Judging Author by what Characters say

“You can’t blame a writer for what the characters say.” – Truman Capote

I find this intriguing. How many of us have had our stories read by friends or family and have been advised that perhaps the language used is too harsh, and to lessen it. For example, if a character uses profanity often.

I have had this happen to me on In Strange Company. There were times when under certain circumstance, characters would swear.

I was asked if it was ‘necessary’ to use these words? That I should remove them so I don’t offend, or so that I don’t make a bad impression. Now, what you don’t know about me is that I as an individual, rarely swear – no matter how riled up I am.

This was a few years ago, and at that time when removal/censoring was suggested, I was quite ruffled to say the least and defended my work because it wouldn’t serve the story if I replaced these words with mellow words like ‘darn’, which would water down the story, or barely cause a ripple.

Our characters are not us to put it simply, so if anyone were to judge an author’s character based on what their characters in a story say or even persecute an author for a work of fiction, well, that’s just silly.

We have a duty to the characters and their stories, particularly to their emotions, and it would be cruel to sensor these moments of rawness for the sake of not offending potential readers. The stories demand to be written because they have something in them that needs to get out. They are not really written for the readers. They are written so that readers may discover something familiar with a modern twist.

I’m not advocating for plentiful sprinkles of profanity in literature, just that, writers should be allowed to write the story the way they are ‘told’.

So next time you read a book by your favorite author, try not to paint a picture of them through their story. Just enjoy the read. 🙂

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