My readers often ask me about the use of bad language in my books. I’ve done a lot of book signings at bookstores and I talk to many readers, and the one question I hear more often than any other is, “Does it have a lot of bad language in it?”
The concern is often not so much a prudish one, but rather that it detracts rather than adds to the story. I had one man tell me that he expects a writer should be able to come up with more creative words than he can hear every day on the streets. I tend to agree, although there are times when the situation just calls for it and without it, the scene loses authenticity. For instance, I had a scene in my first book where a hardcore methamphetamine user had just lost her children in court. She wasn’t about to say, “Oh, piddle-sticks!” So she said something a little more down to earth.
I try to avoid any political or religious comments, unless they are really relevant to the story line. I have one line in one of my books where I mention a political party and for that I have received an inordinate number of comments. I was quite surprised since it’s not like it was meant to offend anyone. It merely developed the character.
What do you think? Does it bother you when you see a lot of offensive words in a book? How much is too much? I guess the real question is how much do you do to not offend your readers? Do you know your audience and do you try to write in a way that will keep them, or do you just write and let the chips fall?
Author of The Advocate Series