Fear in Writing: The Bad Trip

Today in Literary History

Today in Literary History...December 14, 1907: Rudyard Kipling receives the Nobel prize for literature, the first English-language writer to do so.ud

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Bad Trip

My five-year-old son loves books. Jake can’t yet read, but he loves to hear the stories and make up his own. On Monday, he was looking at the back cover of a Berenstain Bears book on the way home from school. For those unfamiliar with these now-classic children's books, the back cover is a grid of more than 30 thumbnail pics from all the titles in the series. During this particular car ride, Jake jumped from thumbnail to thumbnail, making up names for all the books based on the pictures. Titles like Too Much TV and The Bad Habit became ‘Trouble with TVs’ and ‘The Bad Bear Nail Biters’. When he arrived at one that shows the Bear family on vacation, Jake call out, “‘The Berenstain Bears and the Bad Trip’!"  

I choked on my coffee. Visions of stoned Sister Bear and hallucinating Mama danced in my head. Well, danced very slowly. I could even envision the cover: psychedelic colors in a swirly tie-dye pattern backdropping a droopy-eyed Bear family surrounded by Cheese-Its and empty soda bottles.

Obviously, this wasn't what Jake meant when he said ‘The Bad Trip’. But how often do we say something that could be misconstrued? When it’s intentional we call it a double entendre. When we don't we might label it Freudian slip. But when we write it into a novel...Oops?

I wish I had a great example from the many I have read over the years. I can only think of settings. Say you're writing a very serious situation, but you have the female lead say, "It's very hard!" while hugging the male protagonist. Is she talking about the horribly emotional and energy-draining dilemma in which she is embroiled? Or is her scene partner very well-endowed and excited to share it?

Have you ever read a ‘Bad Trip’-esque slip in a book? Have you caught a ‘it’s very hard’ moment in your own writing?


  1. That's so funny! I sometimes read of those slips in books and laugh. I can't think of any but now I'm going to watch for them. I should put some in my books for my readers to enjoy.

  2. Is that a gun in your pocket, or ...? I'm with Clarissa. I know I've read these slips before and your post brings memories of such occasions to mind, but I just cannot think of any in particular right now. Great post though and I understand what you mean.

    I recently added a slip of sorts into a sex scene of one of my stories. A couple is in a shower with a woman using the shower head for support. In a lapse of awareness, the woman tugs on the shower head too hard and it breaks off and drives directly into her lover's head. He's injured and bleeding but can only think to suggest they move their activity to another room.

    OK, not so much a slip but morbid comedy inserted into an otherwise very intimate and character revealing scene.

  3. God point, Michele. You're addressing the most fun and challenging side of writing; getting things to have a double (or triple) meaning. That's what I'm striving for all the time, such that the reader will wonder what the writer really meant. Or maybe it can be equally obvious to everybody, but in different ways. That's when writing becomes art >:)

    Cold As Heaven

  4. I loved the Berenstain Bears when I was a kid. I shall have to get some of their books for my son.

    I have often discovered unintentional innuendo in my writing when I go back and edit. Mostly they're typos or freudian slip phrases. I didn't see their other meaning when I initally wrote them but it leaps out in the editing.

  5. Love the Berenstein Bears!!!

    I can't (of course) recall specific examples, but when I come across these they totally crack me up :)

  6. It's not mine, but a friend told me this story about 18 years ago and it stuck with me: She was driving on the interstate with her toddler son. The little boy said,"Look at that big ass truck, Mommy."

    She was shocked. Where had he learned to talk like that? "Andy! We don't talk like that," she admonished him.

    "But, Mommy! It's a big ass truck!"

    As traffic slowed in her lane, the truck next to her pulled even. She looked over and saw that it was, in fact, a big gas truck with a tanker on the back.

  7. This post was hilarious :) Thanks for sharing!

  8. Hi Michele! I'm back!
    The 'Bad Trip' is just too funny. I'm always on the lookout for slip ups like that in my writing, and I see them everywhere (my dirty mind at work). It can be hilarious trying a zillion different ways around saying "he grasped the sword in his right hand", especially when I'm writing a fantasy book! I can't even write "he drew his sword" without chuckling to myself. I'm not sure I can get through this book without turning it into a raunchy comedy :)

  9. *snort* Love this. Double entendre is my favorite form of little private jokes. I just got back beta comments on my first Cozy Mystery and there is a place with a car rear ending another where I refer to bumping and grinding... my beta caught it... because she knows me... (her little *snort* told me she appreciated it)--I am hoping it stays after the editor read because I figure only people who might get a chuckle will notice it.

  10. I've had a few Freudian slips and blurted things out. Almost got slapped a few times. Got a few smiles too. I've since matured and conquered that problem.