Good Gravy! What the !!??I*&?>I*!!
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Have you ever used the phrase “good gravy!” in place of a more indelicate expression? You know the kind I mean. My oldest daughter, when she was 3-years-old, called them “those words only daddies can say.”
Euphemisms are sometimes necessary, like when a munchkin at your child’s daycare drops a bucket of Play-Doh on your foot and your “fu” prefix turns to fudge. But in writing, honesty is paramount. When writers aren’t true to their characters, we do them—and our story—a disservice. Don’t expect your protagonist to talk like a preacher if he’s really a grouchy ex-Marine.
Remember Rhett Butler’s delicious line at the end of Gone with the Wind? Imagine if he told Scarlett, “Good gravy, my dear! I don’t care!” No one can argue that “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!” is so much more satisfying.
An honest expletive is as rewarding for your reader as it is for your character, situation permitting. It is also an amusement when an expletive pops up inappropriately. Here’s a true life example.
One Christmas, when my son was 4-years-old, he was antsy to get the tree decorations down the stairs and into the family room. I told him to wait for his dad. He didn’t, of course, and fifteen minutes later a huge crash resounded as several boxes of glass ornaments tumbled down the stairs and Joey with them. My husband and I, and my visiting in-laws, rushed to the site of the disaster. Broken glass bulbs lay scattered everywhere, with Joey sprawled on the stairs.
“I’m okay!” He assured us as we helped him up.
“That scared the bejeepers out of me!” I told him.
“You?” he said, dusting off his footie-pajamas. “It scared the hell out of me!”
Would this story be as cute if Joey had voiced a euphemism? Nope. Was it inappropriate for a 4-year-old to use the word “hell” in a completely appropriate context? Yep. But as true stories go, it doesn’t get more honest than that. (For the record, “bejeepers,” isn’t the word that first came to my mind.)
When you’re writing, be true to your character’s voice within the context of the scene. Exchanging the word that works for one that sits idle will take something away from your story and insult your main character. It doesn’t matter whether you would say it or not, only that your character would. So, good gravy, buttercup, keep it real!
|Clip art courtesy of Webweaver.nu|
For those of you hoping for turkey gravy insights here today, I don’t want to disappoint. In that spirit, I have four important words for you: white wine and brandy. That’s right. Add some white wine and/or brandy (more or less to your personal taste) to the turkey pan drippings and it will offer up what you’re looking for . . . good gravy!
P.S. Book Blurb Friday will go on as usual. See you then!