This public service announcement is primarily aimed at those of you out there in blog-land who didn't cringe or frown when you read the words "playwriter" and "fictional novel" in the title of this post.
The proper term for someone who writes plays is "playwright" as I gently pointed out to the relative who proudly proclaimed himself his church's premiere "playwriter."
For the record, there is no such word as "playwriter." It's one of those made up words, like its ghetto cousin, "conversated." If you don't trust me, look it up for yourself. Unless you're using the New School Dictionary of Ebonics, I'll doubt if you'll find it. The same applies to "fictional novel." If you are currently using this term, for heaven's sake (as well as your own credibility and self-respect), please stop. Seriously, it readily marks you as someone who doesn't have a clue or a dictionary.
Short lesson here, so take notes. A novel is by definition a work of fiction. To insist on describing a novel as fictional is sort of like using the ebonics expression "kilt dead" or "killed dead," if you will. As much as I enjoy the playful use of language, I'll be d@m# if I ever get caught dialing up 911 and yelling into the receiver, "Send the police! Somebody got kilt dead over here!"
One day, years ago when I worked at the public library in Memphis, a gentleman, who fancied himself a writer, told me he'd come in to do a bit of research on his "non-fiction novel." I just nodded, smiled and said, "Uh-huh, good luck with that." Of course, besides wanting to laugh, I couldn't help but think, "What the ---?!"
Still not convinced? Okay, not long ago I watched a reality program on TVOne called "Stage Black." The show featured the playwright, David E. Talbert and his attempts to help a group of young actors break into the business. In the process of critiquing some of their work and upon noting how defensive they were becoming, he paused and said something that had me waving my hand and shouting, "Amen!"
Talbert explained that most people in the business weren't going to be as honest with them about their shortcomings. He said folks were going to let them make a plumb fool of themselves, only to shake their hands afterward, smile in their faces and assure them they'd be in touch. But as soon as they'd exited the theatre, that same director would frown and say, "Scratch him/her off the list and don't ever allow him/her back up on my stage again."
If you don't think that same kind of truth applies to those of us who are out here looking to be respected as writers and authors, you're fooling yourself. To borrow a phrase from the COS, "Come on people!" wake up, do you homework and stop trying to half-step.
Really, I'm not trying to be mean. We all fall short of the mark sometimes. I have no problems admitting that I'm a horrible speller, a lazy proof-reader and I could very well use a refresher course in the basics of grammar. But in addition to relying on my computer's spell check and keeping both a dictionary and an English text nearby, I've learned to accept being called out on my errors. After all, isn't that how you learn and grow?
So hey, if this post rubs you the wrong way, maybe next time, rather than hanging out here at the "Old School Mix," perhaps, instead you ought to dive into that "fictional novel" you've been planning to read. You know, the one written by your friend, the famous "playwriter?" (Smile)