Today while working on They All Died Smiling, on my mad dash to 50,000 words this month for NaNoWriMo, I needed to deal with an angry phone call without suddenly introducing swear words into an otherwise clean book.
At meetings of the Northwest Arkansas Writer's Workshop, when an author is reading their allowed five pages, sometimes there is a cuss word on the page but the author replaces it with something more for a G-rated audience.
We travelers talked about cussing and steamy scenes in writing on the road back home. None of our group prefers Rated-R type content.
I'm pretty sure I won't ever write a character who drops F-bombs every other sentence. I don't care to read that and certainly have no desire to write it.
More mild cussing I can handle, though I'm happier without it. That's just me. I make no value judgments about you no matter what your preference may be.
The thing is, lots of people swear, and they won't all say "oh shucky-darns." Here's how I handled that in They All Died Smiling for the one scene in which it intrudes into the story.
Artfully Avoiding Cuss Words
Keep in mind that Kassidy, in whose head you are for the entire novel, is the daughter of a Baptist preacher and not prone to coarse talk.
Kassidy never made it to work because she was taken elsewhere. Her boss did not grow up in Maybury.
My cell vibrated for perhaps the fifth time. “Please excuse me, gentlemen. Since we’re on a break, I’d better answer this time. I’m pretty sure it’s my boss.”
Predictably, all the calls were from my editor. I answered. He yelled so loud into my ear it vibrated my head and I couldn’t even understand him. I dropped the phone, fumbled it back into my hand, switched sides, prepared to hold it a foot away from the other ear.
“What’s his name,” Joshua asked.
“Bob Barkley, my editor.”
He reached for the phone, tried several times without success o break through Bulldog Bob’s bellowing. Whence a moment of silence finally arrived, he put the phone to his ear and said, “Mr. Barkley, this is Agent Joshua Hayes of the FBI. Ms. Bates is helping us with an investigation.”
He yelled something a bull leaves behind so loud we all heard.
“That’s twenty bucks in the cuss can, Bob. And it’s the God’s honest truth.”
A pause, then uproarious laughter. “Oh yeah, and I’m the Queen of England.”
He next told me which portion of me needed to make an immediate appearance back at the Trib.
“Just that part? That’s forty bucks in the cuss can, Bob,” I said. “I’m afraid I’m detained.”
His debt doubled again before he slammed down the phone so hard I wondered if it broke. I’ve seen that in movies but never experienced it. I envisioned him stomping around the newsroom giving everyone an extra hard time. I’m in an alternate universe where a normal day has no meaning.
Russ’ mouth hung open.
“He thought I was lying.” Joshua stared stunned at my phone, then handed it back.
The incredulity in his voice, the look on my friend’s face, and Bob’s tantrum acted as a pressure release. I laughed so hard my sides hurt. I suppose I should have been upset, but with everything else in my life going sideways, I truly saw the humor.
Once I had regained composure, I told them, “I feel sorry for the poor folks in the newsroom today. Bulldog Bob is going to go berserk on them over the truth.”
What do you think of how I handled the situation? I hope Kass' natural wit came through in a way that made you chuckle without seeming ridiculous.
Now for the...
NaNoWriMo They All Died Smiling Update:
I WILL cross the 50,000 word mark either tonight or tomorrow, a few days ahead of the November 30 deadline.
Here is my counter:
May your muse continue to inspire you.
Follow your BLISS,
Ronda Del Boccio
#1 best selling author & speaker