It seems to me that a few authors took this in a different direction than was my original intent.
This is a network of readers. Literally more than 80% of us are readers here....
I think that this discussion has been good and after reading the last posts, I believe we have shifted from our original intent.
Maybe we have said all we can say about this.
I will say that the discussion started out with readers expressing their views about what they would or would not read (or buy) and turned into a reader bashing discussion about a few bad reviewers. Maybe that would best be a discussion for another forum?
Besides I did get a few complaints from readers here about the posts lately so I have shut this one down.
This morning I was looking at discussions on Michelle Sutton's Ning page "Edgy Christian Writers" and one discussion was about cussing in a Christian book.
Some were saying it hurt "the reality" of a character like a gang member, if they didn't cus.
Reality? I must use the F bomb or ...
Personally I resist cussing and did even before coming to Christ. (Although even now I slip and feel badly about it afterwards.)
I feel it is in poor taste and cringe around those in my life who use it. It is the way I was raised.
So I do not need it.
The Sopranos is a great example.
Watched part of one episode on HBO and "... fnfnfnf ef" click... changed it and I love gangster movies/ programs.
When it came out on A&E ... sans cussing and nudity, I watched the entire series.
I might have missed some of the reality (My friend tells me I didn't experience the the true reality.) It was enough for me, and I do not feel that I missed anything.
As writers, the pen is in your hand, you set the boundaries and take us where you want to go. You create the reality, and if you are good about making us care about the characters, and keep us on the edge of our seat, we will not even notice that there was no cussing, besides suggesting language was used can leave it to the imagination.
The scariest part of Jaws was the first 90 seconds, for me because I never see the shark.
I never met anyone who discussed a book with me saying "You know there wasn't any (or enough) cussing in that story!"
BUT I have met plenty who have complained otherwise.
Write the way you want and create the reality you want, then find a publisher who will publish what you want... that is the rub we are discussing.
Then I will spend my money and time and energy to read what I want :-)
I would be interested in your thoughts as readers, leaders and writers.
If you are saying Edgy means the subject matter, I agree. We can and should cover all areas of life with our writing.
I have read many stories with abuse and otherwise horrible situations, without the cursing and language, by authors, some not considered Christian, and have been moved by the story, so it can be done without the language or explicit sex scenes.
Was Fred specifically talking about how the material was presented? If that is done in a non-offensive way, no matter what the subject matter, it can be a heart touching experience and cause someone to seek Christ's redeeming grace.
Boy, this discussion is years old and still getting comments. Good choice, Fred.
Pam, well said! Recently I read a book portraying young adults talking in such sappy, overly religious conversations that I had a hard time getting through the book. Maybe someone else would enjoy it, but it was so unrealistic and uncharacteristic that I did not enjoy the book. The characters had no faults and were perfect Christians. That is unrealistic and portrays Christians to be perfect. No one can live up to those expectations. God offers us forgiveness, mercy and grace because we are a fallen people.
Right Nancee! Although I don't just write stuff in there for shock value, if it is real to the character and the scene then I'll let them be who they are and repentance always (or most of the time) follows.
For instance in my book Tempered Dreams, the hero has a confrontation with the heroine's ex-husband in which he calls the man a "coward and a bastard in the first degree" and very nearly follows through on his earlier threat to kill the man.
This is real for a man who is a doctor and, although he's taken an oath to preserve life, feels that child abuse and domestic violence are the two most hated diagnosis' in Physicians Desk Reference and who would do anything to protect the woman he loves.
Afterward he berates himself for losing control.
Just one example.
Thanks for chiming in!
Curious ... anyone impacted in any way by this discussion? Readers or authors?
This is actually something I'm very polarized on. On the one hand, yes, gratuitous language is unnecessary and shows where a writer is weak and unimaginative. On the other hand, leaving cursing OUT altogether can often soften the writing. I think we too often make the mistake of thinking that there can be no "edges" to Christian fiction...that it has to be this finely polished thing that has no bumps or splinters. And I think this is why Christian fiction is not taken seriously outside of Christian publishing.
An example...I recall reading the Left Behind series and literally having to put it down when a charcater, in absolute rage and terror, called his enemy a "rascal." While the polar opposite if this (something like m-fer, for example) would have been a bit much, I think a word like "bastard" or even s-o-b (not abbreviated) would have been fine.
When I was originally shopping around Break Every Chain to Christian agencies a few years ago, I got called out because the descriptions of abuse in them were "too real" and that my character not only questioned God in prayer, but did so blatantly, asking Him "What the hell are you doing?" I did this because it fit the character, not because I was trying to belittle God or rile up my readers. Thankfully, Elk Lake picked it up, harsh edges and all.
At the end of the day, the way I feel about this is often unpopular with other believers. My philosophy on cursing and graphic scenes (excluding sex scenes because I will never write gratuitous sex scenes) in Christian fiction is this: if it fits and helps the narrative or is fitting of the character, it's fine. Yes, I steer clear of f-bombs and never use "g-d." Everything else is fair game as far as I'm concerned. I'd rather make people feel a little uncomfortable than make something sound as cheesy as "you rascal" or "dog gone it" etc.
One last point: I don't really worry about whether or not I offend fellow Christ-followers. Why? Because I'm more concerned with entertaining someone that doesn't know Christ and hopefuly presenting the gospel to someone that otherwise might never get to know Him.
What I haven't read yet in this discussion is the distinction between realism and literalism. Here is my take on "'Strong Language' in Fiction and Film," which I've posted several times over the last few years:
Every writer must decide whether he should use words that are euphemistically described as "strong language," i.e.,"cusswords" and gutter language. These "four-letter words" so dominate fiction and film conversations today that these words often are the dialogue.
I guess I've heard them all, first as an Infantry officer and then (worse yet) as a graduate student. And I've put a good bit of thought into their place, if any, in my writing. So I've come to reject the most common justifications of using these words in fiction and film.
The usual justification for "strong language" is a claim of "realism." First, it’s claimed that because people actually talk that way, realistic fiction must accurately report their words. Second, it’s claimed that four-letter words bring us closer to “real life” than other words.
Neither claim can withstand examination.
The first confuses "realism" with literalism. Fiction is not real life: it is an artifice that creates the illusion of real life. So if the writer must report people's words literally, what excuses him from including all other elements of life? Must every fictional day begin with the hero shaving or the heroine applying eye shadow? And what about prayer? Depending on which poll one reads, some fifty to eighty percent of Americans pray every day. Yet prayers in fiction—except specifically Christian fiction—are rarely found.
Thus, if "realism" does not justify literal inclusion of other elements in fiction, it does not justify literal inclusion of specific words.
Further, writers are taught not to write dialogue as it literally occurs in real life. Real-life conversations wander and are likely to end inconclusively. But novelists cannot afford to write inconclusive dialogue. They have to shape and sharpen the dialog so that it reveals character and furthers the story line. Literalism here would cause the writer to go unpublished or, if published, to go unread.
So if literalism does not apply to entire fictional conversations, why should it apply to the individual words within them?
Similarly, the claim that four-letter words are somehow closer to "reality" cannot withstand questioning. Many uses of those words are, to put it mildly, figurative. Perhaps it once was amusing to attribute bisexual reproductive capability to inanimate objects. But if so, the idea is now so clichéd that it's no longer humorous.
And on representing reality, let's consider the so-called "f-word." The early English (probably pre-Anglo-Saxon) from which it descends was a savage language appropriate to those savage times. Then, perhaps, the word may have accurately described physical relationships between men and women. But many cultural changes have altered that reality.
One change was the twelfth-century invention of romantic (courtly) love, popularized by Eleanor of Aquitaine and Chrétien de Troyes. And in the 1590s, Edmund Spenser synthesized various love traditions into an ideal combining the romance of courtly love with the intellectuality of Platonic love and a dash of physicality from Ovid—all justified within marriage, one of the seven sacraments of the church. Spenser's synthesis held general acceptance until about 1900, when it was eroded by naturalistic philosophy and Freudian psychology.
The point for "realistic" fiction is this: If the "f-word" today accurately describes the physical relationship between a man and woman, it does so only because the couple is immune to the cultural experience of the past millennium.
So if customary justifications cannot withstand examination, the real reasons writers use "strong language" must lie elsewhere. Writers are taught that conflict is basic to all good fiction. Frequent use of “strong language” helps lazy writers gain the appearance of conflict without the hard work of creating genuine conflict, which is always generated by a story’s narrative structure. In other words, "strong language" substitutes for genuine creativity.
Profligate use of such language will always be chic, of course. But as screenwriter Morrie Ryskind put it, "The chic are always wrong."
Donn, you always put a great cap on the discussion with a post no one could argue with. Logical and humorous. Ya can't beat that!
Thank you, Ane. Blessings.