Perhaps I'm just an old fuddy-duddy, but the gutter language used in too many modern books turns me off. It's not that I don't understand the words, I do. My background as an Army officer and a wannabe jock have introduced me to about every nasty word any person can dream up—in several languages.
My new book, THORNS ON ROSES, features an avenging PI stalking a gang. I use multiple POVs, including the gang leader's, to tell the story. But what I don't use is gutter language. If anyone reads THORNS and not understand the ruthlessness of the situations because there are no F-bombs dropped, please let me know, and I'll send you a package of them to sprinkle in wherever you think they're needed.
We hear at every level of the writing education process that we MUST not use clichés. Yet, all too often, I open a book and am assaulted by the most common clichés in our language—the F-bomb in all its alterations—noun, verb, adjective, and I'm sure someday soon, adverb. Why? I ask myself. Isn't the author taking the lazy way out by peppering the pages with the most overused of the gutter words?
One of the justifications I hear is we must be realistic in our writing and the use of the F-bomb is part of that realism. It's not a bad argument. I'm not much on fairy-tale writing, so I can accept that argument—up to a point. However when I read, I have an extra eye and an extra ear in my head that translate the words on the page. If, for example, I expect a character to speak in dialect, he/she will—no matter the words the author uses. There is a very popular character who has been around for between ten and fifteen years. When I read one of those books, that character speaks in dialect, no doubt about it. Yet, when I examine the words, they are properly spelled and used with proper grammar. That's my mind's eye and my mind's ear at work.
A couple of years ago, I decided to put my theory to the test. Did I really see and hear words that were not written on the page? I went back and read a few of Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer series. I don't think anyone will argue with me when I say Mike Hammer is one of the nastiest PIs ever written, if not the nastiest. He cuts no one any slack—good guy, bad guy, or beautiful woman. His language is basic, driving straight to the point as he explains what he will do, then does it. When I finished I, THE JURY, I sat back and thought I might be wrong about my beliefs. But when I went back through the book studying the language Spillane used, I discovered I was right. Not one foul word in the whole book. Yet, the writing was so strong, my mind's eye and mind's ear put them into the mouths of the characters.
What I'm saying is when you have the urge to insert an F-bomb, stop and find a stronger way to write it. Don't become a slave to cliché-ridden gutter language to paint your characters.
Again, I invite you read my THORNS ON ROSES. Let your mind's eye see the Thorns on Roses gang. Let your mind's ear listen to them talk. Then look at the words I use. I think you'll see what I'm talking about.
THORNS ON ROSES, a South Florida thriller