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Friday, August 6, 2010

Hooking the Audience, or Competing with a Gynecological Appointment

It hit me as Judy Garland played in the background while I wrote. The difficulties in coming up with a story and characters that will hook the reader is the difference between You Made Me Love You and You Make Me Want to "Grunt", which is followed by humping noises, courtesy of Ashley Simpson.

Letting it all hang out is...crude. Today, it seems youth and celebrities and even some old folks revel in it (except for the glamorous ones). When I grew up, you kept your personal information, well, private.  Only close relatives were subjected to the details of your recent "troubles", whether they be financial, physical, or mental. Unlike now.

I recently had to choose between browsing the magazines at Barnes & Noble or listening to a play by play of a third party's gynecological appointment being reenacted over a cell phone. It sounded as if the woman on the other end of the line didn't even know the unlucky subject, so why would she care? (Most likely, she was desperately planning her own medical emergency in order to escape the monologue.)

Most of the time, if you thought about what you were being told, you would laugh. I refer to an article I recently read where the woman described her daughter as having a disability because she "couldn't help saying NO to me". It was called something ingenious like "Saying No Disorder". 

I bet a little thinking on her part would have put the apple back on the cart. The woman was going through a divorce--traumatic on any child. The daughter acted out by saying "No!" Now she has a disorder, and instead of learning self-control or working through her anxieties with a qualified family therapist, she gets to run around shouting "No!" all day and reaping the rewards--attention and sympathy.

When I acted out as a teen (and, women, we know that teenage girls are all bitches, and I feel I can use that word because my aunt, daughter of a Baptist minister, used it to describe her own teenager) my mother had a more practical approach. She came home from shopping and threw a t-shirt at me. Inscribed on the front were my favorite words. "Yes, I know." Mom said, "Save your breath." I did, because having her make fun of it took the joy out of acting up. (Mom's a smart woman.) And I didn't require psychotherapy to help me recover from T-shirt Humiliatous.

I do have a point. As a writer, how am I supposed to compete with a play-by-play gynecological appointment? If disorders are as common as head colds and something to be proud of, do I have to write a healthy protagonist in order to surprise my readers?

When Agatha Christie's character called someone a "bitch", you sat up and took notice because it was a rare page that contained swearing. Now F-bombs fall from the sky like Washington rains. The hubby is working on an alleged comedy. They are filming scenes twice to capture two different ratings. Do the swear words make the dialogue funnier? I'm guessing...no.

The English understand the humor in restraint. It;s difficult to mimic British humor. It takes an intelligent, clever mind, and I admit that's one reason my mysteries aren't placed in England.

I have to get back to my own writing now. Perhaps I can include a scene from my appointment with--no. I just can't share those kinds of details.I guess I'll head back to Barnes & Noble and hope that someone feels like discussing their colonoscopy with friends.

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