First of two parts
Comedian George Carlin had seven words. Mystery novelist John Sanford has hundreds, but he repeats. John Grisham uses them sparingly. Many mystery, suspense and thriller writers use them. But some don’t.
Agatha Christie didn’t. Neither did a whole generation of cozy authors from Dorothy L. Sayers to Ngaio Marsh to Charlotte MacLeod.
Swear words, dirty words, four-letter words, cuss words or however you describe them are the way many people—including mystery writers—express themselves. Are words like f**k and s**t appropriate in mystery fiction? Or does avoiding profanity altogether make present-day dialog sound tame and artificial?
I’m a little new to mystery writing and the use of expletives still fascinates and puzzles. I wrote about this topic here when I’d published my first mystery. Now that I sent the manuscript for my third Nostalgia City mystery to my publisher, I’m still intrigued. Although I have settled on a profanity policy for my own work, I decided to take another look at the opinions and practices of mystery readers and writers alike. The result was damn surprising. Continue Reading →