Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Are you over-crotching your story's meaning?

There's a problem I've seen in plenty of amateur writing (and some professionally published writing to, I suppose, if we're being honest, which isn't allowed in literary industries, so NEVAR!). A writer will be going along fine, building motifs and characterization and rising action and other buzz words thrown around in shitty Lit classrooms. Then all that crap builds to a point where it solidifies into a grand insight: the meaning of the story. Fireworks go off, you're moved as a reader, wow, what a story.

Errrhhhchchch (record skipping)

Then, just to be sure you got the meaning, the writer then explains it in plain speak, you know, in case you aren't smart enough to have followed along with the story.

This is bad because it can feel like the author is rubbing your nose is the meaning. Great for training cats not to piss on your carpet, but terrible for training writers to trust you can deliver a meaning without a final mission statement explaining what you just already understood as a reader, on your own, by way of that ol' reading comprehension thing.

What I'm henceforth calling this phenomenon is over-crotching. You know, when two lovers are finally united after so much has kept them apart and now, in each others arms, it feels as if the world is finally right, they're safe, happy. We understand the power and emotion of this moment... and then the writer over-crotches the meaning by flat out stating: they felt the wold is finally right, as they're safe, and happy. Yeah, no shit, Sherlick.

Oh, wait, I just realized I explained the phenomenon, not why I'm calling it over-crotching.

Ever watched So You Think You Can Dance? It's a great show (well, not really, but whatev). It's got sexy young dancers dressing sexy and dancing sexy and being sexy and dancing is sexy (if done at all right) and the show IS sexy. Sexy everywhere! Everyone understands this after watching the show. It's hard to miss. It's part of the experience. Part of the meaning behind dance (even Bollywood dancing has been sexy once or twice!). Got it, sexy?

Yeah, of course you got it! That's my point.

So, why are the slow motion rehearsal shots so often of female dancers as their legs are spread wide wearing skimpy shorts, or more often, tight dancing spanks. I mean, I'm a reasonable person and like a sexy body as much as the next reasonable person. Hell, we get plenty of regular, in-the-course-of-a-dance legs open shots that aren't gratuitous or lewd, just sexy, because they're part of the inherent sexiness of the dance.

But the slo-mo camel-toe? Over and over, show after show? Sorry, SYTYCD, we understand the show is sexy, but you're over-crotching your meaning. We don't need the idea the show is sexy so explicitly rubbed in our faces (ouch, a particularly meaningful analogy considering the context). [I'm told adding pictures is a practice of good blogging, but, umm, not this time, as I fear I'll over-crotch my point]

For those scoring at home: an occasional long legged split-lift is sexy. Inherent sexiness is good. Over-crotching the sexiness just becomes lewd. Slo-mo camel-toe is bad.

I beg you, writers of the world (and producers of SYTYCD, since I know you're reading), keep this in mind the next time you're crafting your story. The subtle, naturally occurring meaning and emotion is good. Slo-mo camel-toe is bad. If you're a writer, resist the urge to explain your meaning. If you did your job it'll be there in the action and interaction of the characters. If you explain the meaning, or step in as a writer to nudge the reader, "eh, eh, that's what I'm talkin' 'bout," it's not only condescending, but can turn good meaning sour; drama into melodrama; emotion into sentimentality; sexy into lewd.

So, the next time you're writing a particularly meaningful scene, keep in mind you don't want the meaning to be half-baked and unclear or unrefined. But you also don't want to over-crotch the meaning by rubbing it in the readers nose like so much slo-mo camel-toe on So You Think You Can Gag.


  1. Great for training cats not to piss on your carpet

    I think you mean dogs; cats are untrainable.

    This would all be solved if writers stopped trying to write meaningful crap and just started writing.

  2. Sorry, but cats ARE trainable. You just have to be smarter than them (or at least smart enough to figure out what they want).

  3. The important thing to remember is that most writers are NOT trainable... at least when it comes to not pissing on carpet... then again my favorite writer was Bukowski, so my perspective may be a bit warped when it comes to drunken urination.

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  5. The writers are dumb? Or just the cats that outsmarted you?

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  7. Are we playing a game called how many groups of people can we insult at once? You're winning!

    Cats aren't dumb, like I said, just because they're smarter than you doesn't mean you have to be a hater. And, actually, I'm a dog person. Two big dogs - 0 cats.

    And yes, I actually believe I possess a brain and that my head holds more than eyeballs. I'm sorry yours isn't.

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  9. Aw. That's so sweet, you cared so much you went to my blog. Sorry I didn't have time to check you out, or just wasn't interested, whichever.

  10. Eh, whatever. Go ahead and live in your own little world, Trish. I'll live in mine.

    Sorry about the derail Popsicle. I'll delete my posts because they're childish back and forth.

  11. I love SYTYCD. But, yea... they definitely ramp up the camel toes. I think it's to distract from the uncomfortably feminine men.

  12. Yeah, it's one of those tough decisions a TV exec has to make... Hrm, do we define our show by the awkwardly, feminine men who all seem either very gay and uncomfortable with the girls, or very dorky and hard-up, and thus uncomfortable with the girls... nah, easier to just exploit the sexuality of the youngest female dancers! I know what I'd do: start making all the guys also wear skin tight spanks!