What They Are Saying...

"This book was a fast easy read, and a fun romp. All in all, the book charmed me."

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Blue Words

Until I joined Toastmasters I'd never heard the term "blue word".  But I was painfully aware of their existence and the battle we all have about when and how to use them. Especially as a writer.
A “blue word” is a swear word. Don't worry, I intend on keeping the "G"-rating of my blog.
Blue words are unique in that they are tied to us emotionally. We don't typically utter them thoughtfully, but reactively. If you see something dreadful (like a car accident unfolding before your eyes), you probably utter a blue word. If you're angry, you might react using a blue word. And, more interestingly, of all the words that leave your mouth, you may regret or even feel ashamed for uttering a blue word. How many times as children had we been told, "Never say that word"?  
If you've ever lived in a foreign country then you know some of the first words you'll learn are the blue ones. Why? Firstly, they're heard a lot, and, more importantly, they have no emotional power over you. For example, if I say merde, a Frenchman might be offended, but no American would be. It doesn't mean anything to us. It lacks the emotional tie, and therefore, is just a word. Similarly, anyone who knows English as their second language has no hesitation using our blue words, though you and I may blush at their language. Again, these words mean nothing to them.  
As a writer they pose a problem for me. I put my characters in some terrible situations. If I were in their place I’d react with the words, “Oh my god.” I do it all the time. But as a reader, these are boring words. They just don’t spark the same emotion reading them as they do when said. Yes, I can convey anger using the “f” word, or someone’s sassiness with other swear words, but they don’t read well, so I use them sparingly, only when I need to make a specific point.
Which leaves me with a problem. Either I dismiss them (not very realistic!), or — and this is key — I make up new ones. I tend to the latter, which allows me to do more than just show emotion; I can give you some insight into the character or the situation.
For example, let’s say John meets Steve, and thinks ill of him. I could write:
     John thought, “He’s an a**hole.”
True, we all know how John feels about Steve, but reading this you might think John’s a bit crude, maybe a bit of an a**hole himself. But, I could write:
     John thought, “What a jerk.”
The reader gets the point without swearing, and still may have the same opinion about John. Let’s go beyond that. If we want to change the reader’s opinion of John let’s try:
     John thought, “He’s got the charm of a malcontented garden slug.”
We have successfully made the point (John doesn't like Steve) yet we've gained some insight into John, who now appears thoughtful, witty, possibly educated, and, well, I'd like to shake that man’s hand!
This applies to expletives. If pulled off well your audience will know exactly what’s being felt and feel it themselves. Classic examples of this are:
  • frack (from Battlestar Galactica)
  • frell (from Farscape)
  • dren (from Farscape)
  • gorram (from Firefly)
  • Hell’s bells (from the Dresden Files)
Turns out it’s not easy. In fact,when you're writing making up a word that mean “f- you” stops you dead in your tracks, making you lose your momentum, and your own sense of urgency, or danger, or surprise. Now I’m not in that space of “I’m being attacked by thirteen goblins!!” so much as staring into space asking, “What’s a good word for…?
As writers we're supposed to be creative. To connect with people, we're supposed to be realistic, even in our fictional works.
Try it. Send me a couple of ideas while you're at it. Cripes, I'm always looking for good swear words!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Times Flies on the Fourth of July...

Great Balls of Wax, it’s July already?!

I’m sure I am not the only one this happens to, you think you’re ahead of the game, got your routine wired, have your i’s dotted and your t’s crossed so you kick back, enjoy a little travel, spend some time with the family, see a fireworks display or two and ohmygodanentiremonthsgoneby!!!

Quote of the Day: If everything seems under control you're not going fast enough. - Mario Andretti

My experience is the opposite; the slower I go the faster the world spins out of control.  

Just a couple of months ago I turned the grand old age of 50.  I’m certain this was a simple error in accounting because in my head I feel 30.  Ish.  I recognized that the physical features are “getting on”, but how exactly did this happen?  I filled my time, got the things done I need to get done, worked, played, fell in love, got married — you know, lived!  Yet, somehow, I got Rip Van Winkled.  Odds are you did, too!

I did finish the second book in my series of Winki Witherspoon Adventures, however, The Cook’s Curse.  I put that in the “plus” column.  Two down, three to go.

The first book, The Dead Man’s Deal, will be release August 12th, and available at Amazon.  I’m having a big launch party in New Orleans Sept 16th.  

I will post details if you think you might want to join me in the celebration.  I’d love to see you there.