Sunday, September 23, 2012

Poopy Language

Given what I currently do for a living, I know it's shocking - shocking I tell you! - that I can swear like a Soldier.  Although I monitor where I'm at, I can let loose with a string of epithets that would make Trey Parker and Matt Stone blush.  And sometimes that language comes through in my writing.  A couple of people have even said that my cussing makes them uncomfortable.

Well fuck me sideways with a cane pole.

I use what Joe Peacock calls "poopy language."  I don't swear every other word, but it's in my vocabulary, and it's just part of who I am.  I write the way I speak, and sometimes my language isn't appropriate for children.
(Any more words in there?)
Language has to be tailored to the audience.  I've written a book designed for younger audiences(around high school level, not really young kids), and I've taken any of the potentially offensive language out, but the other ones I've done, have it peppered where appropriate.  The characters don't go around and just say, "fuck fuck fuck, shit shit, cock, cock," but there are parts where they'll use language that enhances the scene.

I thought a lot about this recently and wondered if maybe I had gone a little off the rails.  Then I pulled a few books I love off the shelf.  Stephen King is notorious for his foul mouth, and I wouldn't say anyone thinks it limits his audience.  I re-read Guns of the South, and the stuff in there is tame compared to Harry Turtledove's later work(some of his later work would make a lot of people blush to be honest, but I still enjoy the stories...and given how many Turtledove has sold, most folks either overlook it or expect it to an extent).

My first drafts are rife with poopy language.  Like I've said before, my first draft is always a free flowing process that I intentionally let go wherever my mind will wander.  However, in the initial edit, I'll cut down a great deal of it.  My the time I'm on the third edit, I'm really trying to decide if the language used is appropriate to the situation, or if it was just that I was in a bad mood that day.

Despite what my high school English teacher might say, sometimes coarse language enhances a story.  When a character calls out another person in the story on something that person is trying to pass off, the word "bullshit" works a lot better than "baloney."  When my protagonist is arguing with the detective from another police department, calling the guy a "cock" is much more effective than calling him a "jerk."
(Not everyone likes the cock)
It's an acknowledgement of the current state of society to write in ways that reflect society.  Refusing to engage society on the terms it understands is to put your fingers in your ears, close your eyes, and shout in a really loud voice that you can't hear anyone.  Sure, I could write about how "that bestial man flung himself into the distracting deceit of the woman," but no one talks like that anymore.  You could write something like that, and it might end up in the "literary" section of the bookstore, but few folks would buy it.

Those that don't care for the occasional spicy word or phrase should go read something else.  This is who I am and it's the way I write.  To do otherwise would be to compromise my own creative process.  I'm sure that'd result in success that would make Ryan Leaf look like a Hall of Fame QB, and no one wants that.


  1. I know we all don't like 'poopy language'but, I have to say that sometimes 'it does get our attention' even in good ways!

    Such as this moment, it made me visit your fun blog, and be more interested in what you have to say.

    You wrote this in such a fun/funny way, a real way... that made me want to read more from you.

    Granny Gee/Gloria

    1. Thanks for the kind words. I agree - sometimes even the uncomfortable is necessary, mostly because life isn't always comfortable.