Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Gol, dang it!

I think that's what Gabby Hayes used to say, when the "seven deadly words" still reigned on TV.

I was writing a scene today that I hope is powerful and emotional - an argument of verbal violence at the crux of a disintegrating marriage.

Tell me, are Christians really so insulated to think that real people say, "Dag nab it" (Walter Brennan?)? I did have a girlfriend once whose mother always said, "Christmas" as her one and only epithet. Very thoughtful, genteel.

So much not like me.

I get in a shouting match and that match ignites my mouth in ways that embarrass me but reveal both my ancestry and upbringing. You can take the kid out of the street ...

Aren't there a lot of people like me - saved by Jesus, alive by his grace - but still with a mouth that, at times, invites a thorough soaping?

So, to my point.

Why can't my characters talk like me? Or like my accountability partners - sweet, wonderful men of God who at times could burn the paint off a barn?

It seems so phony and arbitrary to have a character, who's about to blast a gasket, come out with polite prose instead of street vernacular. Some of my characters are dying to let it fly.

Or ... or ...

Is that just lazy writing?

Truth be told, I'm not sure.

Truth be told, there are times when I'm not disciplined enough to keep the odd 'damn' from slipping past my lips. Truth be told there are times when I think that kind of language is just normal.

Then I write a line like this.

“Shut your mouth,” he growled, hair-trigger danger boiling in his eyes and balled in his fists. “Shut your mouth, do you hear me. Or you may not be able to open it.”

Don't need no 'damn' in there, do I?

Ah, but it feels so good to let some spicy language fly onto the page, doesn't it?

Dag nab it, I just don't know. What am I'm going to do? Christmas!


Jackie Colburn said...

Hey Terry,
Great blog!

I recently completed an apprenticeship that spoke about ways to avoid the language. And, the reason wasn't as much about clean writing as it was about CBA acceptance. Metaphors and similes can get the point across. So, I try to use phrases like..."cuss words filled the air like a London fog." Of course, knowing just a little of your work--I know you'll want something stronger than that. Glad my suspense is more genteel.. lol

irishlass said...

Hi Terry:

I can't get over how much I'm learning about you. You would think I'd know you better considering I'm your sister.

I'm really enjoying reading your blog. I love your style of writing, introspecitve but also humorous.

Keep up the good work.