Wednesday, September 25, 2013

It's Not Okay

I noticed something as I have been reading some newer YA Fantasies. There's this word we all use, and more and more I have noticed it creeping into the language of fantasy lads and lasses: Okay.
For example (hypothetical and not taken from anyone else):

Flora dodged the flames of the behemoth dragon, landing hard on her stomach in the cold, wet earth.
Tristan rushed to her side. "Are you okay?"
"I think so," she replied, putting a hand to her head.

Now, this is a great word. I use it gratuitously myself, and the temptation to use it in my fantasy books is almost too overwhelming. But I am a firm believer that "okay" just does not have a place in those other worlds. On a personal note, it kind of irks me!

I know what you're thinking. It's my world! I can have them say what I want to.

And yes, okay, that's true. You could have them say, "Gee wilikers, Flora!" if you wanted to. But the reason we don't is because these worlds are often meant to resemble medieval time periods. And these phrases were coined quite recently. I realize there are many words that were made more recently than the medieval period--most of our vocabulary probably--but modern expressions like "okay" take you out of the world, if you ask me. And that goes for other modern cliches like "from the other side of the tracks" or "she was tired of taking a backseat."

Young adults are intelligent enough to understand prose without those modern expressions, and this is just my opinion, but I don't think we need them! We're writers. We're pretty dang creative, right?

So if you want to (because hey, this is just my personal thing, and most people probably don't care if the word is used or not!) here are a few substitutes for "okay" that I have found work just as well, while still keeping the world kind of organic:

What are your thoughts on okay? Yes, no? Leave me alone, Alyssa, and mind your own writing business? Do you have any other substitutes you would add?

**As a grammatical disclaimer, I realize that the validity of the word "alright" is sometimes contested, but the connotations of "alright" and "all right" really do seem to make a difference, at least to me. So use your best judgment on that one!**


  1. Interesting topic. There is a writer of historical fiction who posts chapter by chapter on line - whe is very popular and has a large following. He says at the outset of each book, he is not going to make the language period appropriate because he's certain he couldn't do it well enough and people might find it hard to read.

    I think the same is true here. Unless you're going write the entire book in 'medieval speak' picking and choosing which words are acceptable and which aren't is somewhat inconsistent. Why is 'okay' bad, but other words that are somewhat recent fine? Or why aren't you speaking the same as someone from that period with all the 'thees' and 'thous'?

    Another thought is that basically, in a fantasy world, everying is a translation. These people do NOT speak English so editing out English words that are too modern wouldn't really be anymore rational than keeping them out. It is entirely plausible that the people of your fantasy world have a word equivalent to 'okay' and that 'okay' would be the proper 'translation.'

    I guess my final take is that either is acceptable so long as you're consistent.

    1. Great point! It really is just a translation, and as writers we really have to decide what we deem appropriate for the world or not.

  2. I think it depends on "feeling." If okay feels too modern, it won't cut it.

    1. Agreed, it definitely depends on the feel of your writing. For me, keeping it organic means leaving out the "o" word!

    2. Agreed :-) Even though I write worlds that are inspired by 19th Century time periods, I still don't like to use the word "okay." It feels too modern. Even if it were used before the 1900s, I don't know if I'd want to use it.