Monday, October 8, 2012

Tech is a dirty word

I've been busy enough lately that one of the things I've not been working on is my novel, Void. I think I'm starting to suffer separation anxiety. I hope to give it a larger portion of my attention soon, but in all my busyness elsewhere (theater, notably), my mind has still been wandering back to it.

In the story, technology for the common people has been suppressed to the point that engines and electronics have legendary status. So, when trying to come up with a mild "curse" word that would be consistent with this world, I decided that "tech" was the word to use. I first considered it because I thought it was funny -- haha, tech sounds like heck. "To tech with that!" "The tech do you think you're doing?" Eventually, this evolved into the adjective "tecking."

After awhile, it stopped being what was basically a funny placeholder for until I thought of a better word. I started to realize how it fit in the consciousness of the people of Void's world. It's a part of the culture I've created, and it's become a symbol and watchword for other points in the story.

However, the thought process that brought me there is kind of weird for me. I don't cuss in real life. Really. Not at all, unless "darn!" and the occasional "crap!" count. I grew up in a house where nobody cursed (at least not in my hearing) and I didn't start absorbing foul language until middle school. By then, other forms of expression were habit enough that I could block it out. During high school and working in various places, I was shocked by just how much profanity was tossed around. The f-word? It's ridiculous! It doesn't even make sense, and I've listened to people who use it three or four times a sentence.

So why use even fake curse words in stories?

Firstly, my characters aren't me. They don't come from the same background. They come from difficult lives where they've absorbed a lot of stress, pain, and in all likelihood, cursing. It can be a descriptor for the people, a normalizer, and another way to flesh out the story. (Brandon Sanderson's "Stormfather!" and "storm you!" in Way of Kings is a good example of this.) Also, I think there are times in stories when its absence can be conspicuous. Simply mentioning that a character cursed without saying the actual word can be awkward when done too often.

Lately, though, I'm wondering if the use of "tech!" was subconscious for me. "Tech" in the theater world is short for "technical" -- the rehearsals that happen just before a performance, in which everything goes wrong. Actually, it's when all the technical aspects have to come together. Lighting and sound cues, makeup, props, set, everything has to be finished. To the cast and crew, tech week is about as fun as hours of intense boredom mixed with little sleep, random bursts of intense physical activity, and frustration when, as said before, all the things go wrong.

Last week was tech week for Taylor theater's production of Waiting for Godot. The frustration that comes with tech was very much on my mind. Still, it was a good week for me. I got through lots of work and obstacles and survived intact. Now I'm looking forward to going through some of the same processes in Void.

So, fantasy writers -- leery of stooping to profanity? Trying to come up with suitable modes of expression to portray intense anger or frustration? Be classy; make something up! The right word might already be swimming around in your head.

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