Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The F-Word

I'm not sure if you've noticed, but... people use the f-word a lot nowadays. Christian people. Non-Christian people. Flawed people. Happy people. Sad people. And my imaginary people have been known to use it, too. Apparently, several readers think my imaginary people use it too much.

"What is [Brea Brown's] obsession with the f-word?" Someone recently posed that question in a review of one of my books on Amazon. She's not the first one to criticize my books for it, either. I'd probably make more money than I do on royalties if I had a dollar for every time a reader said something to the effect of, "I liked the story, but the potty language was a turn-off."

Easy fix, right? Stop using profanity in my books. Not so fast. But I will offer this explanation for why the characters in my books use "salty language:"

First of all, I don't have an obsession with the f-word or any profanity, for that matter. What I am, obsessed with, however, is realistic characters. You won't find the f-word in any descriptive passages in my books. You will find it in dialogue and exposition that can be attributed to characters, though. You know why? Because real people talk like that.

It's true! I wouldn't lie to you. I like you, even if you think I'm a foul-mouthed, dirty pirate hooker.

I'm sure some of the dismay about bad words in my books stems from the fact that many readers have mistakenly perceived my Secret Keeper books to be Christian fiction. Please see blog post "I'm a Christian WRITER , but not a CHRISTIAN Writer." I used to think this wasn't my problem. Now I'm beginning to see that... it's kind of a problem. Because fans of Christian fiction see the word "Pastor" in my book descriptions and make assumptions I can't live up to. Then they post lukewarm to poor reviews, because they want characters who say "Gee whiz" and "golly goobers" and "fiddlesticks," and that just ain't gonna fly for most characters in my books. I think it's fake and silly and ridiculous to hold fictional people to a standard that just doesn't exist anymore.

And anyway... they're just words! Words that we as a society have attached negative connotations, for sure, but man-made words nonetheless. We as a society need to learn how to put on our big girls' and boys' panties and stop making it everyone else's job to protect us and our children from those things that may be distasteful to us. No more banning American literary treasures from school libraries because they contain the n-word. Rather, let's teach our children that all language has context. The intent behind the language is far more important than the word itself.

Plus, I'm a word nerd, and I can't help but be fascinated (not obsessed) by a word that can function as every part of speech in the English language. It can be used to express just about every sort of emotion, too. Joy: "Eff yeah!" Anger: "Eff you!" Sadness: "Oh, eff..." Frustration: "Eff me." You get the idea. I think it's a funny word, and I think it's equally-amusing how much stock some people put in it. Do I make it a habit to use it around my children? Negative. It's not a polite word, and anyone who knows me knows I'm all about manners. (*cough, cough*)

But I do use that word in my books. Do I do it to shock and offend people? No. I use it--and other profanity--to lend credibility to my characters and my stories. Perhaps I should put a disclaimer in the front of my books: "Warning! This book contains realistic characters who say bad words when provoked. Please turn back now if this will offend your sensibilities."

I understand that a minority of people choose not use profanity. If you're one of them, good for you! I'm sure you have wonderful, altruistic reasons for abstaining. For example, I've heard people say it displays a lack of intelligence and suggests a narrow vocabulary. I will have to politely and without any curse words disagree with those people. But that's a debate for another blaaaaargh post.

Today, I simply wanted to address the seemingly endless number of readers who feel the need to tell the world what a great writer I'd be and how much they would have enjoyed my books if only I'd make my characters a little less realistic and a little more one-dimensional. My mom reads my books. If that's not motivation enough to keep it squeaky clean, then that's a pretty good indication my characters are never going to conform to some people's strict ideals regarding decency. And if anyone ever writes a critical review citing language as their only reason for not liking one of my books, with the aim of receiving an apology from me, they'll be disappointed. But you know what? That's life!

If profanity doesn't offend you, check out my books. I publish them exclusively on Amazon. It's the bleepity-bleep best place to get e-books. I bleepin' love it! Also, come visit me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter. I'm pretty good at controlling my potty mouth in most posts and tweets.


  1. Brea, I love your books! I read The Secret Keeper series so fast and wanted more! Can't wait to read Plain Jayne :)

    1. Thanks, Lisa! Glad to have another speed reader in the ranks! ;) I'll try to keep up with you.