In my novel, I use four words commonly thought to be impolite. One time each.
The first word comes from the mouth of a salty ex-sailor. He inserts it in the middle of a very compassionate statement. I love the tension between the compassion and the crudeness. I've met very compassionate people who were not genteel!
The three other words that may offend emerge from the mouths of villainous characters. This is a pretty standard device in mainstream fiction; violent people often use aggressive speech.
I am fascinated to see if these moments will remain as they are, should the book be contracted by a major Christian publisher. I used the words because I believe they lend the novel the power of ugly realism. By mainstream standards, they are VERY mild.
Speaking of mainstream standards, I just checked out a popular mainstream historical novel from the library.
It's no wonder a market developed for Christian fiction.
Thw quality of the writing in this novel is very good, compared to the general standard of popular fiction. The research and texture of the historical period are much more detailed and vivid than that of many historical romances.
The sexual content of the novel is relatively tame, by romance standards. Yes, the sex scenes are very explicit, but there are only two of them. I get the feeling the novelist included them only because they are "required" in most mainstream romances. Novelists who like to write sex scenes include a lot more of them in their work.
The barrier that made the novel difficult for me to read was the casual, frequent use of God's name in completely inappropriate circumstances.
It's one thing to watch reality shows in which people constantly exclaim OMG in their astonishment and joy. I find it distracting and annoying because it conflicts with my beliefs, but I'm able to tune it out.
In this novel, however, the disrespectful references to God occur in the middle of sex scenes, in moments of anger, or just completely at random in phrases that are much more disturbing than the simple OMG.
I realize that nonbelievers reading this blog may find this difficult to swallow, or find my feelings completely prudish. Bear with me, please. Imagine how you would feel if someone had saved your life--let's say you were in the World Trade Center when it collapsed, and a firefighter carried you out before returning to lose his life in the final collapse. You probably wouldn't be too happy to read a novel that bashed New York City firefighters at every turn. Or perhaps it's more effective to compare it to a novel in which someone tells lies about your dearly-loved family member. For believers, God is a family member. Certain types of talk about him are the equivalent of foul attacks on "your mama." They make me feel sad.
So, this post inevitably leads to the question of whether my rare uses of mild crude language in my novel are going to offend some people as deeply as this novel offended me. Anything is possible. I respect their sensibilities. But for me, there is a vast difference between crudity and religious disrespect.
What do you think? How much crudity can you take in a novel before you put it down?