...or drugs, or alcohol, or profanity, or... name your poison.
I'm going to deviate a little from the essay-style format we've got going on here, because there’s something on my mind and I want to open it up for discussion. And considering the types of books many of us in this group write, I think here is a pretty appropriate place for it.
I recently received my revision letter and manuscript notes from my editor and one of her comments was that I needed to scale back on the profanity. I’m not complaining about it or entrenching myself for a fight or even looking for advice. It’s just that the comment raises questions in my head.
My book is about a Marine. The ones I know swear--a lot. They talk about body functions and sex. They make mom jokes. The editor said a little goes a long way.
So how do you know what is too much? Do you rely on your editor to tell you, or are you your own litmus test? And, if the profanity/sex/drugs is representational of the character you’re writing, how much are you willing to sacrifice while still maintaining the truth in your story? Do you worry that not scaling back will increase the odds of your book being banned?
(For our readers, feel free to adapt these questions and answer them from a reader's perspective.)
The editor said my book could be important for teens thinking about the military, but we don’t want it to be banned from schools and libraries and not reach those kids. And I totally, absolutely understand that. But then I think about the Marines I know and how they might feel if they open the book and get a watered down version of their Corps. Obviously, I know there’s a middle ground and I need to find it.
But in the meantime, I’m curious to know what your experiences have been like and what readers think. The floor is yours...