Saturday, October 21, 2006

Dang! Fetch! Oh My Heck!

The title for this blog is taken from a song by Evergreen in the LDS movie Sons of Provo. They are using these profane lyrics to make the point, don't be a potty-mouth. It's true: Mormons do swear differently from other people. If you want to write literature for the LDS market, you have to tone it down. You will not get swear words past an LDS censor. And unless you're a cartoon character, or writing an e-mail, you won't get away with $%&#(@#*%&@!

But now you've got a problem. You're writing a tense scene where Marco, the assassin from New York, has flown into town ready to do the job he's been hired to do. Along with him he brings Fredo, his loyal sidekick. They've cornered their prey, a sniveling coward named Jones, and Marco brings out his gun. He puts the silencer in place, his movements slow, all the while watching the face of their hapless victim. He wants to prolong the agony as long as possible, and he knows by watching the beads of sweat roll off Jones' face that his methods are working. He brings the gun up and prepares to shoot. As he pulls the trigger, the gun jams.

"Jeepers," Marco says. "That's rotten. Hey, Fredo, hand me another gun."

"Rats. It sure is too bad your gun didn't fire," Fredo says, handing over another gun. "I bet you're really disappointed."

We sort of lost all the tension in that scene, didn't we. Unfortunate.

Let's try again.

As he pulls the trigger, the gun jams. Jones, eyes clenched tight, flinches, then slowly raises one eyelid. Marco flings the gun to the side, cursing under his breath.

"Give me another gun."

Fredo removes his own firearm and hands it to Marco, taking the safety off in the transfer. Only a moment has gone by, long enough for Jones to feel relieved but not long enough for Marco to forget why he's there.

"See you on the other side," Marco said, pulling the trigger.

Notice how we switched it out and said "cursing under his breath." We know he's cursing, but we don't know what he said. That is one way to interject a "swear word" into LDS fiction. Because Marco isn't LDS, it doesn't matter that he swears, as long as we don't know what he's saying.

You'll find plenty of examples of how this is done as you read LDS fiction. The trick is, finding a way to keep the tension high without breaking it by sounding silly. If you can't find a way to imply a swear word, evaluate if it really needs to be there. Use them only when the scene demands it. And, whatever you do, never use the term "yippee skippy" as an interjection. Please.


Keith Fisher said...

Thank you for reminding me. I wrote one of those %*&(^^ into a story. I was intending to go back and work it over but haven't gotten back to it yet.

Tristi Pinkston said...

Just as long as you get to it before submitting it . . . :)

Framed said...

This post made me chuckle. It also reminds me of how they sanitize movies for TV by making inserting some dumb word for what was really said. I'd prefer a bleep, or maybe, they just need a better word. But they way you wrote it into the story was very effective. Don't know how they could do that in movies.

Shellers said...

I am a writer, too, an LDS writer, at that. I know just what you mean - keeping the tension, but not throwing in something like that. Although, depending on the character, and how you make them, you can throw in something like crud, and still keep the tension. All my characters, or almost all, are like that. It's like it's in my blood, being a member. *chuckles* But I just noticed this the other day, and thought: Wow. How true. Just thought I'd comment and let you know how appreciative I am for that bit there - and a few of your other posts are rather interesting, too! I might have to keep an eye out over here! =)

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