Saturday, September 13, 2014

To Swear, or Not To Swear….

Above All, 
Happy Writing,
With Macmillan-Caribbean's Island Fiction tween novella series - 6 titles of varied speculative fiction - our authors managed to bridge the maturity gap between illustrated chapter books and novels. They did so with craft, while staying true to our regional dialects and cultures. It is a bigoted thought (born of stereotyping groups of readers, e.g "all young people" and therefore the characters that speak to them), that reluctant readers/ YA readers everywhere or anywhere, will only read if the words sound like the everyday speech of some of their peers. Even the most worldly characters with the author's dutiful effort and soul wrangling to produce original work can be believable and compelling without swear words. The most interesting characters are not all hoodlums, vampires or teens of any sort who punctuate their sentences with profanity. Also, couldn't any one of these be drawn with contrary expectations of a kind of refinement or even poetry as in Gerald Haussman's Time Simmer? It would be far more interesting to have a goody two shoes slip one; and even that could be told and/ or shown with deftness of skill, which is bound to make for a more original piece of writing. When our standards slip and writing is so easy anyone can do it, what's the value? Make every word count. My 11 year old son and his friends were recently disappointed when the recent US movie hit "Hercules" felt it necessary to slip in an F-bomb near the climactic end. They were shocked in a way that broke their engagement with the story! Hearing them discuss that afterward was interesting. This moment, amidst all the fantastic special FX, and reference to 'classical myth', seemed to them the most forced and unbelievable. If the only believable way to express anger or disappointment is through swearing, then why waste time on writing or reading at all? Books to me have always been sacred, no matter the topic, so this kind of questioning and discussion is invaluable for those who sustain the industry and artistry of storytelling. From what appears to be a US-centric POV, the contemporary media exported around the world would convince us that certain things are "normal" - unless or until we realise they are selectively presented as ubiquitous. We have watched and listened as the US parlance of anyone in authority has moved from "politically correct" to a matter of "culture". I do believe that there is something quite effable in universal good sense. Rather than dictate, do let some intuitive Wisdom prevail. Writing, motored by an anxiety to please, perform and prove it's financial/ popular success, "sounds desperate" according to the kids with whom I interact. Talent transcends trends. Most talented authors want their writing to endure. And not only for posterity but for practicality's sake - to be useful beyond the self. The pervasiveness of poor taste for young people, (whether by caving into the lowest common denominator or by pushing the boundaries ever so gently with each generation), may be a symptom of the potentially awesome tool of self publishing; (read also, unfiltered, non-competing, self-edited publishing). Should any artist, like some politicians, create content driven by public polls? So many good questions to be asked and pondered by media and content creators. Personally, I like to be guided by Chesterton's thought, "It's good to be openminded but not so open minded your brains fall out."

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