Monday, May 23, 2011

Embracing the Awesome Redux & The Misleading Beauty of Bad Words

In this post I talked about breaking free of my Lit Bitch bonds and how I’ve rollicked about in my liberation ever since.  I originally meant to move that conversation into the television medium, but the post got a bit longish and I wondered if you guys really wanted to listen to me talk quite that much.  So I continue here.

Another of my odd personal characteristics that goes hand in hand with Former Lit Bitchiness is my complete Inability to Accept Compliments & Recommendations.  I don’t know where this came from other than a perverse mix of humility (I have a gag reflex when being complimented) and pride (if I want to read / watch something, I’ll find it on my own, thank you very much).  Kind of an odd quirk for someone who spends 40 a week giving recommendations, aye?

But, it is what it is, and yes, if you think I should read / watch something your best bet to get me to do it is to never, ever mention it’s existence to me.

With that in mind, I’ll recount a conversation between myself and my mother:

Mother: I’ve got two seasons of Castle on DVD.  You’d love it.
Mindy: *glances over at stack of books waiting to be read* I don’t have time.
Mother: But it’s about a writer, and there’s all these great pop culture references, and there’s this female cop, and he decides to shadow her for research-
Mindy: Yeah mom, I picked up on the cutesy plot from the ads.
Mother: But I think you’d really like it, they’ve got this great relationship – it reminds me a lot of Mulder and Scully.
Mindy: Dammit Mother, did you have to play the X Files card?

Well, once the X Files card has been played, it can’t go back.  So, BBC settled in one night (when she should have been writing, ahem) and watched oooohhhh….. well I won’t tell you how many episodes I watched on that first night.  But I will say that I was sold the second Nathon Fillion stripped off his sock and used the barefoot toe clutch move to pick up a handcuff key, cause that’s exactly how I retrieve dropped laundry when my arms are full with the basket.

And no – I’m not writing this post just to talk about the awesomeness of Castle. (and NOBODY better breathe a word to me about season three!!  I know there was a cliffhanger from my Twitter feed and I’m not even through season two yet – mum’s the word!)   Besides being appropriately humbled for rejecting the plot as “cutesy,” I’m learning a lot as a writer from watching the show.

And one of those things is how to use strong language without using bad words.

I like gritty shows, and I mean gritty like Brotherhood, Deadwood, Dexter and Game of Thrones.  It’s another reason why I laid off network television post-LOST.  I didn’t feel like anything had enough weight and grit for me after gorging myself on the brutality (both visual and audial) of pay TV.  But in watching Castle, I’ve noticed something  - they’ve got Irish thugs and scarred serial killers delivering lines of dialogue that make your fight or flight kick in… but I haven’t heard any swearing yet.  Beckett delivers threats without invoking any four-letter words, but her eyebrows convey them.

Yes, a large part of that is due to the acting quality.  Absolutely.  But the dialogue is clean, yet chilling.  I think it’s a good lesson (especially for YA writers) that we can write a bad guy, or a tough girl without making trash flow out of their mouths.  I don’t have a problem with swearing – at all.  BBC’sMother has already filed her complaint about my use of language in print.  After watching a season and a half of Castle, I question using those words though.  Is it a crutch?  Am I unable to convey the feelings without going for the shock value of the f-bomb?

Hmmmm…. Chew on it.

Oh, and yeah, I know that because I referenced Castle and X Files in the same post you all are going to bombard me with comments and emails saying I need to watch Firefly

And guess what?  If you do that, chances are – I won’t. 

9 comments:

Calista Taylor said...

Great post. I think I manage to avoid most swearing, so when I do use it, I think it carries more impact.

LOVE Castle. : ) Though, I couldn't get through the first episode of Firefly-- and I've tried 3 times.

Cat Woods said...

I love the idea of clean writing. Ted Dekker is masterful at writing it. You get halfway through a book before you realize it's missing.

When writing for teens it can really be a hard question to answer: is this *word* really necessary or can I show my readers this with great dialogue and action?

It's a question I've wrestled with because I do use the f*bomb in my YA once. On page 132. And I hate myself for it, as well as the character who forces me to write it. And yet...ach, we can drive ourselves crazy with this stuff.

As to the television show thing. This is where my Snobby McSnobster shines through. I don't watch it at all. Might as well not own one. I get lost when people talk about Seasons because I know they're not talking about winter and summer! LOl.

Maybe I'm not a tv snob, maybe I'm just television illiterate.

Riley Redgate said...

Hmm. I use cursing for voice - either to make the character naturally sound more coarse, or for humor purposes. XD In my mind, very few things have the same potential to be hysterical as a well-placed swearword. But then again, my mind mucks around in the lower tiers of humor all day, so there you go. *sigh*

Bethany C. said...

My hairdresser has been recommending Castle & Glee since they began. I haven't told her yet but I started watching Glee and she was right, it's AWESOME! I Hate it when people have the inside track...then I come out looking like the poozer because I didn't figure it out on my own. NO ME GUSTA!

I'm right there w/you on Game of Thrones. But beheading the horse...really?!!

Angela V. Cook said...

This reminds me of the "Sex in YA" post from a while back. I think the same rule applies- if it's necessary to the plot, then yes, I think it's okay to use it, but if the f-word is getting thrown around every other sentence just to make the story seem "edgy" . . . then it's just annoying.

I agree with Calista. I don't have a lot of swearing in my YA ms, but I do have some, because there are some scenes where "Oh, crap" just doesn't cut it. I need something that will convey emotion and have a strong impact on the scene.

Good post ;o)

Stephanie Diaz said...

I feel like, in many cases, writers go to those words because they are easy, and they do get across the right emotion. But there are other, cleverer ways to convey anger and fierceness and all of those emotions. Swear words are definitely a crutch, in my humble opinion :) And I try to avoid them as much as I can.

Mindy McGinnis said...

Thanks for the comments, ladies. And yes, I tend to agree that swearing follows the same rule as all things - practice moderation.

Anita said...

I tend to not have much swearing in my YAs. But I've read lots that have it and it doesn't bother me because it's in character for the MC. Still, I think you make some valid points that there could be other ways to show that emotion. Hmm. I need to watch this series now. You've inspired me. Great post, girl.

Mindy McGinnis said...

Thanks Anita! And man, I wish I would've thought to put a bug in your ear during your convalescence!