By Gayle Carline
(A brief caveat: In order to keep this blog from becoming a "You Must Be 18 or Older" site, I'm not spelling out certain words. I'm depending on you to figure them out.)
Well, dammit-to-hell, it's time for another post. I've been thinking about cursing a lot lately. That is to say, I've been thinking about it a lot, not that I've been cursing a lot, although I probably have. A couple of events crashed into each other recently to give me a chance to think a Deep, Philosophical Hmm, of the practical business sort.
The first was, last month or so, my hubby and my bestie, Tameri, and I went to see Kathy Griffin at the Terrace Theater in Long Beach. Kathy is one of my guilty pleasures. I watch all her specials on Bravo, and I know from my bleeping TV how profane she is on stage.
I am no prude when it comes to profanity, but I do wince when I'm in a crowd and someone is wandering around talking about this or that f*ing thing that happened to them. I mean, Dude, maybe the woman with the 3-year old in the stroller behind you would like to introduce that word to her child at some special time.
It's even worse when the f*ing talker is pushing the stroller.
Still, I wondered if she would shock me. I was surprised at how unruffled I was when Kathy took the stage. She held nothing back, but the profanity and crude language seemed less offensive than when it was bleeped on my TV. It was supposed to be there, so it was funny.
The second thing to happen was my re-release of Freezer Burn. Like any good little author, I re-read it and edited a few things. I hadn't really used a lot of profanity in the book, but I had a couple of lowlife guys who, at separate times, used the F-word. It seemed to be natural to their characters.
Having two occurrences of that word cost me a few sales. People, mostly women, would ask if there's profanity in the book and I would tell them the truth. They thanked me for my honesty, and passed on the story, and I was okay with that.
By contrast, my cast of characters in Hit or Missus turned out to be on the wealthier side of the tracks. I know rich folks can curse like sailors, but in my book they just didn't. I don't know why. It didn't feel right.
In editing Freezer Burn, I suddenly had to consider how my books played out as a series. Yes, I wanted my characters to be as real as possible on the page. No, I didn't want to confuse readers who might have expectations of the amount of profanity, or sex, in my books. And yes, it made me sad to think of readers who would enjoy my stories, but truly couldn't handle rough language.
If I was writing a series of thrillers, or darker mysteries, or if I wrote more graphic, gritty scenes, it would be different. But I write fun romps, with a side of let's-skip-the-details sex. Even if it might be realistic, f*ing has no place in my books.
People expect cursing in a Kathy Griffin routine. In my books? Maybe not so much.
So I took those two instances out. I found other words or gestures to mean the same thing. My books are now PG-rated. The new one will be, as well.
P.S. One of the interesting side effects of taking that word out of my book is that I've been using it more when I talk. Usually around the house, often behind the wheel of my car, and always because I'm feeling pissy about something. But never in a crowd – out loud. I don't know if I'm feeling freer in my everyday conversations, or just crankier in my everyday life.