Tuesday, May 17, 2016

"Chutzpah (Audacity, With A Soupçon of Disrespect)"

I have spoken in the past of the invisible Mariachi band that plays songs for me at the fitness place we go to in Mexico and how there is an affiliated invisible Mariachi band – or they may be the same people; they just move when I move – at the ocean.

Well here’s what happened.

Last Saturday, I was headed left along the beach walking path in the (imaginable if not actual) forbidding direction of Venice when my Mariachi compadres, arranged in full and festive regalia along the horizon, erupted exuberantly into song. 

I knew at once that the song was for me.  As is their time-honored proclivity, my visible-only-to-me musicians, channeling the vast and eternal  Pacific Ocean (and Mexico’s sacred Mount Kuchuma at the fitness place we go to in Mexico), had at that very moment been reading my mind.

As is my time-honored proclivity, at that moment I had been thinking about my health, specifically… well, never mind about “specifically.”  Almost immediately, my Mariachi companeros, which had been underscoring my amble, burst into full voice and sang:

“We’re gonna love you forever
We really love you a lot
We’re going to always be with you
No matter what thing you’ve got.”

The melody, in case you are interested in playing along, goes:


(Which can also be used as an eye chart.)

Well, of course I was touched.  The ocean seems to always know what’s on my mind, and how to comfort, reassure me, and give me the courage to carry on.  That’s why I appreciate the ocean.  And the ensemble that communicates its messages.

But I am also a writer.  And being a writer, I cannot stop myself from evaluating the effort.  That is just how it works.  Moments before, I was luxuriating in unqualified acceptance and support.  Now I’m considering upgrades in the material.

“We’re going to love you forever
We really love you a lot…

“Love – love.”  They repeated the same word.  That’s not good writing.  How many times had I experienced a great joke pitch get shot down due to the repetition of a single word, because (the edict always came down):

“If they hear the word twice, they won’t laugh.”

I do not know if the “repeated word” rule is actually valid.  But everyone I worked with adhered to it, including myself.  Even here, I try not to repeat the same word.  (Unless the repetition itself serves a comedic intent.) 

Invariably, during rewrite nights, after hearing a great joke pitch with a repeated word in it, we would begin pitching synonyms, only to discover that we had lost the “funny” along the way.  Ultimately, we wound up throwing out the joke.  And you are surprised we were there until two in the morning?

Ignoring the fact that the ocean was eternal and omniscient, I searched immediately for ways to improve on its songwriting.  A “replacement” line was required, so as not to repeat the word “love.”

And I came up with one.

“We’re gonna love you forever
So never give it a thought
We’re going to always be with you
No matter what thing you’ve got.”

Yeah, that was okay. 

Five minutes later, I started feeling it was stilted.

In England, they have the phrase about a smartass, they call them, “Too clever by half.”  “So never give it a thought” was not “too clever by half”, but it did feel “too clever by effort.”  The line appeared demonstrably forced – a recognizable “replacement line”.  Which, in reality, it was. 

Sometimes when you’re writing, “natural” is better than “crafted”.  Even if it breaks a sacrosanct writing rule.  There is a benefit to “natural.”  It feels natural.

You see that?  I repeated the same word.  Twice.  And you know what?

It was the right thing to do!

Writers have to guard against overwriting, and overthinking.  There are rules that are more important than writing rules.  Including this one:

Never rewrite the ocean.


1 comment:

Fred from Scarborough said...

Do you hear the music when you turn right?