Wednesday, December 10, 2008
*@★€% AND OTHER BAD WORDS.
“Profanity,” my father used to say, “is the ignorant man’s crutch.”
He almost never cursed, but while I seem to have inherited a lot of his better qualities, that one seems to have skipped a generation.
And now that I write books, my characters curse.
Last year I was at the Miami Book Fair and asked the audience what they thought about all those F-bombs I drop in my books.
One woman had the best answer. She said, “You write about murder, mayhem, cops, killers — of course the characters are going to curse. It’s real. I don’t mind when I’m reading it in private at home. But when I’m in my car, with the windows wide open, and I’m stopped at a red light on Biscayne Boulevard, and I have a crime novel on audiotape, it gets a little uncomfortable when the speakers are blasting, ‘bleep you, you bleeping motherbleeper,’ and the little old lady in the car next to me grabs her chest in horror.”
When I meet people for the first time, I warn them that there’s rough language in my books. Most people don’t mind. One does. I’m married to her.
When my wife read the first draft of my second book, Bloodthirsty, her reaction was the same as it was for the first one. Love the book. Hate the language.
I did a global search of the four-letter offender. It appeared 115 times. I told my wife that was quite an achievement. The Rabbit Factory had twice as many no-no’s. She pointed out that it also had twice as many pages.
“Please fix it,” she said.
I knew the please was strictly a formality.
I sat down with the manuscript, thinking this ain’t gonna be easy. I was wrong. As I read the draft I realized that my father was right. Profanity is a crutch. When you’re trying to paint a picture of a tough talking street cop, it’s easier if you throw in lots of tough street talk.
I defused one F-bomb after another. When I was finished there were only 30 left in Bloodthirsty — a big drop from the 233 in The Rabbit Factory. Interestingly enough, the next book, Flipping Out, also has about 30. They’re in there because they aren’t coming from me. They’re true to the characters who say them.