Lately I've been thinking alot about the use of offensive words in my fiction. It all came up because I got back the copy edited manuscript of SHE'S SO DEAD TO US and the copy editor flagged my use of the word "moron" because Webster's cites it as potentially offensive. I use this word ALL THE TIME in my writing, and had no idea why it might be offensive. I mean, other than the fact that it's an insult. But if I can't have my characters insult one another, then honestly? They're not going to be very realistic.
So I looked it up, and here's what I found on dictionary.com:
a person who is notably stupid or lacking in good judgment.
Psychology. a person of borderline intelligence in a former classification of mental retardation, having an intelligence quotient of 50 to 69.
I never knew that "moron" had an actual meaning in psychology. And when I posted a poll on twitter, only one person of the twenty that replied said they found the word offensive. But still, I didn't want to take the chance, so I went back and changed the references in the manuscript, just in case. But as I was doing it, I felt ishy about it. The whole thing brought up a bigger question:
Is it more important to me to have my characters speak in a realistic manner, using words I hear used on the street every day, or is it more important to me that I not offend a single reader?
It's an age old question. And I don't really know what the answer is. I do know that it's impossible to write a work of fiction that won't offend a single person, because everyone has a different idea of what's offensive.
I once got an angry letter from a mother about I WAS A NON-BLONDE CHEERLEADER because there was teenage drinking in the book. Annisa, my main character, attended a party where there was drinking, but she, herself, didn't drink and didn't need to drink to have fun. I thought I was showing that people don't NEED to give in to peer pressure to have a good time. That you can get through high school without drinking (like I did) and survive and have friends and participate. I thought I showed Annisa making a mature decision that was right for her--that I showed her dealing with the situation in a way that I'd want my own child to deal with it. I thought my message was a good one. But the very fact that I included a party with alcohol in the story really angered this mom.
So would I go back and change the plot of IWANBC because this person found that offensive? Never. Because I still think the scene showed something positive. The reality is, there is drinking at high school parties. But the reality also is, you don't HAVE to drink.
In the end, I decided that changing the word "moron" wouldn't change the tone, plot, or message of my book, so I just changed it. But I'm sure this is an issue that will come up again and again in my writing. I'm just going to have to deal with each instance as it comes.
Right, so, for those of you who don't know me all that well, I'm kind of a hypochondriac. Not a full-blown crazy, like my friend (who shall remain nameless) who was certain we were all going to die of swine flu before she got a chance to get married (which she did, happily, a few weeks ago), but I have my obsessive moments. And now that I have a son, it's like ten times worse. When I started reading headlines about kids dying of swine flu I stopped even thinking about whether or not I might get it and started sweating it out late at night worrying that he definitely WOULD get it and that he definitely WOULD be one of the unfortunate souls who wouldn't be able to fight it off.
Okay, so maybe I AM a full-blown crazy.
And now I'm sick. Of course. Yesterday morning I was totally fine and kicked ass in BOSU class and everything, and then half an hour after I got home I started coughing. And kept coughing. And am coughing still. Also I'm achey. But I'm having a hard time telling whether that's because I'm sick, or because I moved up from eight-pound weights to tenners at BOSU. Sigh.
This morning I tried to write. I really did. But I gave up after one crap ass chapter in which my serial-killer heroine sounded not like the badass psycho she is, but more like a whiny loser with no spine who might or might not be dying of swine flu. The rest of my day has been spent doing the following:
A) updating my facebook status B) tweeting C) reading ew.com D) writing angry missives to ABC upon learning on ew.com that they're cancelling my favorite new show, Eastwick E) checking email and hoping for something from an editor that might kick my butt into doing something productive F) reading G) watching Big Bang Theory and Desperate Housewives on DVR H) washing dishes and I) obsessing about whether or not I have the swine flu and whether or not I should breathe on my son when I pick him up from daycare in an hour
Yes, my friends. It's been a wasted day. I'm just hoping for better out of myself tomorrow.
Guess what? I've finally entered the 21st Century! As of today, like RIGHT NOW, my brand new website is up and running! You can click through to it by clicking any of the links at the top of this blog, or simply go to:
It's chock full of info about me, my books, my upcoming projects and all kinds of good stuff. So check it out and tell all your friends!
So I don't know if you've heard, but today's Election Day. This time last year, everyone was freaking out about hope and change and getting to the poles and making their voices heard. Today, we're not hearing so much about it. Now I know, I know, there isn't a huge historical national election going on or anything, but there are still people who need your vote! All over the country there are races for everything from town council-people, county executives, state assembly-people, state senators and on and on and on. Here in New Jersey, we'll be electing (or re-electing) a governor today! That's big stuff!
My husband and I always go and vote together. I wait until he gets home and then we go out to our polling place and sign our names and do our thing. I love the vibe at the polling station. There are all these volunteer workers there and the pride they have in facilitating our right to choose just radiates off of them. Also, they usually have a lot of coffee and donuts, so it smells really good in there. When I'm in the voting booth, I click the little buttons next to the names of the people I think are most qualified for the jobs, and then I stand back and read it all over carefully to make sure I didn't make a mistake. And when I'm doing that, I always smile. BEcause this is what America is about, baby. From the mayor of the tiniest town in the tiniest state, all the way up to our Commander in Chief, we get to decide who runs our government. It's a pretty cool freedom to have. So I hope that you exercise it. Or, if you're not 18 yet, you will when you can!
It only takes five minutes, but the results of what you do can affect the world.