Posted November 14, 2010on:
I’m supposed to be in the final edit stage of my latest novel, St. Martin’s Moon, but I keep re-reading it and I keep seeing things to fix. Mostly it’s just punctuational stuff, commas that should be inside quotes, missing periods, that sort of thing. My publisher automatically turns all my double-spaces after a period into single-spaces, which makes it harder to automatically search for cases of a space between periods and quotes, but I digress.
One of the other things that usually happens when I reread my stories is that I’ll come up with some more text, a new line, a brilliant bit of dialog that I wasn’t brilliant enough to think of before. In one scene, they’re trying to sneak down a corridor without getting spotted, things happen, they get spotted. My heroine says, “Gronk.” and proceeds to flee. Why does she say Gronk, you ask?
Well, I saw no reason to pause in my writing to think up a suitable curse, just as I saw no reason to delay in order to come with a good home city for my hero. I simply called it Greater Not Relevant and got on with things. I replaced it later with some other name. Similarly I thought I would replace Gronk with an appropriate curse later. (By cursing here, I mean of course the unfortunately-standard use of certain words to express displeasure, to the point where the original meaning of the word is gone. Sometimes I see the word used correctly and it strikes me as strange, I’m so used to seeing it used as an expletive. )
Except I didn’t. I left the Gronk in place and had my hero ask her “‘Gronk?'” after they got away. In an earlier edit she simply says, “I had to say something, and I don’t like to curse.” In this, supposedly-final edit, I embellished on that text, in a way the shows Candace’s love of words and their meanings as vehicles to express thoughts.
She shrugged. “Gotta say something, and I don’t like to curse.”
“So many words in so many languages, you think I’m going to limit myself to the least interesting?” She shuddered, and he could see she meant it. “Words like that mean so many things they mean nothing at all. Just sounds taking the place of anything real. I prefer to use a word that really does mean nothing.”
“Sorry I asked.”
“It’s a bit of a sore point for me. So many people here, it’s half their vocabulary.”
“I get that. What are we running from, anyway?”
In A Warrior Made, Tarkas expresses his annoyance that his plans failed with the word, “Drat.” He doesn’t know what it means, but he’d heard someone else use it before so he figured he’d use it himself. Then he wonders if he’s used it right. Jeff Bean, another character from St. Martin’s Moon, does get off a classic line, “F*ck you, a**hole,” which is immediately discounted as a bit of repartee on a level with his game-playing. That’s about the only use I can see for using such language in a book. Or in a blog post that doesn’t appear to have a natural end.