Friday, December 3, 2010

What's In a Word?

There's been a lot of talk around writing blogs recently about foul language. When is it appropriate, how much is appropriate, is it ever appropriate, how many readers will you lose because of it, what constitutes foul language. I'm no prude, but it does offend me when people who will gleefully read descriptions of the most horrible violence are then offended because this gruesome killer used a word on that reader's proscribed list.

I understand why some publishers and editors are leery. They in the business of making money, and lost sales cost money. (The discussion of whether sales lose for some reason are gained back by the flip side of that reason can be left for another day.) It's the readers who worry me. To say it's all right for Lucas Davenport's nemesis du annee to rape, mutilate, and kill half a dozen women; he'd better not say "fuck" while he's doing it. There's something disturbing about a mindset that allows for that. I can't shake the image of being attacked bya knife-wielding nut job, screaming for someone to get this fucker off me, and my only source of assistance is such a reader, who raps me across the knuckles as I bleed to death for having a potty mouth.

In the interest of keeping all words in their proper context, and celebrating their flexibility, here's a little primer on the variety of uses to which our most flexible, yet forbidden word, may be applied. This is not safe for work, school, or around those who are easily offended. You have been warned.


Declan Burke said...

What I find hilarious is the kind of reader who will happily read about rape, murder, pillage and mayhem of all kinds, but who will close the book, never to read it again, if you so much as have a character give a cat a boot in the arse.

Actually, that's not hilarious, it's deeply worrying.

I suppose the best thing is to sort the wheat from the chaff early on, by starting your novel thusly:

"The serial rapist gave Tabby the one-eyed kitten an unmerciful boot in the hole as he crossed the kitchen, growling, "That'll fucking teach you to drink the last of the cream, you Cheshire-grinning bastard."

That way, you don't have to worry about losing readers later on.

Cheers, Dec

Charlieopera said...

Good stuff.

Mike Dennis said...

Funny video, Dana.

pattinase (abbott) said...

If the character swears, how can you not include it? You are betraying him otherwise.