If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book next year, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com

Our April author interviews: Perennial author Susan Wittig Albert--4/5, Sacsser Hill, horse racing insider--4/12, English historical, cozy author, TE Kinsey--4/19, Debut author, Susan Bickford--4/26.

Saturday Guest Bloggers in April: Heather Baker Weidner (4/1), Christina Hoag (4/8), Susan Boles (4/29). WWK Saturday bloggers write on 4/15--Margaret S. Hamilton and on 4/22--Kait Carson.

Julie Tollefson won the Mystery Writers of America Midwest Chapter's Holton Award for best unpublished manuscript (member category) for her work in progress, In The Shadows. Big news for a new year. Congratulations, Julie.

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Warren Bull's new Lincoln mystery, Abraham Lincoln In Court & Campaign has been released. Look for the Kindle version on February 3.

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published.

Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Once a Kappa" was published as a finalist in the Southern Writer's Magazine annual short story contest issue. Mysterical-E published her "Double Crust Corpse" in the Fall 2016 issue. "Baby Killer" will appear in the 2017 solar eclipse anthology Day of the Dark to be published this summer prior to the eclipse in August.

Linda Rodriquez has two pending book publications. Plotting the Character-Driven Novel will be released by Scapegoat Press on November 29th. Every Family Doubt, the fourth Skeet Bannion mystery, is scheduled for release on June, 13, 2017. Look for E. B. Davis's interview with Linda here in June!

Cross Genre Publications anthology, Hidden Youth, will contain Warren Bull's "The Girl, The Devil, and The Coal Mine." The anthology will be released in late November 2016. The We've Been Trumped anthology released by Dark House Press on September 28th contains Warren Bull's "The Wall" short story and KM Rockwood's "A Phone Call to the White House." KM writes under the name Pat Anne Sirs for this volume.

James M. Jackson's 4th book in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, is now available. His novella "Low Tide at Tybee" appears February 7 as part of Lowcountry Crimes: Four Novellas, which is available for order.


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

To Curse or Not to Curse, by Carla Damron

I’ve got a potty mouth. Well, not me exactly, but several of my favorite characters. My editor has asked  me to tone down the language in my upcoming novel, THE STONE NECKLACE. He went so far as to COUNT the number of times I dropped the f-bomb. (It wasn’t me, I swear. It was my character Phillip. He just talks that way. And sometimes Sandy. And yeah, Elliott, too … okay, maybe it is me.)

I thought editing out the bad language wouldn’t be that big a deal, but it’s actually been quite a challenge. For some situations, one NEEDS a special word, and—trust me—that word isn’t “fudge.”

Yet I know my editor’s correct. If I want to widen my audience, I need to be careful not to alienate anyone over a word or two. (Or thirty-seven …).  My relationship with new readers is more important than any expletive I have in my text. I don’t want to offend anyone—or at least, if I do offend someone, it should be about something more substantive than SH*T.

Still, here’s my challenge: how do I accurately portray an on-the-streets, drug using, bad-guy (notice I didn’t use bada**) dude without having him speak the words I know he’d use?

For some characters, I can spice up their language more creatively. One character might actually say “fudge,” eyebrows lifted, so that we all know what she really means. The son of the car crash victim could say “damn” instead of a harsher word. (Is “damn” okay? After all, Rhett Butler said it. A question for my editor.)

But that one guy… he’s a puzzle. He wouldn’t have a big vocabulary. He has no college education that would have provided him with effective synonyms. I can’t imagine him using “monkey flunker” in any conversation.

One thing he would use, though, is silence. His cold stare night be more effective than a dozen firetruck-you’s. His sausage thick finger pointed at my protagonist could be more terrifying than any curse words he might care to utter.  His looming presence casts quite a shadow over the novel; I can make use of that in place of his salty vocabulary. It could work.   

Problem solved? Not quite. I still find a few places—not many—where it’s hard to come up with a word to replace the expletive without losing the effect.  I must mull. And mull some more.

Oh, fudge.


Warren Bull said...

Sometimes less is more. Maybe he could flip the bird instead of using language. Or maybe he could curse a few times early in the book, which would leave the impression he was cursing throughout the piece.

KM Rockwood said...

I think this is a problem a lot of us have, and we all have different ways of tackling it, depending upon the characters and our own approaches to the problem.

Some of my characters have learned to just keep their mouths shut, since cussing out rival gang members or prison guards tend to have negative consequences, and they learn quickly to evaluate a situation before they say anything.

There's the street concept of "respect," too. If you don't know a person, you don't stare at him/her, make eye contact or cuss. Unless you're deliberately provoking an altercation.

Too much cussing & you call into question a character's mental health status. And poverty of vocabulary.

One simple way of dealing with it, which of course is not appropriate for all characters, is an incomplete, "What the..." trailing off wordlessly.

When we write dialog, we don't include all the "uh...hmmm...y'know..." etc. Perhaps an occasional one where it adds to the dialog, but nothing like people actually use those terms. We can do the same with profanity.

But when we invent a character who really does have a distinct poverty of vocabulary and who is in a setting where profanity is common and accepted (I think of the years I spent working in a prison) it can be a challenge.

When I switched jobs to an alternative high school, I'd hound the kids about their habits of using offensive words and expressions. When they'd object, I'd tell them that the only places that was acceptable were prisons and mental hospitals, and if they planned to spend their lives there, let me know, and I'd try to stop nagging them. Otherwise, though, I'd keep pointing it out to them so they could recognize it and make a choice about how they wanted to be perceived.

Carla Damron said...

Very good points. I especially like "What the ..." that would work in several places!

Lyn Phillips said...

That character MUST say a decent number of "F's". Just must.
Guess you could replace it with "friggin'" here or there.
Can't imagine losing readers over a few F words used appropriately... but that's coming from someone who uses the word! Good luck!

Gloria Alden said...

Carla, my books take place in a small town where I don't have hardened criminals. But there are some nasty guys who cuss, and even my good guys will occasionally use shit, damn, bitch or hell, but because I find the F word so offensive, I don't use it in my books. I might say the character was cussing, etc. but if I used that word or some others I can think of, I know it would offend some readers who don't like hearing or reading them. That doesn't mean I stop reading good books that do have characters who use those words, and it doesn't bother me at all. It's just that I'd have trouble saying or writing them myself. I do use the word dammit, when I'm really upset about something, but that's when I make a stupid mistake and not to others. So did my mother occasionally.

Cindy Brown said...

Did you know this is how we got the idea of the silent stoic cowboy? The movie studios woudln't allow swearing, and the writers wanted to be true to the time and the language.

Chris Bailey said...

Who's the narrator? If the character who's f-bombing is being observed/heard by another person, we wouldn't have to hear the words every time to understand what's been said. You could replace some of his f%^king dialogue with the narrator's reaction to it.

Shari Randall said...

Carla, can you use dashes? f--, for example? Then your readers can fill in the blanks?
I have a manuscript that is basically a cozy and one very unexpected character drops a, er, firetruck. Which I thought was funny and showed a side of this hyper-pulled together character that needed airing. My editor told me that if I left it in, I'd disqualify myself from several publishers.
Decisions, decisions, indeed.

Kara Cerise said...

I look forward to reading THE STONE NECKLACE to find out how you solve the problem, Carla.

Cindy, thank you for the history lesson about the stoic cowboy. I wondered how that originated because I grew up near several cowboys and don't remember that they were "silent."

Lyn said...

I like the Fantastic Mr. Fox solution: What the Cuss?!


Of course it doesn't sound like your character would have seen the film.