Saturday, March 12, 2011

Book Review Thoughts

It's been an interesting and exciting couple of weeks. Several reviewers/authors posted their reviews of StarScout Rising . . . Volume One and for the most part their reviews were very positive, interesting, and insightful. There are more reviews to come and hopefully the scorecard will remain in the positive column. My sincere thanks to all who have, or will, review my work.

I recently had a young reader (I believe she's in her early twenties - young to me) make an interesting comment about my novel and I thought I'd respond on my blog. She was critical over my choice of character dialog in that none of them used profanity, even in the most stressful, life-threatening situations. Her comment was, and I'm paraphrasing, was that 'real people don't speak that way in the real world . . . it's unrealistic to think that not one character wouldn't swear out of anger or frustration, or fright.'

In a certain way I can understand her comment in that, well, in some respects, she's right. The use of profanity throughout our society is now so common and accepted that I know individuals who can't put a noun and verb together in a spoken sentence without modifying both with some form of profanity.

I've browsed through bookstores and opened up novel after novel where the text is laced with vulgarity. I don't mean an occasional swear word or two, I mean sentence after sentence, paragraph after paragraph, page after page. And thankfully, there is the occasional novel that has little to none, though it seems from my browsing that you are far more likely to pick up a book containing profanity than not.

I have to admit that when I first started to write my novel, I did wonder how it would come across without some profanity, even "mild" profanity. But I chose not to use profanity because of several reasons.

First, my religious and personal convictions.

Second, some of the best novels, science fiction and otherwise that I've read in my lifetime contained no profanity. So it can be done.

Third, for me, the English language is so rich and diverse in its ability to describe human emotions, expressions, vocally and otherwise without the use of vulgar expressions. Some authors will say that profanity is necessary because of its "shock" effect and that it "adds" credibility to their characters and dialog. I'm not convinced of that argument. And yes, I realize that many of the great works of literature, Shakespeare comes to mind, used profanity, but even so, did he really have to? Does anyone really have to?

For those that do, that's their choice. Among the many great principles that our nation is founded on is freedom of speech and choice and I spent twenty years defending those values so while I respect their choice, I choose the opposite - no matter the consequences in my literary efforts.

One last note. I know and have known numerous "real people" who never swear or use vulgarity in their speech, even in the most stressful of circumstances. They come from all walks of life, rich to poor, highly educated to not so educated. They are some of my heroes, they choose not to become one with the herd, not become part of the problem, but to stand apart and be part of the solution.


  1. Just wanted to let you know that I honestly appreciated the cleanliness in your work. I recommended it to a friend *because* I knew it was profanity-free. Many authors--LDS authors included--sometimes use profanity to "stay true to the characters." I'd personally prefer that they didn't, and I have never written a character using profanity for the same reasons you listed above. The gerrymandering to get around it can be interesting, to say the least ;)

  2. The neighbors that live behind us are the occasional loud late night party types. Inevitably, some of the party guests will start fighting and cursing at one another. Even though the fighting parties are always different people, the course of the conversation is always the same. It's eyerollingly predictable. I guess if you wanted your characters to come across as predictable, uncreative, and boring then, yes, you really should learn how to use the f-bomb as a noun, adjective, verb, adverb, and, oddly, a preposition.

  3. as a "real person" who doesn't use profanity to express myself I always appreciate the rare find of a book that I can read and share with my friends and children without that worry.

    recently we actually had a discussion over this on my blog (today's blog tour spot) and I appreciated all the input. Yes, a well placed mild swear does make an immediate "bad guy impression"... but is it necessary? The literary bad guy I fear the most (Bill Sykes, sorry, he scares the b'whozit out of me still) was Uber-scary... but not because of his use of language.

    it takes a talented author to convey the pure evil of a character without resorting to use of vulgarity. Kudos to you - I'm convinced that Peller is a nasty piece of work and he never once had to drop the F-bomb. :)

  4. Hi, Gary! I've had this run-in too. For that exact reason, and because of my beliefs and desires to keep my books clean, I've gone YA. I wish you the best on your journey.

    ♥.•*¨ Elizabeth ¨*•.♥

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  6. I had to delete my first comment because I swore in it. (Just joking! I noticed an accidental error.)

    Anyway, congratulations on your work!

    While many people do use profanity under dire straights in real life, fiction hasn't always felt the need to emulate that in order to get its point across.

    Look at Star Trek:TNG, for example, there were lots of life-threatening situations in that universe but no one swore.

  7. Thanks to all for your encouragement and perspective on the "profane or not to profane, that is the question" question. It solidifies my belief that there is a place in the literary world for authors to "keep it clean" and still write a good book for readers to enjoy - especially those who want to be able to pick up a book for their young readers and feel confident that there isn't objectionable material between the covers.

    Speaking of covers; have a question to pose. Numerous reviewers thought that the cover to volume one was "freaky" or "frightening" or similar negative feelings. What makes for a good cover? How do you approach cover selection so that it portrays something about the book and at the same time catches the potential readers' eye? Suggestions and discussion gladly welcomed.

    BTW: Good joke Dan, got a good laugh from your post.


  8. Well said. I agree completely. A good writer can convey the emotion and foulness of a character without swearing.