As posted on ENathanSisk.com
Keith Cronin wrote a great post on Writer Unboxed (that I just now caught up to on Feedly) about profanity in writing. It covers most of the bases, but I had some thoughts to add as well.
My writing has some language in it, the f-bomb or damn most often. It’s a part of my character. He is a man of the world and has a temper that often times gets the best of him. That’s part of this character. But he is also from the South, and he’s well educated. There is a time and a place for language, and that plays into the when he says what. He doesn’t cuss around women, most of the time, because that’s how he was raised. He doesn’t use the Lord’s name in vain (Because my mother and mother in law are reading this) because he grew up Catholic and that influenced his life.
Language is another part of building a character. And it can be a stumbling block. My grandfather is a huge W.E. B Griffin fan. Reads everything he writes, at least once and often times more. In Griffin’s work you see a lot of language, and it’s expected. It’s about soldiers and cops, often times in the line of fire. And he read it just fine.
Then he went blind.
What difference does that make? He doesn’t want to read braille, so he listens to audiobooks, and that changed everything for him. Now it’s real. Whereas before he could skim over words, now they’re being shouted at him. As much as he loves the books, he can’t stand listening to the language. My grandmother actually reads him the books now.
Language can build authenticity, but it can also build barriers. It’s a lot like doing an accent in literature. It’s a fine line between building a real person, and being unreadable.