Thursday, September 21, 2006

Got "got"?

My first grade teacher, Mrs. Bolling, was a kind and wonderful being. (I say was, because I'm assuming she's dead now. She'd be well over 100.) She inadvertently helped me learn the left handed hook, made sure "please" and "thank you" were so ingrained in me that I use them at the drive through, and taught me that "ain't" and "got" weren't words.

Yeah, "got" is not a word according to Mrs. Ruble Bolling. You wouldn't dare argue with Mrs. Ruble Bolling the greatest first grade teacher in the history of first grade teachers (next to my mother of course), would you?

Well, I would. I didn't at the time, but I do now. "Got" is a word, but it is a weak word. It's a meager way of saying "have" (among other things) and sometimes it feels downright redundant.

"You've got mail."

I'm of the camp that thinks this should be: "You have mail."

"Got milk?"

In my mind, I would use: "Have milk?" (Although some of the power might be lost.)

When you understand something do you "get" it? Or comprehend it?

I'm trying to think of an example where "got" is used and it couldn't be substituted for a better word. Don't get me wrong, "got" gets into my writing. (Hmm…let's change that. Before we misunderstand each other or I'm thrown into the category of hypocrite, let me state that I have been known to use the word "got" in my writing.)

As writers we carefully manipulate the weight of words to evoke emotions in the reader. I can't remember where I read it, but somewhere someone said, "The shorter the statement the more power it has."

[Paraphrased from memory] A single word has more weight than a phrase. A phrase has more weight than a sentence. A sentence has more weight than a paragraph. A paragraph has more weight than a page.

Or something like that. It feels true, but it might be wrong. I wonder if the same thing holds true for words.

I struggled with a line in "Full Circle". This is probably one of the lines where my editor, Tami Parrington, won't notice my fight. This sentence contains the word "got". It's a dah-dumm-insert-dramatic-music-oh-shit-oh-no moment in the story at least I hope the reader sees it that way.

I'm going to change it (make it vague) for this post. I don't want to spoil anything in the story.

"He just got his [something really bad]."

(I can hear Tami checking the last line in chapter five right now.)

This sentence commits two crimes – just and got. By all means, Mrs. Bolling would like for me to change this sentence to: "He recently received his [something really bad]." I tried rewording this sentence to eliminate "just" and "got", but I felt it lost power with each revision. "Recently received" sounds like getting (there's got again) a pleasant gift. I think the shorter words "just" and "got" add umph to the sentence that "recently" and "received" don't provide.

I'm willing to bet that 95% of the time "got" is used a more powerful word would serve the piece better.

So, do you get "got"? Or has "got" gotten a bad rep from Mrs. Bolling?

Everything in this post aside, I'm pretty sure Tami would appreciate me devoting more thought to my abuse of passive voice as opposed to the word "got."

Warning: The "Word of the Post" is rated M and is for adults only. Reader discretion is advised. It's probably "R" rated, but I want to err on the side of a caution.

For today's "Word of the Post" I'm using Poeminister's Archaic & Poetical Dictionary

Darkling – in the dark; mysterious

Hey Mark, dear, how's your back? (This one is an extension of the previous snippet. I'm not sure how long I'll continue this particular set of characterizations. Let's just relax and have fun with this, shall we?)


Mark hissed as he sank into the tub. The cool water felt particularly cold against his back. With a wad of cloth behind his neck, he relaxed and started to soak. His wrists bore bruises from his punishment and ached, but his mind was the most unsettled.

Why did he like enjoy it? What kind of perverse man was he?

With his predilection toward other men, he was accustomed to society seeing him as some kind of twisted and tainted beast. He hadn't battled confusion in himself over his own desires since he shared his first homosexual kiss.

He enjoyed being whipped. How sick was that? Perhaps demons had possessed him.

The water stung his striped flesh. He'd spent his life thinking pain was pain. The bite in his back now was very different than the heat he felt before. The sensation before did hurt in a way, but it was a different kind of hurt.

Mark groaned and whispered to the crickets, "This makes no sense." He couldn't deny how he felt during the punishment. At one point, it was as if he was beside himself. His mind blurred the sensations from the whip with carnal desires. He felt numb and yet very present.

A fluke -- that's all it was. He closed his eyes and let the water cradle him.

Something slid against his forehead quickly covering his eyes. He jerked up renewing the agony in his back. A firm hand gripped his shoulders. "Sh, I'm not here to hurt you."

Fingers caressed Mark's neck and the blindfold tightened around his head. He didn't know that voice, but the touch was gentle enough. Perhaps this intruder wasn't a threat. As long as he had his hands free he could still defend himself and grant a little leeway for curiosity. "What do you want with me?"

"Let's get you out of the water." The stranger touched Mark's biceps and helped him stand. The night air sent a shiver through his body and chill bumps spread across his skin. "Step out. Careful now."

By the time Mark was guided toward his home, he was shaking too much to stand without the support of the stranger.

"Getting into cold water was the worst thing you could have done."

Mark felt the heat from his hearth against his body. His teeth chattered nearly drowning out all other sounds. A gust of warm air brushed his legs and the stranger spoke again, "I need you on your stomach. On your knees first."

Mark used the stranger's arms to help himself kneel. When he explored the floor, he discovered a blanket. He crawled over the blanket and lay down. Warmth from the fire radiated over his body. "I-I-I can't stop shaking." He winced when he bit his tongue.

"Breathe deeply and try to relax." The stranger straddled Mark's hips.

The skin on skin contact made Mark gasp. "I th-th-think you have me mist—" The stranger hushed him with a kiss against the back of his neck.

"I know your choices. You can't lie to me."

He felt the man on his back shift to the side.

"This might sting, but it will help."

The stranger smeared some kind of salve on one of Mark's cuts. At first it did sting, but the soothing nature of the medicine pushed away any lingering pain. The man tended to Mark's wounds with a mixture of tender touches and gentle kisses. The fire warmed his body, the ointment quieted his pain and the caresses excited him. Mark found himself quite comfortable under the stranger's careful attention. He knitted his brow and wondered: Who was this darkling lover?

The man lifted one of Mark's arms and kissed a bruise. "Lesson number one: only the one who gives the pain can soothe it."

Mark knew now.


MissWrite said...

I'll be back later when I have more time to really get into this post but I just had to say:

Oh she used 'my' word... no not my word as in I knew what it was. Exactly the opposite. MY word in that it was the one that I singled out in ch 4 and said, is this another of 'your' words? LOL My souls, my dictionary doesn't have these things she comes up with. I have gots ta (ha, hows that for today's twist of the day?) get a special archane dictionary JUST for working with Cuppie.

IM Cupnjava said...

No worries, Tami, see I have no life and I get kicks out of skimming dictionaries. I also wrote a character who had a verbal fetish and had to do a lot of research to get him in the mood.

That's not a fetish I recomend anyone else using. PITA to the max!

IM Cupnjava said...

>.< TWO "got's" in that reply.

Bernita said...

Think that "got" is a perfectly respectable word, from ON "geten" along with others of its get.
Perhaps Mrs. Bollings wanted to avoid the vulgarity of "git"

MissWrite said...

Oh, I love that the torturer was the seducer in the end.

Um, got, like all other words is perfectly acceptable in the perfect context. Had, and was also receive horrible 'reviews' lol. But they can be, and are used correctly. They ARE after all words. LOL It's when they are used in order to passively convey situations, surroundings, or people that they become boring, and staid, and therefore tossed out post haste.

kmfrontain said...

This came up in editing today for me as well -- the get, got, gotten question. I'm working with an American author, and where the POV goes super tight into a head, I've left the got go.

LOL. That sounded funny. Left the got go.

IM Cupnjava said...

Bernita -- I doubt Mrs. Bolling ever heard the word "git". I was her first and only (best of my knowledge) left-handed student. At the time I was in her class she was probably about 5 years or so from retirement. THAT'S how small and sheltered my hometown is.

The chances of her hearing Brittish slang are very slim.

Tami -- You're right. Had, was, etc can be used properly, but most of the time they don't serve the sentence well.

Karen -- You had to get got, huh? Err.. you had to zap got, huh? LOL! Do you think American writers use "got" more often than others?

MissWrite said...

I don't think they use it all that much really. When you think of it, how many legitimate ways are there to use 'got'? Not many when you try to think of using it in a sentence (without being silly.)

YOUR way at the end of 5 worked! He got it alright. LOL But see, that's a way that isn't something you could just use any old time. I've seen and heard people write and say 'he got up', well that's not really correct, and THAT'S probably what old Ms whats-her-name was getting at. (Oooo did I say

kmfrontain said...

Yeah, I went on a got hunt, but there were moments, because of tight POV and obvious American style (way of thinking) that the got had to stay. "Got through to him" is one example. I had a POV character thinking about whether she had "got through to him". That's a very American way of thinking. If I had changed it, the story would have lost that American feel of that character's thought processes.

Dakota Knight said...

Hey, you've GOT a great post here!


Bernita said...

I just wanted to get some rocks off about analmeisters.