Friday, November 20, 2009

Authenticity to What Extent?

Here are just a couple of questions to start off this blog post. What makes reality and authenticity so important and how far should we take it as writers? Obviously, a reader can only suspend belief so far before the illusion is shattered and interest is lost. I do believe Tom Clancy when he said “The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense”. So when creating a world or adding a magical aspect to the one we live in, you do have to answer the whats and whys. Why does your magic do that and what is the consequence? What is the political system and why? What about culture? Asking questions is the most important thing any writer can ever do so if you're not a logical person, I would suggest you find someone who is so that they can help you know which questions need to be asked and how to answer them. I am a pretty common sense kind of person. I can ask the questions, but I can't always find plausible answers. I get to turn to my husband to sort out a lot of details. He's so good at finding realistic solutions to my questions. He can sort out a complicated situation like nobody's business! It's amazing!

But this isn't really the point of my post, however. It leads me to my next question. How far do you take it to make it authentic? I've seen a lot of discussions lately about swearing in writing. Do they have a proper place in young adult novels? (Especially the worst one which I hate even referring to with the letter F. Poor letter F...) I would ask if they have a place in any novel. The one thing that keeps me from enjoying any book is a lack of tact where virtues are concerned and here's why I think swearing in general should be used with the utmost of care and in as few circumstances as possible.

1. Desensitization - When a word is overused, any word, it loses its powerful meaning and its dramatic affect.

2. The world is an ugly place at times. Do we really need to use foul language to prove that? As authors, we have the ability to use words more powerful than expletive. We get to use these wonderful words to show how decrepit and low people can be, not to just tell.

3. Cussing is the number one reason I won't buy and read a book. If I know it's in there, I'm not interested. Obviously, this doesn't affect the authors. I'm just one person, but I have a feeling that I'm not the only one who won't purchase a novel riddled with offensive language.

4. Virtue - I'm going to go back to desensitization from a different angle. The more exposed to filth you are, the less you realize you're rolling in it. If we want good things for all, we have to spread good things. There is enough mud for all of us to wallow in, but so few pure springs to wash us off. I can't say it any better than Mary N. Cook "Why is our being virtuous so important...Virtue brings peace, strength of character, and happiness in this life."

5. One more thing. People seem to want to expose teenagers to the "real" world through the use of this kind of language. Really? That's the "real" world? Only because we make it such. I want to make it better and I believe we can!

So when writing out what your character or the narrator says, pause for just a moment and ask yourself how necessary it really is and how does it heighten your story. If the answer is that it has no purpose (and my guess would be that this included about 80-90% of all cussing), take it out. Please, take it out!

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