Photo Credit: SLU
This post is partly inspired by a comment I received yesterday on my post Stopping a Book Before you Finish. I’d go back and see who said it, but I’m writing this 15 minutes before I’m supposed to get ready for work, so if you read this you mystery person you, thanks for the comment.
Okay. Now I’m not talking about language here. I’m talking about cussing. Or vulgar language in your work. There are a number of genres in which any coarse language is unacceptable, but let’s not talk about those this time around. Let’s talk strictly books for adults. Say you’re reading along and then the protagonist has an angry episode and starts cussing all over the next few pages. Would that turn you off the rest of the book? Or say you’ve been reading along and the protagonist speaks casually with other characters using some of our favorite four-letter words. Would that turn you off the rest of the book?
I ask because I’ve come to realize that although I read mostly detective stories that deal with serial killers or rapists or so-called bad people, there is very little cussing going on. When I say very little, I mean almost none. The book I’m just about to finish in the next day or so, The Drop by Michael Connelly, has had none. Or if there has been any, it’s been such a small amount that I can’t even recall it.
The point I want to make is that sometimes we write scenes that we just know need a little cussing to make more genuine or realistic, but in reality that is rarely the case. It may sound okay to you as you write it, but it likely sounds a bit forced or excessive to the reader if there are any scenes that have a lot of cussing from one or more characters. There are a number of things that can potentially turn me off a book, but cussing isn’t really one of them.
To you, do you tend to have any amount of vulgar language in your writing? Maybe there’s some yelling or maybe it happens in casual conversation. Tell me.