RARA-AVIS: Re: Language

From: Kevin Burton Smith ( kvnsmith@thrillingdetective.com)
Date: 28 Mar 2005

On Mar 28, 2005, at 2:46 AM, Jason wrote:

> Hey, I missed most of this, but I think Charlie makes some excellent
> points and I thought I'd do one last post on the subject. I think a
> lot of crime fiction (as opposed to mystery fiction) portrays a
> realistic vision of the world and part of this is in the use of
> language. I'm not saying that language needs to mimic the way people
> speak in real life, but I think it should at least reflect it...

I'm not disagreeing with you, Jason, but look at your own words. You're talking about portraying a "realistic VISION of the world." That's what I'm saying -- that fiction is a vision of the world, and not the world itself, so allowances must be made. And achieving that vision of reality works both ways: sometimes it means taking a "fuck" out; sometimes it means putting the "fuck" in. You're creating a reality, and to make it seem real there's all sorts of trade-offs, not just in dialogue, but in plotting, character, setting, etc., etc. it may be true in real life, but it doesn't necessarily make for a good story.

"But it happened in real life" is the familiar whine of the beginner writer who doesn't know how to create a believable world.

> And I
> love what Charlie wrote about how he won't sensor himself. I feel the
> same way. If I hear a character talking in a particular way that's
> the way I write it. When I do a revision, if something sticks out or
> seems awkward I'll cut it, but I won't make a cut simply because I
> think a word will offend a reader...In fact, that's the kind of stuff
> I always try to keep in.

Well, whatever turns your crank. But I've never read any of your stuff where a word has offended me or seemed particularly gratuitous. And your stuff seems real to me. But I have read work where some cardboard tough guy writer has deliberately tried to offend people, and it comes off, not as offensive, but adolescent and shrill and phony, not the
"realistic" they claim. In fact, it comes off just as phony as those antiseptic stories where the murderous thug says "Golly, let's kill him."

The problem, as I see it, is when someone is so in love with their own vision that they see the very necessary act of what you call cutting anything that "sticks out or seems awkward" as some sort of censorship. It's not. It's called writing.


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