Indie authors get to publish anything at all. Traditional authors have their work edited – things get taken out. Probably things that could cause offense, as well as typos and grammar gremlins. Should you self-censor your writing because of the possibility of offending someone with a word or deed, and thereby open yourself to a couple of raging negative reviews? No – you never should. I must admit to a lot of hesitation inserting offensive things back when I first started out, but not anymore. I’ll write what I feel is right for the story whether it could offend or not. It’s fiction after all. There are things in all my books that could offend a wide range of readers if they chose to be offended, but I have more than enough respect for most lovers of the written word to realise that they’re generally intelligent and open minded, and that if they know that certain types of writing will offend them, they won’t buy those sorts of books.
Back before the advent of the internet and eBooks, readers didn’t get to rant on public websites and forums about profanity in books, or something that they for whatever personal reason find offensive. Writers are getting antsy, stressed and overly careful of what they write with all the political correctness around these days, but we shouldn’t be. For me personally I’ve read swearwords that turned a mundane sentence into something profound – or hilarious. Books are books, and we generally choose those that we’re fairly confident that we’ll enjoy. Writers aren’t the same as everyone else. They see things differently, with a different kind of clarity and insight I think, and they have the power to use the tools of their trade to convey emotions. That’s what reading’s all about – feeling the emotions turned into words by the author. And when writers do what they have to do and put their words on the page, that’s the end of that, and whether or not people choose to read or approve of those words, at the end of the day the choice of those words belongs only to the author. The words are our choice of the tools we feel are needed to get a reader totally immersed and involved in our tales. Whether they’re politically correct or not – profane or not. Our choice only.
We tell the stories as we want to, and write the words we want to write, but we have no control over how people read our books. I’ve seen a couple of terrible reviews of really good books purely based on small amounts of profanity in them. I’ve used a good few judiciously placed swearwords in most of my books, because they’re what came out as the stories were told. I won’t take them out, and I’m pretty sure that there will be more of them in future books of mine when they’re needed. Obviously we want our books to be read as we wrote them. I’m not suggesting that writers all over the place suddenly start adding profanity to every second sentence – unless they want to. Just that if an F bomb finds its way into a sentence to begin with, the word “darn” or “poot” or whatever is most likely not going to convey the emotion that we want to convey it the first place. Unless you’re ghost writing, only you get to choose the words, and don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.
As far as I’m concerned, a word is just a word. How you use it is what can create offense, and scribblers have all it takes to offend when they so choose. A writer has the equipment to turn someone into a soggy puddle if they choose to use their words as swords. There are words, harmless in themselves, that you can stitch together in a sentence that can cause soul cutting offense. And sometimes in a book, that’s exactly what you need to do. As far as I’m concerned the occasional use of a beautifully placed profane bomb is much more harmless than many, many other things in the world today. They’re just words.
There will always be criticism of books for things in them that have offended people, and all people are offended by different things, so this shouldn’t bother us overly much. It goes with the territory. There are readers of every genre under the sun, and they eventually find the authors they love. Nobody loves every book they ever read – if every book was fabulous then trying to stand out from the crowd would be futile anyway. Don’t ever try and change the writer that you are. Write whatever comes out. Whether your natural style is to swear like a trooper or to never use a word stronger than bottom, it’s all allowed, because if you try to change the writer you are, your words will end up stilted and fake. Be exactly who you are. I say cuss all you like if you so choose, and write the way you’re meant to write, and enjoy one of the most powerful gifts of being an Indie writer – the fact that you can. It’s bound to offend someone sooner or later anyway no matter what it is, and spending any of your time worrying about these things is a waste of good writing time.