Oh Curses!

“What kind of books do you write?”

This is the most common question I get in a crowd. My answer – Horror and Dark Fantasy – never fails to surprise the non-writers in the group. I’d say 90% of them respond with an “Oh. You look like someone who writes children’s books.” (Snort) I admit it. I’m a short, cheery looking lady in her 50’s who really does look like she should be writing children’s books about purple elephants or orange kangaroos.  Those, however, are not the stories I’m given.

Fascinated by the constant struggles of Good vs. Evil, I write stories with characters who have a foot on each side. Gruff mutant tracker. Murdering convict. Pariah and thief. These aren’t your typical “Dudley Do-Rights” of the world. Which brings us to our blog topic and another question I’ve gotten from readers.

“Oh, why must you curse so much in your books?”

Looking at the characters I’ve just listed, it’s pretty self-explanatory. I keep my sarcastic answer deep inside.

“You’re okay with the sex and bloody violence, but it’s the occasional F Bomb you get heartburn over?”

I typically write about characters who wander on the seedy side of the street. They hang out with the dregs of society. Their dialogue has to be authentic to the story and the setting. Bill Dolan (Lost Man’s Parish) is a convicted murderer in a prison city. If I had him say “shucky darn” rather than a strong expletive, he wouldn’t be real for the readers and he’d probably get beaten up. This truthful (and hopefully helpful) answer usually sets them to nodding. I’m not sure if this is in understanding or agreement.

Cursing can be useful in underscoring a character’s personality. Using it, however, for the shock factor doesn’t make sense in this day and age. Make sure it’s organic to the story. There are times when it isn’t appropriate and can be off putting. In my upcoming Epic Dark Fantasy, The Lords of Valdeon, cursing would be as out of place as “shucky darn” in a prison. In the world of Andara, gentlemen don’t curse. There are those among them that do though. You’ll find an occasional “Bastard” thrown in there, but typically it describes someone as the bastard son of so and so.

Word choices are important. Enhancing the story is good. Awkwardly pulling the reader out of the story is bad.

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