Re: RARA-AVIS: Re; Language

From: Charlie Williams (
Date: 26 Mar 2005

Kevin wrote:
> On Mar 25, 2005, at 3:25 AM, Charlie wrote:
> >
> > So you've created these fictional people, and now
> you're imposing
> > your own sense of modesty on them. How true are
> your characters now?
> > How real can they be, with that constraint?
> Sorry, Charlie, but this is fiction, it's not
> "real."

My idea of fiction reflects the real world to some degree. That's the kind of fiction I like, personally. I hear there are other kinds. You can keep them.

> Real life doesn't have to be believable or full of
> great dialogue.
> Fiction does. If writers wrote the way most people
> actually speak,
> nobody would bother reading.

I never said that writers should write the way most people actually speak. My thrust was that a writer should not have his characters speak the way he himself speaks (hence my words: "imposing your own sense of modesty on them").

> A good writer is always editing himself, tailoring
> his work for his or
> her readers, trying to tell the story he wants to
> tell without losing
> his audience. It's part of the creative process,
> this distilling
> reality and re-presenting it as fiction. A writer
> who only writes for
> himself is almost surely going to get the audience
> he desires.
> And a writer who is always whining "but it happened
> in real life" to
> justify some complete leap in logic or some excess
> or another, is
> probably not going to gather much of an audience
> either.

Kevin, what can I say, thanks for the education. And there I was, going along, writing characters exactly as I hear people speak in real life, not once considering that I could employ my own critical judgement on the words I'm writing down.

> > And getting sideways of the issue a bit... We're
> crime readers and
> > writers, right? We read and write about people who
> kill, steal,
> > torture, maim, defraud, assault, rape, jay walk,
> etc... Pardon me for
> > being controversial, but I think those guys and
> gals may well indulge
> > in ripe lingo at times. Bad actions, bad language
> - which is more
> > acceptable? Is "I'll cut your balls off" more
> acceptable than "I'll
> > cut your fucking balls off"?
> Without knowing anything about the character
> speaking, it's hard to
> tell. But adding "fucking" doesn't add much to the
> dialogue in this
> case, as far as I can see.

Again, my point was that compaints about (or silent aversion to) the use of "fucking" (or whatever) in crime fiction should be put into context: crime fiction is full of bad stuff. How is a bit of bad language a problem?

Not once in my email did I suggest that "fucking" (or whatever) should be spliced into a writer's text at every opportunity. Not once did I advocate swear words for their own sake. I argued that swear words in themselves should not be censored away just because they are swear words.

You know, I don't disagree with anything you say. But you didn't have to take me completely out of context to say it. I can see how much you enjoyed it though, so I guess I don't mind.

> And don't worry about
> being controversial --
> you're not.


Charlie Williams.

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