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Thursday, March 5, 2015

Just say NO! to profanity

Let's start with football

Late last fall, I watched the Packers hammer the Pats in Green Bay. I watched it on TV, I should add, not in person. I already live in a cold climate, I know what cold feels like. I don't have to go out to enjoy freezing.

Anyway, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers faced off on the frozen tundra. The game was an instant classic, maybe. I hate the Pats, and equally hate the Pack. So I was sort of cheering for the end of the world while the game was on; that way they'd both lose.

After one fruitless series, I watched as Tom Brady trotted to the sidelines and let out a string of profanity that even my three-year-old granddaughter could have lip-read. One of the announcers said something like, "That Brady, he's such a competitor." The other mindless boob in the booth chimed in, "Sometimes you just got to get it out and move on."

Really? That's our attitude to open profanity now? Watched by 20 million people. Really?

Later that night I watched the Broncos and the Chiefs. I like the Broncos; I really like Peyton Manning. He's a classy guy.

So Manning trots off one time, after missing a wide open Wes Welker, and shakes his head. As lips parted, I carefully watched for his silent words (thank God they don't have a ton of open mikes on the sidelines). And then the frustration boiled over and Peyton let it fly.

"Dang it," he chided himself. "Dang it!"

Now, let's talk about writing

I know some of you are clever and like to use lots of large, complex words. Some even go as far to fill pages with similes and metaphors. Sentences have perfect construction; paragraphs fly by with seemingly no effort. All is well in your writing.

So explain this to me, as if I were a simpleton: Why do you feel the need to fill your dialog with profanity? Really, I'm dying to know.

I've been told there are good reasons for the use of these kinds of words, sparingly though. Certainly not in every other line. Here's a few of the good ones:

1. Profanity is the language of the real person. Really? You think the Barack Obama uses a lot of cussing throughout the day? I don't. I've heard my mother swear once in her life; sadly in reference to me. Something, I did, made an "ass" of myself. That's it; her big use of profanity, saved up for a one-time use on me - for effect.

2. Profanity makes your writing real. NO! It actual cheapens your writing. You couldn't be any more clever than to spit out a disgusting word that is typically reserved for rap songs and trailer park conversations? And you think that's real? Tell me, how stupid does that sound!

3. The big authors do it, so should we. I know several who use profanity in their writing. Mostly, they use it sparingly, certainly not every page. But here's the rub: They are huge authors, with followings in the millions. You (we) are Joe (or Josette) Schmo; following in the dozens.

Early on in my writing career I read several articles on this touchy subject. The articles all said the same thing: You risk cutting your readership by more than half with the continued use of harsh language. That made me sit up and really think. The occasional "damn" or "hell" is forgiven. Even the once in a while "shit" can fly under the radar. But start dropping f-bombs and people will take notice - and not in a good way.

In 2016, I will introduce you to a character with a military background. In his particular branch of service, the f-word is used as a noun, an adjective, a verb, and so on. Yet, in the almost 650,000 words I plan for the four-book set, not once will he use something as crude as an f-bomb.

Mind you, I'm surrounding him with a family of younger ladies. And one of these young women is on him all the time about his salty language. "Really, Mr. Smith. Must you be so crude?" And that follows him telling her to "mind her own damn business." There are plenty of other ways to get his hardened personality across. I chose from the onset to portray John Smith's crustiness to my readers without resorting to long tirades of profanity.

In the end, it's your choice

So choose wisely, please.

Until next week, enjoy life through the eyes of another... in a book.


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