I’ve been staring at this empty document for about twenty minutes now, and I’m still not sure how to phrase myself.
I should start by saying that I always shy away from drama. I wouldn’t say I keep my head down and chicken out from stating my opinions; I’ve just made the choice to focus on romance, on the books I write, and on characters.
That’s part of why I’m blogging today, because the issues, for lack of a better term, have reached characters and how we write them.
It’s unbelievable that an author has to say this, but here goes: I am not my characters. They are, however, a reflection of my view of society, and that includes all walks of life. I spend an insane amount of time on research in order to be able to stick to “write what you know.” I have written teachers, rock stars, bartenders, bipolar hockey players, autistic men and women, the rich, the poor, the homeless, and everyone in between. I seek out perspectives of those who know from experience, and I do my best to give a realistic portrayal–in most of my books. I’m not gonna lie, when I write BDSM, I put more energy in portraying kink than the occupation of the characters.
I’ve been lucky so far. I haven’t been involved in any platform-wide drama. My writing hasn’t been dragged through the mud. Yet, maybe. But every now and then, I receive a message from an angry reader, which I guess is unavoidable–we can’t please them all–and I choose not to make a big deal out of it. I choose to ignore it or address it privately.
Now I’m kinda done. Today’s political climate has become so infected, and we’ve seemed to have lost the plot when we go after fictional characters. My own political views don’t matter one bit when I write. I joke when I play the devil’s advocate with my friends and say I’m a bit of a political cocktail. Socially progressive, part classic liberal, part libertarian, with a twist of conservatism. Either way, I will write characters whose own opinions I disagree with.
For chrissakes, I made Casey in Path of Destruction and Uncomplicated Choices a Pepsi lover.
Kidding aside, I have conservative characters and liberal characters and those who don’t give a flying fuck about politics. Politics rarely play a part in my books, though it’s there, like a current flowing underneath it all in some stories.
Which brings us to the use of language.
I’m currently writing This Life II, and side note, I’m having a blast writing a liberal woman with a conservative man. It doesn’t kidnap the main plot; it’s a source of banter, some eye-rolling, and discussion. The main plot…okay, there’s a lot going on in this trilogy, but it’s mafia romance. And you wanna know something bizarre?
Finnegan, the name of the hero, kills, steals, lies, and deceives for a living. No problem. Mafia romance is a popular genre, and we like reading bad boys who are devoted to one woman only. I’ve had so much fun researching his skillsets, and I haven’t thought twice about him committing murder or stealing. Then the other day, I came to a stop. I wrote something, and I leaned back and went, “Shit, can I really write that? Some will take offense.”
Here I was, writing a scene in which he is going to kill someone who’s scared his wife, and I hesitate because he called the enemy retard.
I’ve already put a leash on my boundaries if I consider altering the language for the sake of delicate readers.
I won’t do that.
Finnegan, an Irish mobster from Philly, will definitely use the word retard.
So did Dominic in Home. Because do you know who doesn’t care about being politically correct? A twenty-four-year-old guy who’s spent most of his adult years on the streets, trying to make a buck to go see his autistic daughter.
Speaking of Autism. As an autistic author, am I supposed to be offended by the use of this word?
I’m not. And even if I were, I’d use it. Because it fits certain characters and the world they grew up in.
It doesn’t fit into Adrian’s world. He’s the kind high-school teacher who teaches history and takes Dominic in. When Dominic uses the word retard, Adrian mutters a dry joke about how he throws books at his students for saying the “r-word.”
In the real world, perspectives meet–and sometimes crash–all the time. They do that, and will continue to do so, in my books too.
The next word is cunt. Or cunty. A few months ago, I actually received a message through my website from an anonymous reader. They claimed I should know better than to use the word cunty. Especially because I am a woman. Cunty is degrading to us. It was funny to me–you know, after the shock settled–that someone (a woman maybe?) would tell me, another woman, how to write, what is degrading to me. Pro tip: don’t police this woman’s use of language for her characters.
I showed the message to a couple friends, and I wanted their honest opinion. Did I use the word poorly? Like, in the wrong place for the wrong person?
The character in question, a working-class dude from New Jersey, had this word in his vocabulary. End of. And the irony in this specific scenario was so brilliant, because the guy had been in the middle of defending a woman when he used the word. But that didn’t matter. Intentions lost their meaning, and everything became about the word he used.
I started out as a fanfiction author, and many are waiting for me to rework another mafia series and publish it as an original, and to be honest, I’ve been dreading it. We’re talking full-on Sicilian/American mafia taking place in the ’70s up to present day in Las Vegas. No one will bat an eyelash at the bodies they bury in the desert, but then there’s the way they speak and how they treated their women…
I’m gonna write it, though. It’s what I do.
Now I’m going back to Finnegan and Emilia in This Life II. She’s pregnant and just had a glass of champagne.