Sunday, August 30, 2015

Who the f**k cares about f**cking swears?

Recently a friend shared with me a criticism of my work. Now, I'm not really going to go into all the details, but basically another author took offence to one of my Declan teasers and declared the book to be unworthy and not well written because the main character has a bit of a potty mouth. My first reaction to this was to laugh. How anyone can judge the quality of writing in a 100,000 word book based on a ten word teaser just because three of those ten words are swear words is beyond me, but people are able to form whatever judgments they like and I'm happy to respect them. I was going to leave it at that, and move on with my life because my value isn't defined by what one other person thinks.

However, as I've been editing the next book in the series though, the criticism has played in my head, not because I agree with it, nor because I value one person's opinion about the worth of my words over my own character's personality. No, it's  the assumption that one word is less worthy of being included in a story than another that bugs me. Because that's the thing, these are my character's words, not mine.

In the Daughter of Fire series, Evie barely says a "bad" word. When she does, it's because things are going so wrong that she has little other choice. Even still, for her words like freak hold more power and pain than the words fuck or shit.

In Son of Rain, Clay has a little bit more of a potty mouth because he was raised by a single father in a man's word doing work that requires stronger words than "Oh dear" or "Fiddlesticks."

Declan is by far the worst of any of my characters. There are whole sentences which are comprised almost entirely of swear words. Like this one: “Fucking shitter of a fucking bastard of a fucking car!”

Does he say it to shock and awe the reader? No, he says it because it's who he is. He's an Aussie male, raised in a lower/middle class family, and it's ingrained in him to swear. It's part of who he is, it's part of what makes him tick, just as much as Evie's phoenix qualities and heat make her who she is. And I won't ever apologize for that. More than that, his swearing is an extension of his psyche. When things are working for him, his swearing lessens. Not through any conscious decision he makes (except under certain circumstances which make sense when you read the books), but because the happier he is, the less frustrated he is and frustration (and sorrow) are what make him swear. The particular teaser in question is taken from a time when he has just found out the worst of the worst possible information. Some people would beg for ignorance when it came to facing the levels of pain he's dealing with, but he welcomes in the pain because he knows that the truth will lead him to the things he wants.

That said, maybe the word fuck offends you. If so, that's your prerogative and you have every right to your opinion and also to stay away from books that use the word. What you don't have a right to do is lessen someone else's value by saying that the inclusion of the words fuck, shit, dick, pussy, or even cunt (and I dislike that word so it's probably one of the few times you'll ever see me type it) makes their novel somehow irrelevant and unworthy because they use a word you don't personally agree with. Who doesn't like shouting a hearty FUCK! when they stub their little toe against a door jam (because seriously, that shit bloody hurts!)?

That probably came out a little more guns blazing in defense of Declan than I intended it to. It was meant to be a defense of all words. Words are power after all. Anyone who claims a superiority in writing should know that better than anyone. I say get offended by words that are offensive. Words that are used to hurt groups of people, not the words that you personally don't like.

More than that, don't use your words, your power, to belittle other authors or their readers. Because that's the thing that annoyed me the most about the insinuation that swear words somehow lessen the intelligence of a work of fiction. It isn't the fact that it's insulting me and my characters, but that it's insulting my readers.

And you know what, that's an insult I just won't bear.

Finally, just because I really do like the versatility of the word, let's have a grammar lesson, shall we?


8 comments:

  1. Omg whoever has criticized your work for the swearing needs to stay away from LP Lovell and Stevie J Cole, every other word is fuck. Take no notice it is Declans character he has a potty mouth and I love him. Please don't change him because of one uptight arsehole xx

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    1. :) Declan is as Declan does, and even if I tried to change it I couldn't.

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  2. Well written and agree the book wouldn't be the same without that language even if there was another sanitized way of putting it you would lose the context of the book. I also agree that every word in the English has a right to be put into print and at the end of the day those that know you and your writings know that you wouldn't put out a book that wasn't well written.

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    1. Exactly. No word has more or less value than any other. If it was a children's book or YA book, I could understand the complaint but it's an adult book with adult situations and adults can make the decision to read or not.

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  3. I definitely agree - our characters speak through us, not for us, and the way they act and behave and speak is part of who they are. It shows us their personality and helps readers decide how they feel about them. So if people don't like how characters speak, they do have the option to read something else. ;)

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    1. Precisely. I even have a pair of characters speaking to me at the moment who I actually might hate. I despise the things they're doing, but they are who they are and I won't (can't?) tame them. The only thing I can do is chose to publish or not publish their work according to where I stand by the time they get their story out. I'm hoping for some sort of redemption by the end, but that's their choice.

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