Hello. I am on a ten-day vacation in Yosemite National Park and then Pismo Beach. As hard as it is to believe, there will be times when I will not have an internet connection. In the meantime, please enjoy one of my favorite posts from this last year.
Warning: the following blogpost contains profanities and strong language. If you are going to be offended, don’t read it.
“Did you ever notice that nobody breaks the Second Commandment better than a Catholic?”—Comedienne Kathy Griffin
When it comes to profanity in Rules for Giving, I draw blood pretty quick. Just 330 words into the first chapter, the reader comes across the word “fucked.” I use the term “god damned” even earlier. I want to establish the narrator’s personality, inasmuch as he is the hero of the story. I also want to show his frustration with alcoholism, which runs in his family.
But last week I was editing some copy and I came across a passage halfway through the book in which Leo the Knuckle says “fuck.” I changed it. Leo’s character, as I have written her, would not use that word.
My policy on profanity is that if it has a place in the story, then use it. If it has no place in the story, then by all means don’t use it. It is a matter of being true to what your character would do and who your reader is. Rules for Giving has profanity in it. That’s who the characters are. But I to weigh whether the language is authentic to the story, or is it as gratuitous as two junior high school kids who just learned how to cuss? There’s a difference.
I’ve never been called by anyone in my critique group for using profanity. But I did get a manuscript back one time with the passage “Jesus Christ” underlined with a question mark next to it. Some folks have their limits. But the hero in the novel is a former Catholic, as am I, so I think it works. We will see.
I am starting research on my next novel. I don’t see any of the characters in this book using profanity. It’s not in their nature as I have so far thought it out. They are all Catholics, though, so as far as taking the Lord’s name in vain—that could happen.