This article was originally sent as a private email to my subscribers. If you would like to receive content like this every two weeks instead of whenever I decide to release one publicly, sign up here. The original email has been edited, because why the $%@# not.
I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from readers on Wage Slave Rebellion. While feedback comes in many stripes, I’ve found that most criticism falls into two categories, based on my reaction:
- There’s the thoughtful criticism that makes me go, “Hmm. I’m not sure about that, but it’s worthy of consideration.” Occasionally it even rings true, and I know I made a mistake.
- Then there are the complaints about shit I’m not going to change. For example, I get frequent complaints about my character’s unusual names, but that was a deliberate decision. These I ignore.
I recently got some feedback about the cursing in WSR. This reader said that the characters’ cussing didn’t add anything to the story, and in fact, took something away. They said that I might have a wider audience if I didn’t include it.
Let me explain why my characters cuss, and why that’s not going to change.
Mazik, Gavi, and Raedren start off the series as twenty-something working stiffs who spend a great deal of time in a bar, drinking heavily. They’re frustrated and/or bored with their jobs, they all spent time in the Houkian military, and they live in a world that’s dangerous, unforgiving, and doesn’t much value human life. They get in fights, they get in trouble, and they generally try to get away with things without getting caught.
Tell me: Do these not sound like the kind of people who would cuss to you?
It has never been about whether cussing adds to the story. It’s about authenticity. If a character would cuss, they should cuss. No—they must. It’s about staying true to the characters. If Mazik spent the book saying “Pumpernickel!” or “Sugar!”, many would have rightly turned up their noses, for it would have clashed with his personality as I’ve portrayed it. Each character’s language is, in a very real way, not under my control. They have lives of their own, and they can say whatever they damn well please.
Now, there was a time I considered bleeping my cuss words, though it was mostly because I was watching a lot of Epic Meal Time at the time, and the noise they use to bleep their cursing always made me laugh. But that, too, would have felt inauthentic, because without the funny bleeping sound, it would have read like censorship. (And I half think I was only considering it for short-sighted, “audience widening” reasons anyway.) I’d rather just let them say the damn words and not make a big deal out of it.
So yes, cussing doesn’t add anything to the story, except for authenticity, which is far more important to me than a few overly-sensitive readers. I’d probably just end up pissing them off anyway, so fuck it.
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