Saturday, September 11, 2010

Word Choice Matters

When I was writing Deathday, I spent a lot of time coming up with colorful euphemisms for sex, genitalia, you name it.  It was a lot of fun coming up with different ways to refer to a guy's sunny side up.  Anything can be dirty if you present it in the right way.  I played it for laughs because the topic I was dealing with was heavy and I didn't want to write a depressing book about death.  I wanted to write a book about life.  Anyway, I used really specific words to get the laughs that I wanted.

But what about when you don't want the laughs?  I'm currently working on a book that's inspired by the hard boiled detective novels of Marlowe and Hammett.  Those detective novels have their own slang and I wanted to give my book that flavor.  But then I wrote the following snippet:

"She's guilty, Teddy.  Lucky fingered her.  Tess fingered her too, I was there.  By tomorrow, I'm betting half the school will have fingered her for this and there's nothing we can do."

The scene in which this unfortunate snippet resides is a really tense scene and I want readers to be on the edge wondering what's going to happen next.  But the word choice, finger, has another meaning, a sexual meaning.  Since I'm not playing this scene for laughs, any unintentional chuckles I get from this will ruin the mood and kill any tension I've created, and that's definitely not what I want.

So be careful when you're picking words, especially if you're using slang from another era.  Because if you finger someone who's got a lot of spunk, you may not like what happens.

4 comments:

  1. Diction is the shit, but can also be a bitch.

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  2. That girl is either guilty or a slut! :)
    I took a course called Human Sexuality in college. On the first day, the teacher had us brainstorm slang terms for sex and male and female genitalia and she wrote them all on the board! It was embarrassing and hilarious and I learned a whole lot of terms I had never heard before!

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Keep it clean, keep it classy, and jokes are always appreciated.