F is for French
Well, okay, today isn’t about the beautiful language of love. It’s still about language, but it’s more about the pardon my French variety. Swearing, cursing, cussing, profanity…it’s really all the same.
And for whatever reason, it seriously gets under some people’s skin.
I’m one of the readers who actually checks out the reviews other people have left on a book before I download it or order it. Specifically, I want to know why people didn’t like it. I’m always shocked at the number of people who will give an otherwise wonderfully-constructed book one star because the mystical F-word appeared.
I’m probably more shocked by the number of people who felt it necessary to go back through the book they hated to get a complete tally of how many times each swear word was used.
My feelings about profanity as I read
Let’s be really honest, y’all. I’m not exactly a delicate snowflake over here whose heart will go all a’flutter if I’m not handled with literary kid gloves. My mind doesn’t become so full off offense that I can’t hold it together to understand the flow of the prose. Words are just, well…words.
But context still matters.
If I’m reading a rom-com and the profanity dams break loose and the words wash over me for no apparent reason in the story, I tend to wonder if the writer has Tourette’s. Especially when there are no other clues about the characters to indicate that this is normal language for them. In some genres, it just really doesn’t make a lot of sense.
And even in the genres where it does fit, I always wonder why they’re insulting each other in the middle of a sex scene.
My feelings about profanity as I write
I am absolutely 100% unapologetic about profanity in my writing. I don’t write children’s books. I don’t write Christian romance.
Most often, I write murder.
And here’s the thing I will never understand about those who decry any book that uses profanity as
terrible…They’re totally down with all the evil things the killer is doing, sometimes in great detail, yet an F-bomb is too far. It’s what kills the book.
The way I look at language in my writing is this: Would the hardened FBI agent standing over the naked and mutilated victim’s body say things like “friggin'” and “heck”? When I’m describing a truly horrific crime scene through the eyes of the agent, is their F-bomb utterance really the most disturbing thing in the passage?
For my part, I’d be totally pulled out of the scene if the character pulled his profanity punches because it wouldn’t make a lot of sense.
And I really do recognize that some people are horribly offended by F-bombs, regardless of characterization or genre. That’s fine. I’m sure there are plenty of suspenses and thrillers out there with white-washed language for them to enjoy.
But as I said, I’m 100% unapologetic about my use of language and have no plans to change it…unless I write a book for kids or a tender romance, of course. I will always go where the story takes me, naughty words included.
What are your thoughts on profanity in fiction? Have you ever stopped reading a book because of it?
Next up: G is for Getting over Yourself
© 2013, Sydney Katt. All rights reserved.