'With All Due Respect' - 'It’s Complicated'
This month I’m going to slip away from ‘what procedurals do wrong’ and branch out a bit taking on script writers.
The fall TV season is pretty much over. Twenty-two episodes, give or take, for the major shows. Twenty-two opportunities for the writers to strut their stuff; to give us great dialogue, tension and conflict in every episode, yet some of the writers were less than creative and used the same phrases over, and over, and over and…
If you watched any political dramas this season the used (and overused) phrase was ‘With all due respect.’ I learned early in my leadership career that using that line in a city council meeting is a bad idea! In fact, it means completely the opposite of due respect. Since swearing is not allowed in council meetings, it is a way to put down someone. In my naiveté, I actually thought I was giving respect! Ah, to be young and naïve!
There are several urban definitions to the phrase
•A statement said before you give an insulting comment.
A polite way of saying “kiss my a**.”
A term that is used to diffuse the impact of an insult, often in political circles.
Another way to say “listen to me, you stubborn idiot!”
You would use this phrase when you are insulting someone to the point of ticking them off. It’s a bit like when someone apologizes to you, then says but… You know that the apology is insincere and everything that came before the but is BS!
Same principle here. Just because you say ‘With all due respect’ first, doesn't mean you can say whatever you wish afterwards. This phrase has been used so often now, there’s probably no place for its use ever again. You should use this phrase wisely, and sparingly, like once a decade!
Ed: “With all due respect, Jim, you three look like you belong in a nursing home.”
Jim: “Don't even get us started on you!”
Ed: “I SAID WITH ALL DUE RESPECT, that means I can say what ever I want and you can't get mad or offended. You three look like the cast of cocoon!”
Jim: “Just because you said, ‘with all due respect’ it doesn't mean you can say whatever you want, it simply means, CAUTION I'M GOING TO BE AN A** WITH THIS COMMENT AND I WILL REGRET IT LATER!”
You get the idea.
Early on it became so prevalent in many shows, political shows (thus the definition above - Madam Secretary, Designated Survivor) that it became a drinking game in our house. Not a real game though, cuz we’d be thoroughly liquored in those 43 minutes, and I’d be out of booze!
The second phrase, not used quite as often, was ‘It’s complicated.’ Yes, in fact, life is complicated. But a TV situation, not so much. Fortunately, the shows using this phrase (Gotham) were on a different night, so we had a second round of the drinking game.
Now, it’s not that these phrases are wrong, whichever definition you use or whatever your intent with using the phrase, it’s the overuse of the phrase. It’s like the writers had a quota of times the phrase had to be used in an episode. And let me tell you, at times that number was in double shots, I mean double digits!
A few years ago in a submission to my critique group, I used a common ploy to get cops to stop; a beautiful girl in distress by her car. The reviewer commented, ‘You caught the first fish that swam by.’ Meaning, I used little imagination and used a tired, overused ploy.
What does any of the above have to do with our writing? As authors, we have to be careful of using an overused phrase. And very careful about overusing that overused phrase in our writing! We all have some phrase we like to use. It may as simple as a couple of words, or a complete sentence. You need to find these in your writing and replace or delete them. The readers expect better of us.
The police are chasing a suspect. The tension is palpable. The surprisingly fit cop can’t gain ground on the agile bad guy. They race down alleys, over fences, through yards and in and out of apartment buildings. Children and little old ladies are knocked flying and litter their path. Still, the cop is a half block back. The suspect stops at the curb of a major road, turns to the cop, smiles, gives him the finger and steps off the curb. BAM! Only to be crushed by a cement truck, bus or another large vehicle. The suspect is dead. Forget buying lottery tickets. If I got ten bucks for every time I saw something like that this season, well, I’d have more than a hundred dollars!
The same principle is at play here. It’s been done in previous years and overused this year. Don’t catch the first fish, be patient. Look for a new phrase. Search for a new ploy to move your plot forward. Readers expect more from us. They don’t want the tired old phrases or ploys. They need us to be creative; to take them down paths they’ve never been before; to create fresh, witty dialogue and new sayings that get quoted for years to come.
Here’s looking at you.
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See Dwayne's website: www.dwayneclayden.com
Dwayne's article appears in July Opal