The English Language is Not a Sacred Cow

Yeah, I said it. I’ll stand behind it too. All the people out there who compare the witnessing of misused punctuation, grammar, diction, homophones (that’s my biggest failure), and all the other so-called abuses of the English language to having a nose hair ripped out, you have my sympathies, but not necessarily my support. Before you hunt me down with pitch forks and red sharpie markers, allow me to defend my statement.

First off, historically speaking, the English language that we use now resembles little of the English language that was spoken and or written even one hundred years ago. Don’t believe me, get a hold of any piece of published material from the turn of the twentieth century and observe the formality of the language. Go back another 100 years, around the time Jane Austin was writing, and you would swear she had no education, when comparing her sentence structures to what we consider acceptable today. Shakespeare? I don’t think I even need to elaborate on that.

Second off, the English language is a bastardized language to begin with. Much like the little group of islands from which it originates, the language evolved from the series of invasions by Germanic (and in my opinion, Scandinavian) tribes that assimilated themselves with the inhabitants. To quote Wikipedia: “English frequently makes use of loanwords originating from other languages.”

My point is, language, like all forms of communication, is an evolving entity that will adapt to the ever changing needs of its culture. Rules are made to be broken when they no longer serve their purpose. And claiming that the only voices that matter are the ones that use your rules for correct English is not only elitist, it’s a little backwards.

 

Facing Adversity

From the time I was old enough to form an understandable sentence, I had  the adage drilled into my head that, “life is not fair.” I imagine it’s not fair for everyone at some point in time. We all make sacrifices, one way or another, bargain with ourselves to put up with this painful change or that, tolerate this injustice or that, for the sake of better times down the road. We wager that the “not fair” part will swing away from us and leave behind the “overly blessed” to make up the difference. That somehow life will become fair, even if it isn’t now. But that’s the point. It won’t.

There will always be those who look to us to have too much prosperity, and those who look like they live their entire lives in destitution and want. There will always be winners who always win, and losers who never get a break. Yet we all press on, all struggle to gain that little piece of security that will make us feel in control of our destinies. Our big brains just refuse to accept the fact that our world is full of chaos and anarchy that has no interest in our grand plans. No matter how well we prepare, sometimes life just happens, and it’s usually not fair.

My writing is a form of escapism for me from the real life that seems to just happen to me on an absurdly regular basis. Presently, I am juggling so many bargains with the callous world that ignores my goals that I can barely form a cohesive thought. All I can do at the moment is hang on and wait for some break so I can breathe and see what I’m left to work with. Bear with me.

Write what you know, but don’t be afraid to know more.

Research, research, research is just as important as location, location, location.

When you grow up as sheltered as I did in a place where almost nothing of consequence ever happens, you do a lot of research. You have to. If I did no research, I’d have to write a non-fiction book called, “How to survive growing up in Northwest Wisconsin and staying  mostly sane.” It would be 50 pages long. Who’s going to bother reading that?

Murders like the kind I write about rarely happen here. We get one gruesome killing maybe every five years or so. So, just the murders alone take exhaustive research. Toxins in plants don’t make themselves apparent with casual internet searches. You have to dig for them in scientific blogs and research papers chock full of Latin. I sometimes wonder if the federal government really “Big Brothers” our internet. They’d probably be dismayed at some of my search terms, like “burning a body in a metal barrel.”

I get dismayed at the sheer brutality our so-called “humane” race is capable of: domestic violence, the war on drugs, human trafficking, rape, exploitation, genocide. Just focusing on those subjects in and of themselves is enough to make me want to hide under a very thick comforter and stream nothing but Sesame Street re-runs. The trick to doing the research is to glean the kernels of good out of the overwhelming bad.

And, believe it or not, there are pockets of hope, redemption, survival, and sometimes justice amidst all the pain. We are a resilient if duplicitous race of beings. There is always that search for love, for peace, for liberation from the yolks of bitterness and regret that all of us are guilty of carrying around for too long. As a writer I use the research to put my various characters into the positions they need to play to find their end game, whether it be a good outcome or an unfortunate one.

In essence their fictitious journey is simply a reflection of our real one. In my opinion, that’s what good dramatic writing should really be about.