One Writer’s Dilemma

29 Nov


One writer’s dilemma

By L. Stewart Marsden

One writer’s dilemma: the use of profane language and implicit/explicit sex. Ploys for sensationalism, or tools to advance the work?

In an age of liberal (not political sense) word usage and extreme sexuality, I have found that using either profanity or depicting sexual intimacy are two areas of great discomfort for me as a writer.

First, I’m not writing from a Christian perspective, but that influence weighs heavily on me (I can hear my Christian friends tch-tching even this statement). As does thinking about family and friends reading my work and suddenly sitting upright and exclaming, “Oh my!”

Go back decades and centuries and the plane of language and sexual tensions are fairly flat. Those that aren’t (e.g., “Tom Jones,” “Lady Chatterly’s Lovers,”) created quite the stir. Symbolism, metaphors, allusions were the literary vehicles of the sexual kind. Language was curbed.

Today, not so much. Write in a contemporary setting, or even a futuristic time, and language and sex are common, if not expected by the reader. Crass and Lusty are the operative adjectives.

I took a course decades ago on screenwriting at NYU under the tutelage of Peter Stone (The Skin Game), who, among other points, argued the efficiency of writing was enhanced by holding to the tenet that everything must advance the plot.

Hence, language and sex MUST enhance the plot.

Of course that was before things like Fifty Shades of Grey (or is that Gray?), and perhaps Sex, Lies, and Video Tapes (remember those?).

And there is the occasional outlier, as in the book Lolita, where a certain word was repeated again and again over several pages.

My tendency is to back off or even away from either of these controversial conventions altogether. Which makes for unrealistic characters who live very bland lives.

After all, if those of the male gender persuasion truly do think about sex every seven or so seconds, then sex seems to be pretty important. And if Disney caused millions to swoon at the title of one of his films, That Darn Cat, at the departure from complete verbal cleanliness, then perhaps there’s room for more salty language.

So I’m going to improve (or slide down that slippery slope, depending on your particular orientation) my usage of both language and sex.

We guys know the raunchy side of sex, from reading National Geographic when we were kids, to retorting “I just read the articles” when questioned about the worn copy of Playboy stashed under the bed (a tip of the hat to Bill — “But I didn’t inhale”). The trick is reconciling that lust into an important part of a relationship. Thank goodness for The Song of Solomon and the contemporary interpretations over the last few years.

So, at the beginning of my work, I’ll try to forewarn readers so that you will not feel your sensitivities assailed.

That is all. At ease.


3 Responses to “One Writer’s Dilemma”

  1. Sabiscuit November 30, 2016 at 10:12 am #

    Nowadays there are so many profane words in our vocabulary that it would be a challenge to write something provocative in non-provocative language. Best of luck. 💕❤️

    • skipmars November 30, 2016 at 10:36 am #

      My concern is not how provocative something is. After all, much of my writing is provacative in different senses of the word. Specifically, how can I utilize sexual encounters between characters to advance the plot and give my characters more substance? Like I infered, sex for sex’s sake is not what I’m after. Or the use of profanity. What would that character truly say in that situation/conversation?

      • Sabiscuit November 30, 2016 at 3:40 pm #

        First, let me say I am aware that in writing fiction everything is about the atmosphere in the story. I completely understand a character using profane language. In fact, I’ve written dialogue stories where the characters said terrible things. I like the idea of creating new swear words to give a character unique vocabulary. Stephen King has written some brilliant, colourful, invective. To me that really pull the story along especially as I feel like I was in the actual character’s head and not in the writer’s head.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: