Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Selection of Words

I know we're behind an 18+ banner here at PR, but I still want to preface this post that there is a bit of language some people may find objectionable/offensive/etc etc etc.

About a year and half ago, I had a conversation with a few online friends about writing. Or more accurately, certain words in erotic romance. Particularly, what we did/didn't like to see. At the time, there was one certain word that was my hang-up--cunt. I don't mind it in occasional use in erotic books I read, most of the time it's expected. But at the time I'd recently read a mainstream paranormal sci-fi erotic romance and the use of this word in particular was heavy. As in, so heavy that I stopped reading at one point in order to count the number of times it was used on one page (6 on one standard page, 2 of which were in the same short paragraph). To me, even now, it seems excessive.

Do I find it an offensive word? No. I've never discounted its use as something other than "shock value". My personal stance is simple, I haven't written a character yet that I thought it would be appropriate dropping out of their mouth.

Well. I just have this to say: There's a reason I never say never. LOL

Saturday, I was working while away for a dance competition for my daughter (there are very, very long stretches on those days when there is absolutely nothing going on--I hole up in a quiet corner by myself with my daughter isn't actually dancing). For some reason, I found myself inclined to open a file for a work-in-progress that I hadn't opened since June. A bit later, my husband came over, asked me if I needed anything and basically broke me out of my little zone I'd gotten into. To get back into the swing of things, I scrolled back up a few pages to read over what I'd been working on. Imagine my utter surprise when I came across "cunt".

Actually had to stop and scratch my head a little and read the line a few times to make sure I'd read it correctly. I do not remember typing it at all. Which, isn't unusual for me when I've slipped into that zone.

Will it stay? I haven't decided yet. For the moment, it's still there. I'm still learning about this particular character. He's new to me and I haven't gotten his whole story yet. But I do know enough at this point to know it's appropriate with him to use it. Especially in the situation in which it's used in this instance.

So, are there any words that you find you hang up on? Or were there words that once startled you that don't any longer or do you have a "freeforall" attitude?


D L Jackson said...

Cunt gets me every time. Only because I really, really don't like that word.

The other is "God", and not because I don't use it in my writing, it's that I grew up in a very religious family that frowned upon the use of it in anything but praise.

I have to say that I'm working on a YA novel and it's a challeng, going from erotic romance to YA. A complete shift in gears. Many times I had to stop myself and ask what the correct word in this book should be. Too scrubbed and it looks lame, YA are YA and it's not like they don't hear it or use it, but too much and well, this is YA. Suppossed to set a higher standard when dealing with kids, or at least I believe I should. No F bombs or C words but I did drop the word shit once. LOL

Sara Brookes said...

Actually had a conversation with a few people about why it's so looked down upon. Most people take it as a negative word. It's certainly not the nicest sounding word invented for that area, that's for certain. LOL

I've noticed a lot of authors trying their hand at YA. My hats off to all of you that are because I certainly can't get my head around it.

J.L. Stratton said...

I have a lot of hang-ups when it comes to using appropriate words for my characters describing or talking about body parts. In my attempt to avoid all hues of purple, I tend to levitate toward clinical words like: vagina, clitoris, or penis.

Of course it all depends on how my character develops as to what language they use.

I'm almost embarrassed to admit that, in my latest WIP, my main character actually used the word "scrotum." Hey, don't laugh. It seemed to work best in that particular scene.

Stacey Kennedy said...

Great topic!!! I'm like you I have yet to use the word "cunt" in my stories. The reason, I find it an unbelievably powerful word, and like you, my characters just wouldn't use it. I don't mind reading the word as long as it's used appropriately.
My thoughts:

1. In a man's monologue--they would use a word like this so when it's put in it seems appropriate.

2. If a couple was gettin' nasty. "I'm going to slam my cock into your hot cunt." -LOL!! (So very naughty) but..very appropriate.

3. If a character loathed another woman to the point of wanting to kill her and called her "A cunt". Yup--works for me.

Once, I read a story where it was in a woman's monologue and it had me shaking my head. I've yet to met any woman who would use such a word while describing herself. Well, I'm sure they are out there. But this character was not such a woman.

So, I'm all for the word if the character would use it!! I like me some naughty words!!! :D

Liia Ann said...

Great topic Sara!
I can't wait to read what everyone's word hang ups are.

The 'C' word doesn't bother me anywhere near as much as it did. Mainly because I have two 23/24 year old brothers that use it in greetings! I hear it all the time. I get greeted 'hey you cunt' all the time by boys and their mates!
I hate it used in the 'womanly part' context though.

I can't ever bring myself to write 'cock' in a sexual sense.. Calling someone a cock is fine though!
I also hate 'erection'. But someone *cough* Stacey *cough* told me to use it so I have LOL But it works.
I also hate the 'V' word as I call it.. Vagina. Even though it's clinical it makes me cringe every time I hear or see it!

Tara Lain said...

I use a ton of words in books that i pretty much never use in life. I write mostly m/m and menage so i spend a lot of time in male POV. My characters swear a LOT. I don't. Must confess i've never had a moment where one of my guys was inclined to say "cunt", but it could happen. Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

Nerine Dorman said...

The question I ask: "Is this word appropriate to the context?"

For instance, the word "vagina" doesn't quite conjure up eroticism, IMO, but that could just be personal preference.

The word would have to suit the characters and the setting.

Sara Brookes said...

You guys are great!!

@JL I rarely use clinical terms (except for clitoris) because, to me, it doesn't invoke overall "erotic" -- now if you're not writing something erotic, then the clinical is probably the way to go

@Stacey In my instance, it's a man that uses it during a sex scene.

@Liia Funny enough, I don't think I've written a story without using cock or erection. It's funny that those don't bother me in the least.

@Tara I think it's a line we draw as writers--just because I don't personally use it doesn't mean that the particular character won't. I'm not that character and they are not me.

@Nerine Wonderful question to ask! I asked it myself in the instance, and it is--it suits everything going on at the time it's said. Which pushes me more and more to leave it there. LOL

J Hali said...

Wow! Sara, I missed this yesterday because I was studying. Anyway, I'm writing today (after I get my blog done!!) I use these words often, my characters use them even more--all of them, but they do it when appropriate. Though sometimes they say them for "shock value" (they can be just like me!) I have to say, I've spent lots of time around men, drag racers, bikers--they don't pull punches when they talk and I've learned not to. In fact, I like their up-front, out there, attitudes to life and how they talk about it. I've been told I have a filthy mouth and I'm okay with that. Like my characters--it's who I am.

Great post.