Warning – foul language ahead

by Julie Frayn on April 8, 2015 in  Writing

Not everyone swears like a trucker (with all due respect to truckers). Some folks go their whole life without one cuss word. That’s kind of like people who never get cavities. How the hell do they DO that?

In case you haven’t noticed – I swear. I like the sound and feel of words I can spit from my mouth. Not necessarily in anger, I’m not an angry person. Just for emphasis. For effect. And because I just plain like it.

Since my penchant for profanity pops up in my writing, I put up warnings for all of my books.

Language, violence, sex.

These things appear in everything I write. Even 90% of the short stories. In addition to the warning, the F-bomb will likely pop up more than once in the “look inside” preview on Amazon. The whole point of the book description and the preview is to be sure readers are getting what they expect. So please take advantage of those bits of critical intel before you buy. If foul language isn’t your cuppa joe, then my stories won’t be either.

What’s this, you ask? A writer warning readers away from her books? Well, here’s the deal. I love reviews and feedback. I want to hear what readers think. It feeds the ego – no question – but more importantly, it informs my future writing. If there are areas I can improve, I’m going to try. But often a review isn’t about the story, it’s about the F-word. That’s why I put the warning out there. A one star review that is only one star because my fiction has a potty mouth (a fact the reader was already warned about) is a waste of a review in my opinion. And a huge waste of that reader’s time and money.

imagesWhen a movie has been cleansed of foul language – shit becomes sugar, fuck is fudge, all profanity turns into sweet confection – the result is often laughable. A drama with an edge becomes b-grade comedy. Me and the babies press the pause button and try to guess what they really said. It can become a game of he said what? She said fuck.

The same can be said for novels without realistic vernacular. A gangster that doesn’t swear? A rapist who can’t verbalize the horrific abuse he heaps on his victims? I just don’t buy it. Hell, even my 82-year-old mother drops the occasional F-bomb. And when she does, we laugh our asses off.

My own experience has shown that a large portion of folks in the real world swear. And many who choose not to, acknowledge and accept that others do. Especially homeless drug-addicted teenagers, or abusive drunken husbands. One reviewer commented that Mazie Baby would be just as impactful without all of the profanity.

Possibly. But it wouldn’t be as honest.

Stories, even fictional ones, need honesty. They must convey the mood, the lingo, the reality for those characters. If the writer tiptoes around language to appease a minority readership, what other aspects of the story are they not exploring to the fullest potential?

So here’s my bottom line. Profanity stays. In the right doses for the story being told, the character being explored. Because when trying to bring reality to my fictional characters, phooey just doesn’t have the same heft as a good, hard, fuck.

 

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