I spend a couple of weeks every summer waiting at the local aquatic park while my kids are in swimming lessons. This could be miserable, since it's usually hot and the place where parents are supposed to wait smells like b.o. in the worst way, but I know where find a shady spot and catch a refreshing breeze while working on my writing. I have diagrammed the plot for many chapters and stories in this oddly productive writing oasis. In fact, it inspired a story idea with lifeguard characters.Some of the lifeguards I've seen over the past few years have inspired certain quirks and personalities. I'm still sketching it out and trying to be patient till I can write it.
Another perk is that I have plenty of opportunities to EAVESDROP on teenage conversations. This is the best way to freshen up my dialogue skills since, let's face it, I'm not exactly part of the teen scene anymore. Last week, I was sitting at my favorite metal table planning out the final chapters of Focused on the back of a flyer I found in my minivan, when a group of ideal specimens strutted into the place. They too had to wait for swim lessons to end before their after-hours swim party could begin. Perfect.
At first, I was able to document that the words "crap" and "dude" are still heavily favored expressions. (This was once debated at my writer's circle.) However, it didn't take long for the topic of conversation to veer towards certain female lifeguards. I stuck it out though as it wasn't completely distasteful and was definitely genuine. Then they began to discuss their weekend plans, hoping to include "what's her name" and "that girl down the road." I'll just say that at that point I seriously considered glaring at them to let them know how disgusting they were. And, just so you know, it wasn't because I learned a new euphemism. Tiddlywacker? Seriously?
I was disgusted because they cared so little about the girls they were discussing that they didn't even bother to try remembering their names. My first thought as I gathered my stuff and walked away was, "Those poor girls. I hope they give these jingle-brains a well-aimed kick to the tiddlywacker for an answer." My second thought was, "Oh, my gosh. I have to raise a son."
I'm writing this post because I know that what I overheard is the rule, not the exception. It has been for time immemorial. The problem is, how do I write stories that are real and honest, but clean and elevating? How do I create a character with real flaws and humanity without writing something that breaks the moral code I've established for myself as a writer? These aren't questions I have an answer to yet. This is why the task I've set for myself, to write clean but authentic stories, is difficult. But I don't give up easily.
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"I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions." James Michener