When friends ask where they can pick up one of my novels I always have to preface the conversation with; “I apologize in advance for the language.”
This is because most of these friends are asking around the pot-luck table at church or something and I feel a need to cushion them from the reality of what I’ve written. I don’t want to shock them or make them feel uncomfortable, so I figure it’s best they know walking into the book that there will be some rough language.
So why don’t I exclude vulgar language from my novels?
Easy … because it’s not realistic.
Let’s face it, we all know curse words. Some of us even pride ourselves in new and creative ways to utilize expletives. I had a Drill Sergeant in the Army who knew how to insert four letter words inside other four letter words — a feat that requires no small amount of talent, I assure you — and who woke us all in the early morning by flicking on the light switch and shouting; “Get the f**#* out of bed.”
Charming, I know. But also quite effective.
Cursing seems to be a staple of adult life. There are very few of us who can say they’ve never, ever used a curse word in their lives so it is unrealistic to exclude such language in fiction. That said, there is a difference between using said words naturally, and using them for shock factor.
I’m just going to go ahead and admit that if I feel the words on the page are there deliberately to shock me, I’m putting the book down.
Yes, I’m offended by that, but not because of the words themselves. I’m offended because the author thinks that’s the only way to get my attention.
Trust me, there are better ways to shock and awe your audience.
Residual Haunting (which just posted Chapter 2 this morning) has some swear words in it. Mostly there’s slang (frigging and freaking and all variations thereof) but the vulgar words are in there and I’m sure people will notice.
Authors have to tread a fine line between keeping true to character voice and trying not to offend their readers. It’s awkward — especially around the pot-luck table — but I’ve noticed that every time I apologize in advance, my friends just chuckle and shrug.
They get it.
They live here too.