I vividly remember when I was a teenager, I would read one Stephen King book after another. Then I came to a book — I think it was “Dark Half”, but can’t exactly remember — and I was turned off to King for a long time.
Why? Because it seemed every line overflowed with profanity, not to mention adult themes. It was as if every character in King’s story could not speak without saying the F-word every three to five words. Suddenly my love for King faded as it appeared he couldn’t craft a good story without resorting to cheap shock tactics.
As soon as I discarded that book I discovered Dean Koontz books and became an immediate fan. Why? Because he could write about Evil, like King, but didn’t have to resort to similar shock value.
Yeah, but Erik, it’s more true to life and realistic the way King wrote those books!
That may be true for some crowds. I’ve been known to yell over the wall to a co-worker and say, “That person/situation just drives me to cuss!”
Here are some quotes about profanity. . .
A vessel is known by the sound, whether it be cracked or not, so men are proved by their speeches whether they be wise or not.” – Demosthenes
“Profanity is the common crutch of the conversational cripple.” – David Keuck
“Profanity is the effort of a feeble mind to express itself forcefully.” – Unknown
“All hockey players are bilingual. They know English and profanity.” – Gordie Howe
I’ve already blogged on what kind of a writer I’m choosing to be and it won’t include profanity. Other writers may want more “realism”, but I’d simply throw a word of caution:
- Some secular genres expect it. . .but Koontz proved you can be great in a genre without pandering to the norm of certain shock tactics
- If you claim to be a Christian writer, I don’t think it has a place in who you profess to be and follow.
- I think it isolates more readers than not. I can’t think of a time I heard any one say, “I wish that book had more cuss words in it. If it had, then it would have been a great book instead of just a good one.”
CHALLENGE: If you normally find yourself writing profanity with your fiction characters, see if you can still write an equally strong story without it.