1. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    Terminology

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Show, Jan 13, 2009.

    Ok, this has probably beem asked before but it was on my mind recently.

    While this may not become an issue for everyone(it likely isn't), if a scene occurs where mention of a character's sex organs is called for, do you choose to use actual terms for them or do you try to find words that may be considered "more comfortable to use"?

    Or do you avoid any mention of them at all? Sorry if this has been covered before(Likely has) and if it's the wrong place. I was just curious what everyone's opinions on this were.
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You need to know your target audience, and also what your publisher will accept. What the publisher will accept, of course, is determined by the market they sell to.

    For mainstream science fiction or fantasy, for which a significant portion of the target audience is teens (often with attentive parents!), the standards will be stricter than a lurid True Crime market.

    You need to be able to adapt your voice to the market's standards.
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    and to the story's needs/parameters, as well... you wouldn't use a crude term, for instance, in a story about a spinster's daydreams... and 'prissy' terms wouldn't work in one about a serial rapist...
     
  4. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    In my more PG-13-oriented writing, which is non-sexual in nature, I'd probably go with something general like "privates," or even with vaguer references--for example, when my MC ducks between her boyfriend's legs to throw fire at a bad guy, he snaps at her that she's "firing off weapons close to something he'd rather like to keep."

    In edgier writing, more specific terms seem fine, but one shouldn't use the really goofy euphemisms (some of them not really euphemisms at all) that some erotica writers use...those just come across as silly. I won't give examples, for obvious reasons. :redface: I'm just saying that, if the tone of the story calls for it, if you mean cigar, just say "cigar."
     
  5. Robert
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    Robert Banned

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    Unless that spinster had crude daydreams ;)
     
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  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    true... i should have said a 'prissy spinster'! ;-)
     
  7. Scarecrow28
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    Scarecrow28 Contributing Member

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    I guess it depends on both the audience and the character that's speaking. If your targeting a younger audience, you may want to use something a little bit more vague. But if you're targeting a slightly older audience, than you can be a bit more free with your choice in words. The second thing is the character that's saying it. Let's say it's a crime novel: a police officer or medical examiner may use more standard terminlogy but a criminal may use more crude words.
     
  8. Hetroclite
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    Hetroclite Member

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    That should be up to you. How do you feel about which terms you use. It's your writing. It expresses you. So go with what you're comfortable with. If you're concerned with offending a reader, you may want to include a warning in a disclaimer.
     
  9. Rosetta Stoned
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    Rosetta Stoned Member

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    Go right ahead. Haruki Murakami gets away with it just fine.
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    That's fine if you're writing in your private journal or on your blog site. If you write for other reeaders, and especiaqlly if you are looking to publish, you do need to consider what is appropriate for youtr target audience.

    Writing is communication, and the intent is to convey information (whether it is factual data or an entertaining story) to a reader. If the words you choose prodiuce a reaction that is not in concordance with your message, you have failed.

    Strong language often produces strong reactions. You can pretend that those reactions don't exist, or that you don't care about the readers who don't react the same way as you do, you're deluding yourself.
     
  11. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    IMO - you need to write whatever language your character would use. In fact, you might craft dialog between characters who have different comfort levels in this matter...one using crude terms, while the other responds with more PC language reflecting his/her discomfort with the subject.

    As far as publishers, I would not worry about that. If the story is compelling but an editor is concerned about a few crude words, the editor WILL ask you to modify them to acceptable standards. Of course, a manuscript that is replete with such objectionable language will not be judged as "compelling" in the first place.
     
  12. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    Are medical terms really considered crude? I do realize that crude terms have become popular, and there are also more vague ways of getting your message across. Sometimes I wonder whether or not to just, as another poster said, "Call a cigar, a cigar" or just use something vaguer. With many of my characters, they won't get crude, but it's fairly gray in where'd they go in terms of just using the proper medical terminology, or using a more comfortable word.
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    of course not!... but they can be too arcane for most readers and plainspeak versions of the jargon usually works better...
     
  14. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    I know not where my own writing is oriented.
    I do not swear at all, and none of my characters do, so that would SEEM to be able to get me no higher than a PG-13.

    There would be the use and mention of drugs, (real or fake, though I am leaning toward the latter) and plenty of violence, though nothing horribly gruesome. (Blood splattering)
    As for copulatory situations, I would never describe a sex scene, with books, you tend to get away with more regarding nudity than with other mediums of entertainment.

    I am more worried about what I, personally, feel is appropriate. Violence is probably what my book will have the most of, since I do not think of blood and death as being quite as -- wrong, I suppose I could say.

    It's wrong to murder and such, sure, but seeing blood is a fact of life.
    Smut is another thing, altogether.
     
  15. Cheeno
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    Cheeno Contributing Member

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    Depends what the context is and who your characters are. As was said before, no point putting accepted slang or medical terminology into the mouth of someone who would obviously use another term. I think it's important, though, to be able to write outside of yourself, not sticking rigidly to the relative limitations of your upbringing.
     
  16. Show
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    ^^ What about in general narrations?(ie a scene being described in 3rd person) Are there any guidelines on how far to go there since it is not a created character speaking?
     
  17. Cheeno
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    Cheeno Contributing Member

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    In that case it depends on your target audience and chosen style.
     
  18. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    Some terms:
    Genitalia

    Privates
    Unmentionables

    Invent new ways of saying it.
     
  19. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    if anyone here is worried about what can be allowed, i suggest they get out in the world of books and pick up gawdawful stuff like 'the fight club' to see what can become not only bestsellers, but major movies with top-name stars... there are enough creepy people [to me, anyway] in our supposedly 'civilized' world who get off on scheiss like that, to make it popular and lucrative, sad to say...
     
  20. sorites
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    sorites Senior Member

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    Even the narrator has a "voice" used to describe the background and keep the story going. Usually the narrator is more or less detached from the events at hand, but he sometimes uses words or expresses thoughts and feelings of other characters. In those cases, that character's point of view influences the general narrator's voice.

    For example (PG-13 warning):

    Isabel frolicked in the waves. The cool water lapped at her firm buttocks, and she pored it over her supple breasts. Little did she know, she was not alone.

    or

    Elmer stepped into the shower. He scratched his ass with one hand and grabbed the soap bottle with the other. He lathered up his chest and his head using his all-in-one shampoo body wash. Normally, he didn't shower on Saturdays, but today was special.

    or

    Jessica got out of the pool and walked the entire length. She was wearing her red two piece, and all the boys stopped and drooled as she passed. She had perfect boobs and and a tight butt. She sure was beautiful, which is why I hated her guts.

    ----

    Each example talks about two body parts, but each uses different words.

    There are no guidelines other than just do what's right for the work. Yes, consider your audience. Yes, consider yourself. But write what seems natural. If you think it sounds natural, then the audience probably will too. Go with your gut on this one.
     
  21. sorites
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    sorites Senior Member

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    Me, me, me! :D Okay, I haven't read the book, but Fight Club was a great movie! That was a movie where I actually did not see it coming. It was done really well, and both Pitt and Norton were excellent in their roles. It was twisted, yes, but in such a good way. Funny, dark, intelligent. Choke by Palahniuk is also out as a movie too, I believe, though I haven't seen it.
     

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