I once read a bit of writing advice that said it’s important not to put slang into your story so as not to date your work. In that way, your work will be able to have longer lasting appeal. For a little while, I bought it. I have a tendency to believe just about anything, at least at first.
Now I think that bit of advice is hogwash.
Having a story without anything to “date it,” when done deliberately, is a bit like cooking without any spices so that you don’t offend any taste buds. I was reading a book today in which the author referred to someone watching Johnny Carson. Until I read that, I hadn’t realized the book was published in 1990. I liked reading that. There’s another series of books, the In Death series by JD Robb, which are set in 2059. The author has some of the characters use slang, different slang than what’s used now, but I like the fact that the characters talk differently. I think that it adds to both the setting and adds depth to the characters.
Let’s face it, timeless classics are anything but “timeless.” I like reading Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice, not because they’re set in a time vacuum, but because the characters are timeless, the plot is timeless, and they way they make me feel is timeless. It’s like the photos I talked about yesterday. Reading these books is like looking back at a moment in time.
I don’t advocate adding slang just for the sake of doing it, or putting in things to date your work just because. But if something fits, if it adds to the story, or the character or just feels right, then of course you as an author should add it. I judge what to put in and take out by what I like to read. If I enjoy it as a reader, then it’s the right thing to do as an author.