Personal updates

About the f-word

I told someone that I would read a book, but as I began reading, I was completely turned off by the frequent use of the f-word.  Finally, I had to put the book down and go wash my mouth out with soap.  Why do authors think they have to do this?  Reading a book is like going to a banquet.  Depending on the skill of the author, you could be looking at a few slabs of charred meat, some dull green, boiled beans, and some plain potatoes.  Or you could be looking at a Thanksgiving buffet laid out on a beautiful, ironed tablecloth:  a crisply browned, succulent turkey; fluffy mashed potatoes; smooth creamy gravy; crisp whole baby beans seasoned lightly with butter and salt; mini-squares of moist stuffing with just the right amounts of spices, shredded carrot, and onion… and don’t forget the pies, with tender brown crusts and sweet, brilliantly colored fruits, all done to perfection.  But as you are dishing out your food, your mouth watering in the midst of this amazing feast, you find a blob of poop.  Ewww, you think.  But you are hungry, so you just edge around it and go on to the next item of food.  But there again is another blob of feces.  You grit your teeth and keep going.  And then you discover a pool of vomit and a piece of raw intestine.  The smell hits you, killing your appetite.  Your feast has effectively been ruined.
Some authors would say, well that’s real life.  That’s how people really talk.  I’m just reflecting what’s really out there.  Well, honey, I’ve got news for you.  People don’t read novels for reality.  If they want reality, they’ll go watch the news.  (Er… never mind, bad example.  The words hyperbole and manipulation come to mind.)  They’ll read a history book.  (Well… again, bad example:  most history is deliberately written to be as dry and dull as fingernail clippings.)  They’ll go to work to a boring, monotonous job that sucks the life out of them one day at a time.  Or worse, they get up every day to abusive spouses, loved ones dying of cancer, drunken parents who beat them, selfish parents who neglect them, or not enough food on the table.  When people read a book, they want to be transported to a magical place where the good guys win, where there is a hero who gives them the courage to keep struggling through their real life problems, where true love really does triumph.  They want to keep hanging onto hope.
Yes, you want your characters to be as ‘real’ and believable as possible.  And some people swear.  Probably most people above a second grade level swear in some form or another.  But it’s not one of the lovelier aspects of humanity, so my advice is to use it sparingly.  Yes, there are times when the only thing that will fit the character or the situation is a particular word, but remember that too much salt and pepper destroys a good stew.  Better yet, make up new, inoffensive swear words that get the idea across but don’t turn the stomach.  And please, please, leave your blobs of entrails, vomit, and excrement (ie – f-bombs) at home.  The only people interested are scientists and naturalists who study scat to find out what the owl or hawk ate the day before, or doctors and nurses who want to find out what’s wrong with you so they can fix it.  If you’re going to plop a brown, wet pat into my feast, I might just not eat after all.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.