Friday, April 27, 2012

Profanity in Dialogue? @#*@ yes!!

I have a lot of Christian friends. I know a lot of them have delicate sensibilities about certain topics. As a service to them, I hereby issue a warning about the novels I write. They will draw an R rating, and some chapters will have a very hard R rating.

I don't do this to shock people. I do it because I want my characters and situations to be real. Do people have things in their past of which they are embarrassed? Of course. We all do. I put some of those things into my novels. Do we do things now that are morally ambiguous? Some people do; I try not to be one of them. Do we live in a world where those around us are obscenity-spewing louts? Yes we do. I put some of those things into my novels. Are there horrendous actions done that make even jaded people wince? Yes, and I put some of those things into my books.

My main character in my second novel is a squeaky clean guy with the exception of the things he does that are at the very center of the action. Does he swear? He makes it a point not to do it. Is he sexually immoral? No. (Well, there is that final chapter of the book.) Does he hide behind his squeaky clean image and do things that would be considered sinful by a Christian audience? Well, there are definitely situations of moral ambiguity. He steadfastly forges ahead on one road in those situations because that is part of the foundation of his character. He rarely stops and questions his actions because he has answered all those questions before. Why relive old internal arguments?

I will center only on the use of obscenity in this blog entry. OK, my main guy makes it a point not to swear. Where's any potential problem then? It's because I put him into a real world where he is surrounded by real people. Some secondary characters are f-bomb-dropping folks who occasionally include references to body parts. Do I have to do that? I feel I do. I want my readers to feel the grit and the grime, partly to become a counterpoint to my main character. Are these f-bomb droppers bad people? No, but they do have what I consider a bad habit. So do people I work with. So do pastors I know who hit their fingers with hammers. So do I. I don't forgive them by cleaning up their language. I forgive them by realizing that every human has flaws, and I let the characters be very human. Whether my readers extend forgiveness to the people I create isn't an issue for me to worry about. I expect a certain amount of criticism. OK, so welcome to the world of the writer.

A Christian might ask me: Are you honoring God with your work? I think I am by creating characters and situations that are as filled with moral hurdles as everyday life is. God watches real people face those issues every day. I think he understands. I hope my readers will understand my characters and why I create them that way.

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