Saturday, June 10, 2006

Coitus Interruptus


OKaay. That was a cheat.
Or maybe not.
I'm never sure what I'm going to post about next.
Alternate title could be Gritty and Edgy.
Have seen the phrase tossed around a fair amount lately.
Just not sure what they mean when they describe a book as "gritty and edgy."
Surely not just an euphemism for grungy, Seattle style. Mean streets and all that.
Or street talk by characters, including the double "c" word or "f-" as an adjective, noun, verb, conjunction and dangling participle.
Not really new.
Gritty, perhaps. Edgy? I doubt it.
Or frankly describing a man's equipment as "balls" instead of "plums" - see Robyn's comment yesterday and others about the vegetables of love.
Been trying to get the image of greengage plums out of my mind ever since. "Plums" doesn't do it for me. Somehow. Do I need to explain?
I called them "balls." Does that make me gritty?
Just smothered a snort.

Gritty and edgy refer to topic?
After Peyton Place, what's new?
Every now and then, someone will try a re-run of Lolita, or make a long novel including under-age sex, incest, euthenasia, municipal corruption, nasty goings-on at some state run facility, child abuse and murder.
In fact, such plots are fairly common.
Many mysteries and much horror could fall under an "edgy and gritty" label without even trying. So could many thrillers. So could erotica.

Maybe it's a quality of suspense infused throughout, as in "edge of the seat," with Damoclean danger about to grind the characters into fine, sweepable bits. A technique of plot twists?

Or is Gritty and Edgy just Blurby speak?
Help me out here.

27 comments:

Savannah Jordan said...

We'll have to have some of our more experienced authors answer this one for us, Bernita. I don't quite get it myself. "Gritty and edgey" is an awful lot like "genre busting." Seems like everybody wants it, and either no one knows what it is, or the editors are afraid of it for lack of reliable sales demographics.

Bernita said...

Yes, Savannah, with all the analytical minds around, it should be something capable of definition, not by example only.

S. W. Vaughn said...

I think "gritty and edgy" is one of those PR terms used to place an umbrella over a broad range of spins on a subject. Editors are basically saying "we want excitement. Give us a twist we haven't seen before."

Add gritty and edgy to romance and you get "romantic suspense." Add it to literary fiction and you get The Book of Ruth. Thrillers are by nature gritty and edgy. Also, it's probably not so much the plot as the characters. The best fiction contains characters that do unexpected things. Any genre can comfortably nurture "gritty and edgy" characters.

My books are about streetfighters. They are gritty and edgy. :-)

Jaye Wells said...
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Jaye Wells said...

In some cases, it's definitely a marketing ploy. But I'm feeling pessimistic about that subject right now, as you know. `I'd even go so far as to say I feel edgy and gritty about it.

As far as a serious answer, I think of gritty as using reality in an exaggerated way. For example, a stressed out, alcoholic detective protag, instead of a perfect-looking hero.

Bernita said...

Thank you, SW and Jaye.
Keep it coming!
Out of these insights we may be able to produce a high concept.
Salman Rushdie I would consider edgy(QED), but not gritty.
Gory scenes may be gritty but not edgy.
Sometimes it seems to be applied to the writing; sometimes, to the whole book.
Sometimes fairly standard fare may be shocking or edgy when a certain character does such?

Dennie McDonald said...

this is how tired I am - I am just trying to figure out what the double c word is...

Bernita said...

Nah. My bad, Dennie, was trying to be "cute" and it didn't come off.

Ballpoint Wren said...

I usually don't like stuff described as "gritty" or "edgy." To me, all it means is that the publisher assumes more people will be offended in some way.

Gritty and edgy humor, for example is generally full of profanity, or full of sexual references a little more extreme than usual.

At least, that's my take on it.

Bernita said...

There may be a great deal of truth in that observation, Bonnie, ie. contents may be considered offensive to more than the usual hand-wringers and pearl-clutchers.
On the other hand, I wonder if what is described as "edgy/gritty" has something to do with a reality created - some sense of raw immediacy.
A viseral skill that makes the reader feel as a participant or at least a horrified on-looker.
And you've given me an idea for tomorrow.

kmfrontain said...

I don't know what gritty and edgy are in fiction. It's too many things. For some reason, I keep seeing Adam Sandler in my head. That may or may not be good for my writing...

Bernita said...

Your writing is just fine without him, KM.
I find your writing too rich to term "gritty" but probably "edgy" applies.
Mine, now, is neither, as far as I see it - though I am fond of a "never eat strawberry ripple icecream again" line.

Flood said...

I assumed that gritty/edgy meant not pretty or formulaic. Unexpected twists. No happy ending, and anti-heroes, maybe.

I assume them to be pat words, just like 'inspiring' or 'bone-chilling!' I don't know much about romance, but for what I read, these blurbs can give me a sense of what I am getting myself into.

When I read After Peyton Place, what's new?, I was thinking, how many ways are there to describe a book anymore? Few new plots, few new words to push them.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

LOL....you cheated...LOL...The title of the post...LOL...it will bring all kinds of traffic....looking for gritty/edgy, interrupted sex...LOL!

Those two words are subjective. They even have a meaning in Christian fiction. Although not as "savage" a meaning as in other genres...but Coitus Interruptus...LOL...that only has one meaning! LOL

This is so much fun...and I've had so much coffee this morning, that now I'm rambling!

Bernita said...

You may be right, Flood, the terms may just be blurby for " a little different."

Bernita said...

Hee, Bonnie, I doubt it.
Those looking for a cheap web thrill wouldn't know the words.
I had planned to resume the sex questions/themes - cough, cough - until Bonnie Wren started me thinking on a new tack.

Gabriele C. said...

I've not heard the phrase before. But I don't care about what publishers look for anyway, I write what I want and that's it. :)

Bernita said...

...said Gabriele, who writes gritty historicals...

kmfrontain said...

Gritty is Clint Eastwood in a spaghetti western. (Replaces Adam Sandler's image with an ugly black spit spot on a dry dry boardwalk plank. Adds one helpless scorpion for Clint's uncoming boot. Laughs at Clint's given name. Tries not think how disgusting the inside of his mouth must taste like with all that chewing tobacco gob inside -- Outlaw Jose Wales movie -- and then wonders if he has yellow nose hairs from smoking little bitty stogey stubs all day long on a shoot. Adam Sandler walks in and hits him in the nose for ruining my image of him in Punch Drunk. Oh. Sorry, Clint.)

kmfrontain said...

"...though I am fond of a "never eat strawberry ripple icecream again" line."

And what is such a line, I wonders? :D

Bernita said...

And there you have the secret.
An imagination like KM's which goes beyond the conventional shoulders and buns.

Damie drags a body, a partly eviserated body through the snow.

kmfrontain said...

"Damie drags a body, a partly eviserated body through the snow."

Ew! Bernita! Never eating strawberry ripple icecream again!

Bernita said...

That's what she thought too...

Jeff said...

Gritty and edgey better describes how a person feels after spending a day cooking in the sun at the beach. Not sure about these terms used for a novel. :)

Lisa Hunter said...

Gritty and edgy aren't the same, in my opinion. Edgy means something beyond what we've seen before. Something that makes you think: My gosh, the writers actually went THERE.

To use TV analogies, Sex and the City was edgy, but not at all gritty (it was pure glam). Law and Order is gritty (as crime stories usually are), but not at all edgy -- we've seen the same stories before on other shows. Sopranos is both edgy AND gritty.

Bernita said...

Hi, Jeff, thank you.

Tends to lead one in that direction, does it not?

Nice examples, Lisa, and a good point.
Will someone please write "I am the Dali Lama's Yeti's Concubine?"

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