I’m not saying I’m a total prude, and for some genres, this kind of language may be suitable and expected. However, it’s not appropriate for my work. I write contemporary romance novels as Marina Martindale. In my genre there simply is no reason for profanity, and most romance authors don’t use it. To me, profanity, especially when used in the narrative, is a sign of a lazy, sloppy writer. A rank amateur. A good storyteller doesn’t need to use profanity. Plain and simple.
But what about the dialog?
There will be times when an, “Oh my goodness gracious me,” simply won’t cut it. That’s when I’ll use an occasional damn or hell, or similar verbiage. There may be other times when a character, typically a villain, may call a female character a bitch. This happens when she didn’t do what the villain wanted her to do. However, I never use the F-word, or any other vulgar synonym for human genitalia. And the keyword here is occasional. As in infrequently. My characters aren’t potty mouths. Even my villains have more class than that.
The other thing I do not do is use the Lord’s name in vain. While I keep my books religiously neutral, I’m also aware that there are readers out there who will find this verbiage offensive as well. In fact, I don’t like it either.
There may be an occasion when a stronger word may be expected. For example, I had a scene in one novel in which a character has just learned her husband had been kidnapped. She’s understandably upset. Her response is, “What the —?” Another character interrupts her before she completes her sentence. Some readers may have interpreted it as, “What the hell?” Perfectly appropriate for the circumstances. Other readers, however, may have interpreted it differently and assumed she was about to say an entirely different word. Either way, I left it to the reader to decide.
It may be the twenty-first century, but there are still readers out there who find profanity, particularly the F-word, offensive. So why risk alienating someone who would have otherwise loved your book?
Gayle Martin aka Marina Martindale