WIPpet Wednesday: Unnecessary Step

Why, hello there, Wednesday! You sure crept up on me.

Today, my son’s school is having a fundraising event for cancer. His jazz band is playing again, so a bit later I’m off to his school to hear them.

This week’s WIPpet is from a scene that gave me a lot of trouble. It felt dry, so one of my betas suggesting adding heat to the argument. I struggle to write good fictional fights—it’s why I write love stories and not action! My beta was right, though, so I added a lot more tension.

When I changed the scene, I realized that I had an angsty teenager on my hands who was likely to say some things for the purpose of being as hurtful as possible. I’ve been back and forth on this one, and I’ve changed it more than once. I sensed it would be true to his character to use a particularly awful homophobic slur. However, I felt that it would be inappropriate and offensive for me to actually write it, for a number of reasons. So I didn’t; I implied. Today’s bit is the rest of that argument.

The title of the post is what my kids say whenever someone has taken things too far. Simple math: today’s the 18th, so 1 + 8 = 9 dialog paragraphs.

The blood drained from Alex’s face; he put up a hand. “Don’t you dare ever call me that again.”

Michael made an irritated sound in his throat. “I’m done listening to anything you have to say.”

“Was there a time when you did?” Alex snapped. He wanted to take the words back the moment they left his mouth.

Michael’s expression darkened. “Screw you,” he spat.

“Your mom wouldn’t be too happy if she heard you say that to me.”

“You know what? I don’t care. I don’t need you to tell me what to do, and neither does Mom.” He pushed away from the wall and stepped close to Alex. “Don’t you get it? We don’t need you.”

Alex stared at him, his mouth open, trying to find words. “I—”

Michael huffed and rolled his eyes. “I’m going to wait outside.” He turned around and stalked off.

“You’re still wearing your tap shoes!” Alex called after him; Michael gave him the finger.

Be sure to go here and read the other entries. You can add your own if you like—just post a bit of your WIP, connect it to the date by whatever tangled means necessary, and enter the link in the collection. Thanks again to K. L. Schwengel for hosting!


9 thoughts on “WIPpet Wednesday: Unnecessary Step

  1. awww I wanted like two sentences before to see which one you used to imply it =P

    Definitely heated though. And it always makes a teenager satisfied to leave an adult speechless in the middle of an argument.

    • All I did was cut him off and had Alex shout over him. It’s not perfect, but my genuine feeling about it is “that’s not my word to use.” And yeah, I’m sure he’s pleased to have “won” that fight.

  2. Great tension throughout and Alex’s reaction nicely shows how strong a word is used without you needing to spell it out.

    • That was my hope. I’m not against using strong words, but my rule of thumb is if it’s a slur no one is ever likely to call me, I’m not going to put it in print. I’m glad it still had the desired effect.

  3. I love the way you handled this. You gave the suggestion of a slur, without giving that type of hateful speech actual real estate in your story or the minds of your readers.

    You walked a delicate line well, and turned that potentially ugly saying into a chance for Alex to stand for his own right to dignity.

    Beautiful on so many levels. Well done!

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