• Jabe Stafford

Write Good Dystopia Slang & Swears

Write Good: An Absurd Storytelling And Adventure Blog

Dystopian Slang

Stop right the frick now.

Remember the first time you learned that we are living in a dystopia.

Coulda been at school, coulda been driving somewhere, coulda been working or biking or taking a massive dump.

Close your eyes. Let that moment fill every sense. Now open your eyes again.

Whenever that moment was, it was powerful enough to stick in your head. So powerful, in fact, that it may have blinded you to other things about the world we live in.

Our swearing here in the book Earth 2020 would be HUGELY different than the swearing of a reader from another reality living on Balthra. (Just imagine those Balthrans, doing what they do, swearing up a storm because they learned it from us Earthlings.)

For the slang in a writer’s novel to be as hooking as our Earth 2020 swearing is, ya gotta have three things. Filth. Fear. Fragility. Dirty, scary implications that characters had to overcome because that shiz made them feel as fragile as a china plate made of peanut brittle until they developed swears that let them over come those last two Fs.

Filth. Your dystopia story’s swearing and slang has to feel and taste filthy to speak aloud. Satisfying, but dirty. Syllables that punch and induce puking. No hint of childishness or innocence.

-Forceful pronunciation

-Heavy accented syllables

-An acknowledgement of descending into language that’s far from proper

-A reaction by other characters to match that descent from formal to filthy

“You gunch.”

“Look at this piss chicken.”

“That yock knuckle tried to rob a Balthran on the K-Line when the lights went out.”

Some of those syllables might be familiar to you and/or to the reader. That can be good if you want to draw parallels between your characters’ reality and ours. (Between Earth 2020 and Balthra.) Take some heavy, nasty syllables and mix ‘em around, then emphasize them when your characters speak and get into hefty arguments. Mixing a little history behind the words makes dystopian swears even stronger.

Because when you fear something, reducing it by making fun of it is a natural instinct.

People insult other people/places/things when they need to reduce their fear of it in order to keep fighting. If the Balthran is insulting the Ghorav across the knuckle ring, it’s because he’s trying to build up rage to layer over the fear of Ghorav tentacles sucking the blood from him mid-fight.

Come on, don’t pretend you don’t know about the cultural rivalry between the Balthrans and the Ghorav.

You know.

The bloody Tide Wars.

Underwater explosives didn’t work on the Ghorav, so the Balthrans had to spend ten years between 291 and 301 both waterproofing their cities and raiding undersea caves with sea soldiers so the Ghorav couldn’t implode Balthran cities from underneath with geyserbombs.

Fear. Lots of fear cranking out from both sides in that mini-story. Ya wonder why in Earth 2020 we still say, “Nuke this” or “Nuke that?” ‘Cause we’re goddamn terrified of an actual real nuclear war since we saw the maaaaaassive destruction twice in World War II. Weave fear into the dystopian swears you write, and you’re almost to the point where you’ll hook the reader into wanting more.

Fragility. All that fear you wove into your world has to make most folks living there feel dadgum powerless against whatever they’re swearing at/for.

Confession: I’d be f'd right now if a bomb went off or an earthquake sliced through the ground. So I distract myself from the frailty I obviously can’t do shiz about. I read books and watch baseball and shout, “BOOM” or “Cock noggin,” or any other number of swear words. Makes me feel safe using the thing I fear or the thing I “know” I control to come at someone or to release tension.

Why do you think all those gunch punching Ghorav can go qwop themselves?

See? A Balthran who feels fragile because a geyserbomb could go off any second and wreck his whole block would arm his or herself with those words, then use ‘em against the thing they’re afraid of. In filthy, inappropriate fashion.

Play with some syllables, some fictional creatures/races, and some in-world history.

Weave the three together with some filth, fear, and fragility and the swearing will be satisfyingly familiar to your characters, and different enough for your reader where it feels like it belongs spewing out of their mouths. Given what they’ve been through, why the hell wouldn’t they swear like sailors wish they could?