Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Scarface and Swish

by Jude Mason

The door swung open letting in the heat of the late August afternoon into the ramshackle bar. Scarface grumbled, then turned and scowled at the slender man who entered. Blond and fair-skinned, the entire room had to know the silk suited twit wasn't 'one of them' he was much too simpering, too pale and much, much too clean. Before the swish sat down, Scarface slammed his half empty beer mug on the filthy bar and rose to his feet, unsteadily, and shambled across the room.

Simpering swish turned and looked at him, a large buck-toothed smile on his face. His right hand, the nails gleaming with polish, reached out, limp-wristed, towards Scarface. "I'm Sammy, what do you want, asshole?" Even his voice was out of place, thin and reedy, a pitch too high to be manly.

"I'd be much obliged if you'd turn your feet that-away and go somewhere else," Scarface growled, ignoring the proffered hand.

"Why you piece of shit, lowlife asshole, why would I do that?" Sammy replied in a simpering snivel.

"Because, if you refuse, I'll have to show you the door."

"Yeah," Sammy cringed, his face gone white. "I've seen the fuckin door. Now, fuck off!"

Scarface's blood boiled. The swish was asking for trouble. "Listen, Sammy, you'll simply have to go. There's no place for the likes of you here. We're all rough, tough bikers, can't you see that?" The last few words came out with a spattering of spittle.

Okay, I'm not sure if that worked, but it was fun. What I'm really trying to get at here is, lauguage is flexible, beautiful and amazing fun to play with. Characters, people, speak a certain way and as readers you expect the characters to comply with a set of unwritten rules. The biker doesn't sound like he'd pass the Grey Poupon, the sissy doesn't come out with guttural snarls and language that'd make a logger blush.

I'm really a firm believer in using language appropriate to the character. If the harsher words upset you, or you prefer not to use them, don't write characters who would normally use them.

As for what words I won't use? If you mean Jude the wife, mother, grandmother, I tend to fit the words to who I'm talking to. I've been known to curse viciously and foully. Cutting one's thumb with a hedge trimmer will make the meekest of us creative in the use of language. LOL Yet, I'm sure if my grand son had been there, I'd have bitten off a goodly portion of them and screamed REALLY loud instead.

Jude the author doesn't shy away from many words. I'm not fond of purple prose, but have used them in my time. Flowery bugs me, yet vile vernaculars makes me smile. I once read a poem in an outhouse that was inspiring. It rhymed and it was totally swear words. And it made sense. I was impressed. I laughed and pointed it out to my daughter, who was in her twenties at the time. She thought I was a tad weird, but she laughed too.

Okay, back to Scarface and Swish. The language I used didn't fit them. If it had, the story could have gone on quite nicely. Poor Swish would have been either tossed out on his ear or something worse. The way I wrote it, made it pretty much impossible to get into the story. We expect things and are confused when we don't get it. Writers learn this or have trouble finding readers.

What do you all think? Have you ever read something where the language pulled you out of the story? What words bother you? Why?



  1. Hey Jude!

    I agree, you have to match the language to the character. Language invokes the character.

    Profanity doesn;t bother me if its from a profane character. Its a means to an end. Mark Twain said that profanity can be more comforting than prayer. When you were writing about Scarface it made me think about Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction", my favorite screenplay of all time.


  2. Hi Garce,

    I have no idea why this posted. I set it for 4 AM... grrr!

    I really believe language can be like music. There are all kinds of styles and rhythms, classical to grunge to bebop to jazz and more. And it evolves constantly. Limiting yourself to only using such and such words just isn't for me. LOL

    Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting.


  3. Hello Jude,

    Excellent little example. It's really jarring to hear the characters speak in language that is so wrong for them.

    And I agree 100%. Which I guess means that there must be some character out there who's going to beg to have his prostate stimulated... [grin]


  4. Hi Jude,

    Wonderful example and it proves a very valid point about contextualisation.



  5. Wow, Jude was talking about contextualisation and I didn't even know it....

    Ash you're a smart ass, you know. *G* And Jude, please can I take my red pen to Scarface and Swish?

    Great post.

  6. Lisabet,

    Thanks so much. I wasn't sure where to go with this weeks topic, but decided a little playing might be fun. Personally, I'm very fond of Swish. LOL


  7. Ash!

    I did what? What the Hell! I did that contextualisation all by myself!

    LOL Thanks for commenting.


  8. Jenna,

    What do you mean, red pen? I'm shocked... here I thought this was PERFECT contextualisation!


    Thanks for stopping by and commenting.



Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.