This weekend my granddaughter was talking about a ‘book’ which ‘literally saved her life’, telling me I should read it. What did I expect? Certainly not what I got. On a fan-fiction site, devotees upload their stories as they write them, snippets, chapters, punctuation and spelling mistakes galore. Readers pick them up and follow, eagerly awaiting the next chapter. The ‘book’ I was given to read had 336,000 hits and yet it was as far from being a readable book as it was possible to be.
To begin with, I thought it a play. Except it wasn’t. The only way I can describe it is: an ungrammatical series of jottings, in which expletives ruled the roost, with absurd situations created just for titillation.
Today, my attention was caught by The Young Writers Newsletter which was shared by Storm Grayson and which is aimed at under-eighteens.
Are they connected? Not in a literary sense, no. To be honest not in any sense because the Young Writers Newsletter is about encouraging young people to write well.
For me, fan fiction sites expose a worrying trend in popularism – is there such a word – with authors appealing to the lowest common denominator. It is also a terrible indictment of our education system. At least forty years ago, people wrote a good hand with words spelled correctly and in their right place.
I can hear the outcry now. Does it matter? Surely you should be delighted that someone is actually taking the time to write?
It does matter. The English language is one of the richest anywhere, so why are we restricting our vocabulary to 200 words, half of which comprise 4 letters and are banned by the BBC for usage before 9pm?
I still find profanity belligerent, aggressive and in most cases, unnecessary. I neither find expletives funny (as comedians on the television seem to think) nor clever (as writers on television seem to think) nor an example to our young. I read on-line that J K Rowling and Piers Morgan swapped expletives. (It may well not have been true – fake news is yet another worrying problem. I was told at the weekend that in some places you can get the sack for being too pretty!)
Indeed, expletives are so widely used that no one notices or comments any more. My problem with all this profanity, if you hear of something often enough it becomes normal. At which point to capture an audience’s attention, you have to push the boundaries of ‘acceptable behaviour’ further and further.