I commented about the use of profanity in writing on another blog. Unfortunately I can’t seem to find it again or I’d link to it but the subject matter does raise a few issues with me. While I’m not against profanity per say I feel that expletives should be used sparingly in writing, as in life. Back in the Sixties some members of our group swore a lot while others not so much. I based Claire (White Wolf Moon) on one of the girls from those days. I’d known her for quite some time and I had never heard her swear, not even a “damn” so when she cut loose with “the big one” during a heated group discussion the room went silent. All eyes were drawn to her as she stated her opinion on whatever the issue was. If anyone else had said it (someone probably did, I don’t recall) there would have been no reaction as we were used to hearing it but when she uttered that word it had impact.
A lot of it is character association. If you’ve created a street gang character then let the reader beware for surely there will be some choice language ahead but it soon loses any impact and, to me at least, becomes boring, tripe, and trivial. A reader messaged me that she was pleasantly surprised with the lack of cursing in White Wolf Moon. She had expected far more as she knows a few folks like my characters and they punctuate nearly every sentence with a choice word or two. If I was to be totally honest to the life-based characters then yes, there wouldn’t be a piece of dialogue that didn’t contain one swear word or another but for me it would be too much. I suspect it would be too much for the reader as well. For the record I have used a dozen or more expletives (mostly “damn”) in the book and on three occasions, during emotional outbursts, I did utilize “the big one”. There were more in the original draft but one by one I eliminated them. The remaining three I felt were justified considering the situation.
Another early issue I had was nudity. There is a fair bit of it in my book. I removed some from the original draft but when I sent a copy of the deleted pieces to someone who was there in those days she suggested that they should be in the final book. It is, after all, the way that it was back then. It was the Sixties…we drank wine at a secluded cabin in the woods and sometimes did a bit of skinny dipping. I have read other accounts of those days and mine is tame in comparison but it is also accurate as far as our group went. I can honestly look back on those days as naughty but mostly innocent fun. In a scene from White Wolf Moon two of the characters discuss this topic:
“Everyone hangs too much on the sixties,” Claire said. “People hear about our life back then and assume it was nothing but sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll. Look at the films on Woodstock and San Francisco. They certainly add credence to the motto.”
“Yeah, I watch those and wonder where I was when all this was happening.”
“Living in a house with five people spending weekends frolicking bare-assed in the country with the Doors and a jug of wine?”
Carol laughed. “God we had sweet times didn’t we?”
“We did, but we weren’t part of the cosmic awakening that made headlines. What we had, how we all came together, had nothing to do with the sixties. We were six people who found each other at a time when we needed to find something. It just happened to be 1967, just days on a calendar. We started out trying to believe in something bigger than us but we ended up believing in us. Maybe that’s what it was all about.”