This post is going to hearken back to the early days of my blog. It’s going to be a discussion about a writing topic – namely, foul language in writing. If this offends you, then you might want to pass on this week’s post. If not, then read on at your own risk. And if you have a few minutes afterwards, I’d really like to hear what you might think about it.
The line of thought came about when I read a recent review for Streets of Payne. It was a Goodreads review, and was written back in July. But I seldom log on to Goodreads any more, and so I just read it recently. It was a good review, four stars, but something she said struck me. During the review, she (the reviewer) mentioned that it made her cringe to see that I went out of my way to avoid “common curses like ‘fuck’ and ‘shit’ and effectively replaced them with ‘fudge’ and ‘sludge’.”
I’ve seen and heard discussions wherein authors get upset because reviewers take them to task for dropping too many F-bombs. On the other hand, I’ve been told by some people that I don’t curse as much as I should (whatever that means). LOL. In my normal life, I don’t curse that much. That’s just the way it is. It’s just the way I am. I don’t feel the need, for the most part. In my writing, well, it depends on the character. I have some characters who are reserved, and some who are real ass holes.
Charlie Griffe, in Chucklers Volume 1 is a prime example. He’s a conniving, narcissistic, misogynistic, schizoid douche-canoe with a mouth to match. Cussing fits his character, and when I read the comment about me going out of my way to avoid harsh language, I had to go back and check to see if I had misremembered. Nope, I hadn’t. I shit you not… actually, I shit you a lot. 88 times to be precise. 88 shits, 63 damns, and there were 44 fucks given, most of them from good ole Charles Griffe.
But here’s the thing about Streets of Payne… it takes place more than a hundred years in the future. I don’t recall exactly what year it starts, and I don’t honestly want to go look at my notes. I think it was about 140 years in the future, though. And I actually put a lot of thought into how that would affect how the characters speak. SoP was published in 2013. So go back about a hundred years to the early 1900s and think about the idioms of the time. How many of you would know what “hog-eye” refers to? What about “purr-tongue? What if I said my “Mr. Horner” was a “roaring jack”? And believe me when I tell you that at one time back then, if someone said they wanted to go to the “barrelhouse”, and his buddy said he wouldn’t mind going with him to get a “bit of keg”, they were NOT talking about getting a drink.
If you haven’t already guessed, all of those words and phrases were considered foul language for the time. They refer to either sexual acts, or descriptions of genitalia.
So with the idea that language changes, I thought that in another hundred to two hundred years, isn’t it likely that the word fuck would change, as well? So it… slid. Fuck became “fuggle”. I thought, you know… you take the phrase “fuck it all”, slur it around a bit, and it could easily begin to sound like “fuggle”. And what else might be considered foul in a few hundred years? Maybe some kind of sewer sludge that smells so rank that it makes the eyes water just to think about it? I mean, if you’ve ever lived in an area where you aren’t on a city sewer system, and you’ve had to have your septic system pumped, you know just how strong such a stench can be.
Like I said, that comment stuck with me for whatever reason. And I want to re-iterate that the reviewer was actually pretty complimentary to the book. But the comment presented an opportunity for me to get back to something that I haven’t done much of lately… namely, posting about actual writing topics.
So tell me, how do you feel about “cussing” in books? For me, it depends on the story and the character. Each character and story presents their own special circumstances. If I write a character that is a straight-laced, Sunday-go-to-meeting devout religious type, it’s unlikely that I’ll have him or her dropping F-bombs on the pages of the story. But when I write Charlie Griffe in the Chucklers series, well, you’d better believe he’s not going to give a damn about who he might offend. Not unless he needs to keep them happy in order to get something from them. That’s just the self-centered kind of character he is.
If you have a few minutes, and you feel so inclined, drop me a comment. Let me know your thoughts on the matter.
Stay safe. TTYL.