- by Susan Lyons
Yes, that kind. Swear words, dirty words, “wash your mouth out with soap” words. That’s what I’m talking about.
Used to be, they were few and far between in commercial fiction. Now, it’s difficult to find a book, particularly one with a contemporary setting (and leaving aside Christian inspirationals) that doesn’t contain a fair number. Some readers protest what they consider to be an overly exuberant use of expletives. Others point out that in our modern world, many people cuss right, left and center, and it wouldn’t ring true if authors censored their characters. Can you imagine a big tough guy on a construction site whacking his thumb with a hammer and hollering, “Golly gee, that hurts!”?
I was thinking about this subject when I was writing my last book. My heroine is a brainiac professor who rarely uses four letter words herself. Here’s her opinion: “I’d never been fond of gratuitous cursing. I figured it was lazy, a communication habit of people who couldn’t be bothered finding the correct word.”
And yet, when the hero stops himself, out of politeness, from using a particular adjective to refer to just how sexy she is, her thought concludes with, “But right now, I thought maybe the word he’d been going to say was the exact right one.”
Seems to me, that’s what we writers always strive for. The exact right words. To my mind, those aren’t the words that are necessarily politically correct, or sanitized to appease the cuss-opposed reader, they’re the words that ring true for our characters. We writers get inside our characters’ heads; we hear their voices and transcribe them. Personally, I don’t think we should censor those voices.
What’s your opinion?
By the way, if you’d like a taste of some of my characters’ voices, hop over to my website where you’ll find excerpts from all my books: http://www.susanlyons.ca.