna then. What are your thoughts on, “Billy is out back,” versus, “Billy’s out back?” My main characters are teenagers. In my mind they would say, “Billy’s out back.” Actually, I’m not a teenager and that’s what I catch myself saying. One of the concerns with my manuscript by an agent was that the dialogue was stilted. Trying desperately now to get my characters off the stilts. lol In one of my fiction writing classes, my professor said NOT to write casual dialogue, although I see it written this way quite a bit. Thank you again.

     

    Has this professor read many novels?  Such as Huckleberry Finn, for example.  Many call it the greatest American novel ever written, and it has anything but formal dialogue. 

    And has he actually sold a novel?  

  • #470987

    Dee-Marie
    Participant

    Here’s something you might wanna (sic) try. Read your lines of dialog aloud. Is that how you’d say it? If not, fix it. You did that with “Billy’s out back,” right? Imagine you’re talking instead of writing.

  • #470988

    Michael J. Bugeja
    Participant

    Thank you again, everyone. This professor has actually had novels published through Random House, but not young adult. He said his problem with my dialogue was that I had too much casual chatter. But from what I’m hearing, if a character starts speaking one way, consistency is the key. Occasionally, “gonna” and contractions will show up in my character’s speech from now on. I’m more concerned with keeping agents happy versus my professor (class is over) The rest of my novel uses proper English–no short cuts. Not having been a student in a college classroom in–well, some amount of time, I wasn’t sure what the consensus on writing dialogue was like now. I’m currently taking a YA Lit class and reading some great books. “Make Lemonade,” “Archer’s Quest,” “Stargirl.” I noticed that the dialogue used in these books is casual. “Make Lemonade” is told through the eyes of a young girl, as if she is actually telling you her story. Most of the text is not proper English. An interesting choice by the author, but from what I’ve read, it’s quite controversial. Some believe if you write YA fiction the English must be proper in order to teach the correct use of words. From what I’m reading here, stay true to how you think your characters would speak.

    Peggy, I think saying dialogue aloud is a great idea. I use this technique often. That’s where I was having issues with how I should write certain parts of the dialogue. Thank you again.

    This has been a very helpful discussion.

  • #470989

    paulc
    Participant

    Kirby,

    I agree with everyone else regarding the ‘gonna’ issue. I also agree about contractions, that it does depends on the character but contractions are usually necessary to keep the dialogue from becoming stilted. If your characters are in a formal situation like a courtroom, a historical context, the army etc, then they would use proper English but in every other situation they’d use contractions because that’s what’s normal.

    Also, what your professor may have meant was that there was too much chatter not relevant to moving the plot forward. It’s good to have a casualness to the dialogue if the characters concerned are casual sorts of people (which would be most people, teens or adults) but if it’s not moving the plot forward or telling the reader something new about the characters then it needs to be cut. The last thing you want to do is waste valuable space you need for your plot.

    Hope this helps.

    Jai

  • #470990

    Mikala Engel
    Participant

    Are you sure he’s talking about words such as “gonna”? What he means by casual chatter might be dfiffernt from what we’re talking about here. As an editor, when I tell a writer he has too much casual chatter, I mean he has too much dialogue that doesn’t move the story forward.

    Dialogue really serves three purposes: 1. Move the story forward. 2. Reveal character. 3. Add verisimilitude.

    But even when purposes two and three are being served, the first must be served, as well. In this sense, casual chatter is something that needs eliminated completely.

  • #470991

    Michael J. Bugeja
    Participant

    Jai and James,

    Thank you for your replies. He circled my “gonnas” and contractions, and in class he used my paper as “what not to do” when writing dialogue. He’s actually a very good writer himself, but I think we have different writing styles. The agent that said my dialogue was stilted confirmed what I had been wondering if I should put the gonna and contractions back in.

    I also have a couple of characters that speak with thick Irish brogues. I had written out some of the English words with an Irish twist and the professor also said that this was a no-no. After I listened to recordings of Irish people speaking English, I wrote out some of their word sounds and used them in my dialogue. Should I put this back in, or leave it without the Irish accent?

    Thank you again.

  • #470992

    ljb1947
    Participant

    Using phonetic type dialogue is very iffy in my opinion. Using the differing expressions and word orders is one thing, but I’d suggest not writing out an accent phonetically. Maybe one or two words that aren’t obtrusive to emphasize the accent but that is best done with a VERY light touch.

    By the way, using contractions in dialogue is not confined to YA in my opinion. Unless it’s a part of the characterization (a very formal person for instance) it’s a natural part of most people’s speech.

  • #470993

    paulc
    Participant

    Kirby – 2008-06-02 7:07 PM Jai and James, Thank you for your replies. He circled my “gonnas” and contractions, and in class he used my paper as “what not to do” when writing dialogue. He’s actually a very good writer himself, but I think we have different writing styles. The agent that said my dialogue was stilted confirmed what I had been wondering if I should put the gonna and contractions back in. I also have a couple of characters that speak with thick Irish brogues. I had written out some of the English words with an Irish twist and the professor also said that this was a no-no. After I listened to recordings of Irish people speaking English, I wrote out some of their word sounds and used them in my dialogue. Should I put this back in, or leave it without the Irish accent? Thank you again.

    No offense, but that professor sounds like an ass. Imagine using a student’s paper to show what shouldn’t be done. The man’s got no class, especially since he wasn’t even right in this instance.

    Accents are a different issue. I agree that it should be done with a light touch because writing accents phonetically can be tough to read. It’s not too easy on the eye. I read this book once by Meagan McKinney where the hero was Irish and had a brogue. She would pick out one word in a sentence and emphasise how he said that word and how it made the people around him feel. eg. He asked the woman “Where’s the sacrifice?” but McKinney wrote that he said “Whare’s the sacrifice?” I think this is an effective way of reminding the reader of his accent and also injecting the other character’s reactions to that accent. Less is more, in this regard.

    Jai

  • #470994

    Michael J. Bugeja
    Participant

    Thanks J.R. and Jai,

    I had left only one word in for one character. I didn’t even think about it being offensive, Jai. Thank you for letting me know about that. I will put back in the gonnas and contractions, but leave out the brogue. The professor did suggest that certain ways to write the flow of a sentence can create the illusion of a brogue in writing. He had us read a couple of examples. It was very interesting.

    Jai lol. I really didn’t mean to make the professor sound like an ogre. He was very nice and had many other good points. I think he missed the mark on this one, though.

    Thank you again!

  • #470995

    Mikala Engel
    Participant

    Kirby – 2008-06-02 6:07 PM Jai and James, Thank you for your replies. He circled my “gonnas” and contractions, and in class he used my paper as “what not to do” when writing dialogue. He’s actually a very good writer himself, but I think we have different writing styles. The agent that said my dialogue was stilted confirmed what I had been wondering if I should put the gonna and contractions back in. I also have a couple of characters that speak with thick Irish brogues. I had written out some of the English words with an Irish twist and the professor also said that this was a no-no. After I listened to recordings of Irish people speaking English, I wrote out some of their word sounds and used them in my dialogue. Should I put this back in, or leave it without the Irish accent? Thank you again.

     

    A writer who doesn’t use contractions in dialogue is either not writing realistic dialogue, or all his characters are English majors. That’s the silliest advice I’ve heard.  He may be a good writer, but I’d hate to read his dialogue.

    I mean, really, name a great writer who follows his advice?  I certainly can’t think of one.

    Now, he has a point with writing accents.  A very little bit goes an extremely long way, and the best way to show accent is with word choice, syntax, and rhythm, rather than by trying to write the words as they sound.

  • #470996

    Bree3
    Participant

    trust your guts on that one as to what’s overuse and what’s just right.

  • #470997

    paulc
    Participant

    Kirby – 2008-06-02 7:49 PM Thanks J.R. and Jai, I had left only one word in for one character. I didn’t even think about it being offensive, Jai. Thank you for letting me know about that. I will put back in the gonnas and contractions, but leave out the brogue. The professor did suggest that certain ways to write the flow of a sentence can create the illusion of a brogue in writing. He had us read a couple of examples. It was very interesting. Jai lol. I really didn’t mean to make the professor sound like an ogre. He was very nice and had many other good points. I think he missed the mark on this one, though. Thank you again!

    I was offended on your behalf, Kirby. It makes sense to use a student’s paper to show what students should be doing but not what they shouldn’t be doing. How rude.

    However, if you say he wasn’t an ogre then I’ll believe you.

    Jai

  • #470998

    Michael J. Bugeja
    Participant

    Oh, Jai. I’m sorry. I meant I didn’t realize it was offensive to use a brogue in writing. I hadn’t really thought about it that way. The last thing I want to do is offend someone who speaks English with an accent. You made a very good point.

    Thank you again, friend.

  • #470999

    paulc
    Participant

    Kirby – 2008-06-03 4:53 PM Oh, Jai. I’m sorry. I meant I didn’t realize it was offensive to use a brogue in writing. I hadn’t really thought about it that way.

     

    Oops, I guess I misunderstood too. Sorry about that.

    The last thing I want to do is offend someone who speaks English with an accent.

    Ha ha!

    Jai

  • #471000

    Michael J. Bugeja
    Participant

    “Ha, Ha,” she said with a rich, London accent.

  • #471001

    Mikala Engel
    Participant

    If you can’t use a paper to show other students what shouldn’t be done, college would be heck of a lot tougher. There’s no point in holding something up and say “John Doe wrote this, and here’s what he did wrong,” but using that paper as an example or how not to do something can help everyone, including whoever wrote the paper.

    Unless I just had all the wrong writing professors in creative writing and journalism.

    Writing is about having a thick skin, and most are going to receive a lot tougher criticism than this.

  • #471002

    jIPPity
    Participant

    Jamesaritchie – 2008-06-03 5:36 PM

    If you can’t use a paper to show other students what shouldn’t be done, college would be heck of a lot tougher. There’s no point in holding something up and say “John Doe wrote this, and here’s what he did wrong,” but using that paper as an example or how not to do something can help everyone, including whoever wrote the paper.

    Unless I just had all the wrong writing professors in creative writing and journalism.

    Writing is about having a thick skin, and most are going to receive a lot tougher criticism than this.

    I agree, but as a college professor I don’t feel it’s necessary to name the student.

    When I teach counterpoint, I often put on the board student exercises that contain egregious errors. I have the class identify the errors and suggest improvements. But I don’t see the need to identify the students who wrote the poor exercises.

    Both musicians and writers need to have thick skins if they’re to survive the criticisms they will certainly receive. But there are times when it’s unnecessary and even counterproductive to embarrass them in front of their peers..

    –Warren

  • #471003

    Michael J. Bugeja
    Participant

    It really didn’t bother me having my paper used. It wasn’t embarrassing and I’m not emotionally scarred. Honest, he’s not a mean guy. Why I mentioned that was to drive home the point that the professor was against my use of gonna, contractions, and writing out an accent. I’m not going to write out the accent, but I did put the gonnas and contractions back into the dialogue.

  • #471004

    paulc
    Participant

    wdarcy – 2008-06-03 5:58 PM I agree, but as a college professor I don’t feel it’s necessary to name the student. When I teach counterpoint, I often put on the board student exercises that contain egregious errors. I have the class identify the errors and suggest improvements. But I don’t see the need to identify the students who wrote the poor exercises. Both musicians and writers need to have thick skins if they’re to survive the criticisms they will certainly receive. But there are times when it’s unnecessary and even counterproductive to embarrass them in front of their peers.. –Warren

    Sure, I agree. It makes sense to show examples of bad technique but I think it’s rude to use the paper of a student from someone in that class. That’s not healthy criticism, that’s humiliation. If the class is giving peer critique of each others work and points out something that they think could be changed in a paper, that’s a much better way of giving someone critique than the finger pointing method. It’s also a much better teaching method because it’s forcing the students to think and evaluate critically and be engaged in the process of editing rather than passively absorbing the teacher’s condemnation.

    Jai

  • #471005

    wmbartlett
    Participant

    Something I tell the teen writers that I mentor is to read their writing out loud. Or better yet, have someone else read it out loud to you. Right away, you’ll hear the unnatural parts (both in speech and narrative). After years of being trained not to write contractions by well-meaning English profs, I’ve broken the habit. As a reader, I want to be able to believe the characters and the words that they say do the most for advancing their believability in my book :).

  • #471006

    paulc
    Participant

    Kirby – 2008-06-03 6:24 PM It really didn’t bother me having my paper used. It wasn’t embarrassing and I’m not emotionally scarred. Honest, he’s not a mean guy. Why I mentioned that was to drive home the point that the professor was against my use of gonna, contractions, and writing out an accent. I’m not going to write out the accent, but I did put the gonnas and contractions back into the dialogue.

    I am glad that it didn’t bother you. I think we’re all agreed that this guy was wrong about contractions regardless.

    Jai

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