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Location: Central Michigan, United States

Spent a long career making lots of money for other people. Now it's my turn. _____________________________ Email:

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Maybe Appearance

Last week, as I wrote longhand in my Doodle Pad the last few paragraphs of a short story, my regular Tuesday morning breakfast companion joined me at the table. After taking her regular seat across from me she asked what I had been writing about. I verbally gave her a brief summary of the story. She begged to read it.

After a bit, I conceded and handed her the several hand-written pages. With them, I cautioned her it was a first draft and the story might not be very easy to follow. She said she understood.

Watching her read, I saw her develop an ever deepening frown. Finished, she handed the pages back to me without comment. I knew the answer, but had to ask the question. "Well?" I said.

She said, "Sorry. I didn't like it at all."

"Why not?" I asked.

"Too much profanity. I don't like that much profanity, especially some of the words you used."

"Okaaaay." I said. "I'll keep that in mind."

This Tuesday my breakfast companion arrived as usual, took her regular seat across from me and asked, "Well, what have you been up to for the past week?"

"Not much." I said. "I've been writing and looking for a way to make some money. By the way, I did a minor rewrite of the story you read last week. Would you like to read it again?"

"Sure, why not. You changed it some?" she said.

"Yes. " I said. Then I handed her the three or four computer printed pages of the story.

I watched her as she read the story again. This time she smiled a few times and even chuckled a time or two.

When finished, she handed the pages back to me and said, "Geez that is pretty good. You've made it an enjoyable read now. Last time was too profane and made me uncomfortable.

"Thank you." I said. We then moved on to other topics of conversations.

This is true, and I found my friend's reaction to the two versions of the story to be very interesting because during my minor rewrite, I had not removed one single word of the profanity. In fact, I hadn't changed much of the basic story.

There is no particular point to this post. It's just a little diversion for me away from something else I'm struggling to write which is dark and ugly. I don't enjoy writing dark and ugly stuff. But, I must learn.


Blogger Bernita said...

Illustrates a very interesting fact about "perception."

8:23 AM EST  
Blogger M. G. Tarquini said... don't HAVE to learn. But it does add a certain dimension...

That's funny about your friend. She just got used to the profanity this time around. She didn't expect it from you and had to 'ease into it.'

10:33 AM EST  
Blogger Sandra Ruttan said...

I think sometimes it isn't about what is in a story, it's what isn't there to balance it. Even just shifting the placement of a few words can make all the difference in interpretation.

You're a good writer Erik, and it's good you have the gumption not to let one reaction slow you down any.

12:22 PM EST  
Blogger Bernita said...

Sandra's absolutely right. Also the print vs. the handwritten may be a factor too.

3:26 PM EST  
Blogger S. R. Hatcher said...

It's more of a slog to read handwriting than typing. Don't you think? I have to think that was a factor.

Also as a weekly critiquer, I've noticed that sometimes I won't care for something on the first read, but I will like it better the second time around. Not sure why.

My unscientific thoughts...........

6:14 PM EST  
Blogger Shesawriter said...

I kinda like dark and ugly. In fact a lot of the books I read are like that. Hmmm.


7:34 PM EST  
Blogger Erik Ivan James said...

M.G.: Good point about her getting used to profanity from me.

Samdra: Thank you for the kind words.

Bernita: Yes, I agree about the print v. handwritten.

S.R.: Thanks for visiting. Yeah, I do that also. Not care for material the first time, then enjoy it later. Good point.

Tanya: I had a very hard time writing the thing. Interesting tho, now that I've finished first draft I'm not nearly as uncomfortable about it.

7:40 AM EST  
Blogger jason evans said...

Everyone made great points, and I especially agree with Sandra. Writing is so, so delicate. Small adjustments can make oceans of difference. That's why I never let anyone read something until I feel it's ready. No matter how much they beg.

9:08 AM EST  
Blogger Dana Y. T. Lin said...

Well, I have horrible handwriting. Not sure what yours look like, but if it's bad like mine, then she may not have been able to decipher any of the sentences, just maybe the few profanity words that stuck out to her.

12:33 PM EST  
Blogger Mark Pettus said...

It just occurred to me that profanity is sometimes shocking - a good reason to use it when writing - but once the shock has worn off, it isn't as noticeable.

It would be interesting to see what another reader would say.

2:53 PM EST  
Blogger R.J. Baker said...

In this profane world, it is difficult to write without profanity. I think it has its place and context and if you wrte realistic fiction it must be in the story line where appropriate. It is interesting about your friends reaction, I wonder about the psychology of the two.

I've had similar reactions in business situations, maybe they recipient feels obliged because you valued their input enough to make any hcanges at all...

11:20 AM EST  
Blogger Shesawriter said...

Perception is everything. ;-)

6:18 PM EDT  

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