Updated: Jun 3, 2020
It seems these days we can't say or do anything without someone saying they are offended. I don't for one minute think it's okay to do anything or say anything that is offensive or hurtful. Let me say that first off.
I've been reading a lot of posts lately by authors worried about offending readers. Should my MC curse or not curse? How far should my sex scenes go before they offend someone? Will sex turn off my readers if it is too graphic? Can I have my MC have an affair?
I write crime fiction. Do I now have to sanitize my stories so that I don't offend my readers?
Listen, sex, drug use, murder, cursing, political views, all of these things and so much more will offend someone. That’s just the way it is.
Does that mean you shouldn’t write it? That’s for you to decide.
I don’t change my story idea or my character’s actions or words because they might offend someone. I don’t set out to hurt anyone’s feelings with my stories, or to offend anyone. But I’m not going to second guess every aspect of my writing because someone reading it might get their feelings hurt or be put off.
Don’t cry to me about how you didn’t like my characters and what they say or do because you found it offensive. It’s fucking fiction for crying out loud. Made up…solely for the purpose of entertainment. If you are not entertained, then I bet you will find an author that does entertain you and that is what makes America great. The choice to choose things that make you happy.
I’m not going to run my stories through a sterilizer because you are some kind of prude and don’t like sex in your books. Great, read books with no sex. Mine also have violence and sarcastic humor, so you might want to steer clear.
I think when you wonder if the story you are dying to write will be offensive because of curse words or a rape or murder that happens, and you don’t write it, or you make it less harsh, or easier to swallow, I think you are doing a disservice to yourself. And the reader.
I’m not talking about those who write cozy mysteries or soft romance or sweet romance. I’m not referring to those who write stories and have always written stories with little or no cursing. I’m referring to authors who write or want to write edgier stuff, like me.
Some of the things I have happen in my crime fiction books are pretty damn disgusting. I cover topics that make the reader uncomfortable. Or at least I hope I do. What if the person who thought of Dexter, or Mindhunter, or Goodfellas decided not to finish the work because they were worried about being offensive? There go three of my favorite things to watch.
I actually get more complaints about sex being in my thrillers than anything else. Hello? Let’s think about this for just a second. When have you had the best sex of your life? I bet a lot of you will say something like when I thought I was going to get caught, or after a creepy movie and I was still scared, or when I was pissed at my significant other. I just bet there was something that heightened your sexual experience, so why in hell should thrillers not have sex? Because some don’t like it? Well, you won’t like my books. Don’t read them. I’m not going to stop writing thrillers with sex because some don’t like it.
Do I run the risk of having people not want to read my books because of this? Yes. That is the cost of doing business. As long as I can accept that, I’m happy.
Write what you like. Be ready for people not to like it. Some will give you scathing reviews. Here again….you can’t make everyone happy. You can’t get away from offending someone, so quit trying. Strive instead to make sure it is edited and well written.
I don't say the Lord's name in vain, in real life. Although my characters do. Here's the deal, my character Joe does this, but he always follows it up with the sign of the cross and a quick prayer asking for forgiveness. It's part of his character. (My characters are Catholic. I'm also Catholic, and any good Catholic knows this is a standard procedure when you do something wrong in the eyes of God.) Will some find it offensive, distasteful, or unpleasant? Yes. But it fits my character, so I use it. Hell, some will find it offensive that I curse and mention God in this post. Oh well.
I realize I have a higher tolerance level than others for certain things. However, I don’t sit at my computer and question whether or not my story is going to piss someone off, or hurt their feelings. But in all honesty, I have a 12-year-old boy living inside me, so I find things funny that really shouldn’t be.
If you are writing strictly to what the market wants, what’s hot, what sells right now, then you will be more selective about what you write. You will more than likely take into consideration what will offend others and what will not. And if that's what you want to do, that's great. Go for it.
I can’t do that. That’s just not me.
But I tend to piss off my neighbors and my friends regularly, so I probably don’t care as much as others. Not that I don't care, I just don't always engage my filter. My thoughts often travel from my head to my mouth with no stopping.
At the end of the day, I'm happy with what I write.
I write crime fiction horror, thriller, and paranormal novels. My time in the Coast Guard and my degree in Forensic Chemistry helps me create fantastic stories. If I'm not writing, I am binge watching Netflix and probably drinking whiskey.