Sunday, February 27, 2011

The words we choose...

Recently, I sat over a glass of wine with a new friend as we discussed another friend of hers who'd also had a book published.

Our conversation didn't focus on how to write, how to get published, why I write or anything like was about how hard it was for her to read her other friend's book because of the use of words that offended her. Not profanity or poorly written sentences, but words that were insensitive and politically incorrect.

I asked her a lot of questions: was it a "good" guy, "bad" guy, were they angry, what was of the role of the person who was referred to disparagingly, she didn't know the answer to any of them because she closed the book, and refused too keep reading.

As we talked it made me wonder, how often do we as authors stray away from character POV and slip into the story ourselves...using words more for shock than using words that would truly fit the character and situation?

What role does an understanding of your reader, characters, and your editor play in this development?

As a reader, I've closed a lot of books because of so many different reasons. I remember one book that actually had me running to the store. I couldn't wait to get home and read it, but as I flipped the pages, it became increasingly obvious that I would not be able to finish it. It was a truly awful feeling.

Now, I try to read as a writer, so if that happened again, I'd continue the book to the end just as a learning experience. But, what do you do if it's your friend's book?

Have any of you ever been so offended by something that you were reading that you put the book down, and didn't think about it again?


Jill James said...

Angela, I think I would ask myself the questions you did. Was it the hero or villain saying those things? Was it in character to have him say them? I've caught Bleep my Dad Says a few times. He says some totally unPC things, but that is who the writer has him be. Sometimes we need to say things and we use a character to say what we can't.

Joanne said...

I have a habit of forcing myself to read a book once I start--no matter how offensive or boring the material. Now that I'm a writer, I analyze almost every sentence of every novel I read, sometimes rewording entire paragraphs.