Sunday, May 03, 2009

Affected

So, my daughter has this thing where she dots her i's with little open circles that look like the ones in the Disney logo. She also makes the dots at the bottom of her exclamation points the same way. She thinks it's cool to do this because she's of that age when it is cool to others of her age to do such things.

I told her dotting her i's with circles is affected. She asked me what affected means. I explained.

Dictionary.com lists the following entry for affected:
-adjective: assumed artificially; unnatural; feigned

Oxford American Dictionary offers up the following definition for affected: -adjective: pretentious, or designed to impress

Last night, I finished reading the latest installment of J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series, Lover Avenged. And the one word that ran through my mind the entire time I was reading was, you guessed it, affected.

Because as vivid and complex of a world that Ward has created, as compelling as her alpha heroes may be, as intricate of plots she manages to weave, Ward's style of writing is so unbelievably affected that it yanks me out of the story time and time again. It's all that comes to mind when I think of her books. I no longer can lose myself into the story because I've reached the point where I'm actively looking for examples, and I squeal in glee when they pop up every few paragraphs. It's almost a game to me.

For those not in the know, Ward's heroes are these massive, preternaturally strong, virile, uber-male vampire warriors. Macho he-men killers who don't know the meaning of the term refractory period. They bond with their heroines so completely they even carve the gal's name across their back to create permanent scars, proving their devotion and complete loyalty. They can kill you with a mere look, don't so much as wince when they are dealt near-mortal wounds, and wear leather the way most of us wear cotton.

These heroes also say and/or think things like:

"You just say the word, 'kay?"

When the waitress brought freshies, John glanced over at the redhead...

"I'm outtie then."

He made her shift her weight onto one foot so he could pop off her stillie and shuck her Sevens free...

Okay. I'm sorry, but what heterosexual male not involved in the fashion industry in some aspect or another would ever - EVER - use the word stillie? Heck, how many men even know what that word is slang for? Ask any random man to name the correct term for a stilleto and 99 times out of a 100 the answer would probably be "those spikey heel shoes".

And what person over the age of 13, of either sex, would seriously say "I'm outtie?"

The reason I find Ward affected is because she seems to think that shortening words and adding "ie" to the ends of them (freshies? outie? stillie? and there are so many, many more examples I'm too lazy to go back and find) as part of her characters' verbal and mental vocabulary gives them dimension. By using this form of tween slang, they aren't cardboard cutout alpha males but well-rounded, sensitive sorts who are in touch with their inner kid.

It's the writer equivalent of dotting her i's with open little circles in order to make her characters unique and deep.

Really, though, it creates a complete mental dissonance when reading the story that causes me to come full stop in the middle of sentence. I'm supposed to believe these guys are stone cold killers who inspire fear in everyone they encounter when they're telling each other to just chill, 'kay?

It doesn't make these guys metrosexual chic. It doesn't make them in touch with their feminine, sensitive sides. It doesn't even make them guys with a surprising knowledge of women's fashion and incredible good taste. It makes them little girls. And little girls aren't really that scary.

Writing natural-sounding dialogue is very hard. And slang is a most useful tool in accomplishing this elusive goal. But come on. Stillie? Really?

I admit that Ward's books are like crack as far as addictiveness goes,
so for that I give her mad props (something her guys would say). As much as I want to walk away, somehow I just can't. And this is shameful given how many other issues I have with her writing style (don't get me started on the label-dropping). But it's this authorial tic that is like to drive me away completely.

I mean it. If she keeps doing it, I am so outtie.

1 comment:

becki said...

Funny post. For the most part, I'm not as annoyed by the language affectations as you are. However, I ended up on your site b/c I was reading JR Ward, and came to the exact language about removing her "stillie" that you quote above, and I had to put down the book, go to the internet, and search for the term, because I had no idea what the hell it meant. And I'm a woman.

I do, however, know what men call stilletos. "Fuck-me pumps." (sorry about the language, but there you are). Since the scene is being written from the male perspective, that's the language she should have used. (for those of you who haven't read her, JR Ward has no problem using the "f-word" in her books).

Not only do I have a problem with being stopped in mid-fantasy because I don't know what the heck a word means, now that I do know, I'm REALLY annoyed. See, I've never worn stilletos in my life (who can walk in 'em?), but I do know men find them incredibly erotic and would NEVER remove them from a woman he was about to take from behind,fully clothed, while she's leaning over his desk.

Triple whammy: not only is the language affected and incorrect, not only does it stop the reading so you can find out what she's talking about, but the scene is factually whacked out by him "pop[ping] off her stillie", as any grown man(and any grown woman who has ever even GLANCED at a Penthouse or a "hard-boiled detective" story for men) would know.