The QueryShark had found herself in a bit of hot water lately over a recent evisceration. Taking a writer to task for putting the word "delved" into the dialogue of a 14 year old, the Shark challenged thus:
Also, I'll give you a hundred bucks cold hard cash if you can produce a 14 year old who uses the word "delved" in conversation.
Well, that certainly brought a flurry of comments, most of them accompanied by a thump or two across the fin. (ow)
What I left unstated, and in fact assumed (incorrectly) would be clear was that there is a large (vast!) difference between the number and kinds of words people use in conversation, and the number and kinds of words people recognize.
In other words I know many more words than I use. You do too.
And kids, being people, are included. So yes, they recognize 'delved' and can use it correctly in a sentence. It doesn't mean they do so in regular conversation.
And that's the trick of dialogue. It has to sound real. I have to believe that's something a kid WOULD say. Not something a kid COULD say.
Getting dialogue and voice write is very difficult. It can't be verbatim (have you ever heard actual surveillance tapes; or even just plain old phone messages!) but it has to feel real.
I have no idea if slingers on the corners of Baltimore sound like Bodie and Poot, but I believe them when they talk. Even when Bodie says "I'm standing here like a asshole holding my Charles Dickens, 'cause I ain't got no muscle, no back-up" I believe.
Part of your job as writers is to know that delicate balance between what IS right and what FEELS right. I actually keep a list of words somewhere that are gender specific: that is a man would not say "munched" for eating lunch; a woman would not generally say she's taking "a piss." Think about it before you join the SharkBashing mob ok?
I'm pretty sure there is research on this but the closest I could come with the five minutes I spent on google was this article at Slate. (paragraph 7)
If any of you have better resources to add, I'd like to see them. And if you think I'm all wet, tell me why.