Okay. Call it a symbolic, personal protest thing.
Those who know me well know that I’m anything but a prude. They also know that my private language can get salty, from time to time.
But when I read fiction, I like a respite from the gutter language and crudeness that bombard us constantly.
So, I’ve declared private war on the “F-bomb” in my thrillers.
Now, I don’t claim that my characters don’t curse at all; they do. Many are rough, hard people in rough, hard lines of work; so it would seem oddly, even distractingly, out of character if they all spoke like ministers, rather than like rough, hard people.
But by today’s “standards” (yes, the word is in quotations, for irony), my characters’ language is fairly tame. I’ve found that a little swearing goes a long way in defining a character or their moods. Incessant “eff this” and “effing that” is not characterization; it just drags the dispiriting crassness that we must endure every day in real life into fiction, where I think many people go seeking something better.
Banning the F-bomb from my novels may seem a small and silly form of protest. But it’s something. Readers who have romantic, idealistic, or just plain civilized preferences and expectations in their reading can open a Dylan Hunter novel without fear of such bombardments.
Similarly, despite the fact that there is romance and violence in my thrillers, I try to avoid the gratuitous, the graphic, and the gory. Anyone with a working knowledge of sex acts knows the physical details. I think they will find my love scenes steamy enough, but in a romantic-sexy way, without fixating on an avalanche of anatomical detail and wince-inducing metaphors for the same. The same can be said of scenes of violence. Some of mine are brutal; but again, I try to hold back a bit on the descriptive details.
It’s not just that I have a desire for tasteful restraint. I have another, more literary reason. To me, scenes of sex and violence should focus primarily on the inner experience of the characters, and not on the external specifics of what is happening to their bodies. The former focus individuates characters and makes them uniquely memorable; the latter focus dwells on physical details that are generic to everyone in such circumstances. As a novelist, I think it is foolish to reduce characters to the status of interchangeable pieces of meat in the readers’ minds.
No book is for everyone, and some people may find mine to be too “tame” for their taste. Which is fine. However, I bet that millions of fiction readers share my own preferences regarding language, sex, and violence in novels. At least, many have already told me that they appreciate the way I handle these matters in mine.