Recently, while visiting cousins in a small West Texas town, we went to a book sale their local library was having. Actually, the sale was already over, and they were trying to move the books that didn’t go in the sale, so they were letting people buy a grocery bag full of books for five dollars.
For several years now, I’ve enjoyed watching the Jesse Stone made-for-TV movies, which are based on books written by Robert B. Parker. I’ve also enjoyed reading at least one Jesse Stone book for which I haven’t seen a movie, so when I came across a couple of his books, I added them to my grocery bag. Once I finished the Jack Reacher book I was reading at the time, I decided to read one of Parker’s next. The one I picked up wasn’t the Jesse Stone—it was a western called Resolution, about a power play in a small town.
Through the years, I’ve read over 75 Louis L’Amour novels, Dana Fuller Ross’s entire Wagons West series, and a number of other westerns. All of these books left me totally unprepared for Resolution. Unlike those his Jesse Stone mysteries, the characters in Resolution seemed to have extremely limited vocabularies. Every third or fourth word started with an ‘f’—IYKWIM.
I realize from Facebook posts that many, if not most, of my writer friends disagree with me about the use of curse words and vulgarity, but I find it distasteful. I also find it distracting and unnecessary. The action and moods can easily be conveyed without the use of this language, and having to deal with it disrupts the flow of the story.
Louis L’Amour and Dana Fuller Ross managed to write well over 100 westerns between them without having to resort to this. John D. MacDonald, Erle Stanley Gardner, and Lee Child wrote at least that many mysteries without having to fill them with gutter talk. These writers have all sold millions of books, so they must have been doing something right.
John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart and others starred in western movies for decades without lowering themselves to this. Along the way, they drew millions of people to the silver screen, so there must have been something right about the way they did it.
Writers from Shakespeare to Child have given us a glorious craft to be proud of. Have we suddenly lost the ability they exhibited across the centuries to write stories they could be pleased to let their mothers and their children read? I always think that my daughter or grandchildren or church members might read something I wrote, and I’d be beyond embarrassed if I knew they were going to encounter language in my books that would make a sailor blush.
What do you think about this dumbing down of our craft?
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Except for one book (out of twenty-two), I don’t use ‘language’ in my stories. And the one I did, I thought long and hard about it, kept it very mild and very infrequent. One of these days, I’ll probably go back through and see if there’s a way to remove it without making it sound ridiculous. It did show me that I’m not comfortable writing it – and I’ve heard from some readers who didn’t appreciate it at all.
I do not like reading books loaded with foul language, and I don’t like movies or television shows that think this is the way most humans talk. Some do. A relative and I met an old friend for supper one night and while I was sinking lower and lower in my seat wondering if this would be the first time I’d be kicked out of a restaurant, they seemed to be trying to one up the other in using the ‘f’ word (and others) as loudly as they could. That was an exception though. Most people I know swear some, but not like that. Lest anyone think I’m perfect in the language department, I am not. It’s a tough habit to break once you’ve acquired it, but I will continue to try.
Is it dumbing down our craft? I don’t know. I don’t read those books. I write sweet – and an occasional Christian – romance, so that’s pretty much what I read. The others may be great, but with few exceptions, I don’t think foul language adds anything to a story. On the other hand (and I may take flak for this), there are times when I think it does add something good to a book or movie. The cliff jumping scene in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid comes immediately to mind. I don’t know anyone who would make that kind of jump and say, “Oh darn.”
Anyway, that’s my two cents from a sleep deprived brain.
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Thanks, Kristy. We’re on the same page here.
I actually agree with you. I don’t watch many HBO shows cuz they think it’s only a good line if they use the word F. That said, I also agree with Mark Twaine who said cursing is an art. I believe if it is truly apart of the character, it must be said. But it doesn’t have to be said in every single line. I used to work with a bunch of guys who were always swearing. And it rubbed off on me. I still catch myself once in a while, and it’s been like ten years 🙂 Nice blog, btw!
*That’s mark twain…sorry, didn’t see an edit button. And I call myself a writer https://encrypted-tbn3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQmi8pYYgptWX9uWClfwrAEhaa272xid-Cul2vdCay8zCxC1Zht
I do not like to read books or magazines that use the “f” word, nor do I enjoy a movie that does the same. I find myself waiting to be repulsed by the next use of that word rather than following the story. Such merchandise definitely does not corner my cash.
I never will forget the time we stopped in Glen Rose, Sharon, and they had “The Sopranos” on and would not turn it off to visit. The language on that program almost made me physically ill.
I agree as well. Especially when that language is retro-fitted into a setting where it probably didn’t naturally occur. I seriously question whether that was regular language in the old west.
I’m fairly sure you’re right, Lynn. Thanks.
Reblogged this on Shirley McLain and commented:
This is a blog after my own heart. I have to admit that I get on my soap box a bit when it comes to the use of that F bomb in writing. Why is it so accepted in todays world? Is it necessary to get your point across? Just something to ponder? Have a blessed day.
Hi David, I agree with you also. In fact I have written a couple of blogs about it. Being a Christian and also being a so called Senior Citizen I truly believe that it is so ingrained in today’s society that we can never get away from the disgusting language. It is whether we choose to use it or not. I was raised as it was the most vile word in the English Language and I do cringe when I hear it but I’m not so shocked any more. I watched a movie (or tried) and it was the first time I’d ever heard someone from the 2nd century using the four letter word as if it were today. What I choose to write, I will write without that four letter word. It’s not needed.
I so agree with you, Shirley. Thanks for reblogging this. I followed it over and subscribed to your blog.
Actually, David, I’m with you – I’ve thought for a long time that using the “f” word as an adjective is a cheap way to write. It is distracting and unnecessary, especially in writing. I think it’s harder work to elevate writing by not using swear words. Sadly, I hear the “f” word way too often – it’s almost like another word that gets tossed around. It not only cheapens writing, but everyday speech as well. Stick to your guns on this one! 🙂
Thanks, Deanne. I intend to stick to those guns. I had to go to your blog to get your first name, so I subscribed while I was there.