Feb 7, 2012
Do I Offend?
As a writer, this is something I tend to deal with quite often. If you’ve read my blog or any of my books, you are probably aware of the fact that I’m not particularly shy about my language. Even so, there is an internal struggle every time I do this. Do I be true to myself, my stories, and my writings, or do I step back and consider whether I should maybe tone things down a little for fear of sending people running for the hills? It’s not an easy answer and I have to admit I’ve occasionally lost sleep over it.
On the one hand, as a US Citizen, I am a huge supporter of the First Amendment. That includes the positive and negative elements of it. I firmly believe the right to free speech includes taking into account that it might be offensive to me or someone else. Ergo the quote: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Words to live by.
However, I’m not a shock jock either. I don’t go out of my way to greet little old ladies with a hearty, “How the fuck are you and that sweet ass of yours?” Generally speaking, in my day to day life, I have no interest in purposely angering people. I am neither that big of a bastard, nor that much of an attention whore.
As a result, I am constantly forced to struggle. Stay true to character or water things down so as to make it more user-friendly? Ultimately, however, I tend to choose the former. If I have a racist character in my book and I spend pages upon pages building him and his utter contempt of others up, then I feel I do both the character and myself a disservice if I don’t have vile and insensitive language running through his head and out of his mouth. Think about it? Would a real abusive lowlife get angry with his girlfriend and then just say, “Forget you, you silly trollop!” or would he scream a string of obscenities that would make a sailor blush? To me, doing otherwise would just destroy whatever animosity has been built up and in turn make the character into little more than a sad caricature.
Bill the Vampire, contains enough bad language to put it up there with Quentin Tarantino’s finest. Trust me on this, I’ve counted it. I didn’t set out to break any filth records when I started the book, but ultimately the characters and situations led me down that road. Be that as it may, it is what it is.
As such, however, I try to make sure people are aware of what they’re getting into before they buy it. For starters, I obviously don’t advertise it as a YA book...duh! The blurb lets people know about the language, and most of the marketing I do implies (some more heavily than others) the baser elements of the story. In short, if I must offend someone, I’d rather do it upfront before they’ve spent their time and money on the book. They’re probably not my audience anyway, so let’s get it out of the way early.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t done entirely out of the goodness of my heart. There is a strategic element here too, namely, I don’t want to get crushed in a bad review by someone who probably shouldn’t have read my stories to begin with. There is also the aspect of preferring to not have people I don’t know (with unknown psycho potential, if you know what I mean) hating me for some stupid dick joke I wrote on a whim as line filler.
For me, this is ultimately about staying true to myself. Sure I may still lose some sleep over it, but integrity is all about not wavering from the straight and narrow. Thus, at the end of the day, I may be sorry that I have offended you, but I am not sorry for that which I have offended you with.