Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake

[process] On the importance of being earnest(ly squicky)

A piece of feedback I've gotten from "America, Such as She Is", is one reader (whom I trust implicitly) being very concerned about my use of graphic language in certain places. They weren't objecting to the content, just pointing using various extremely direct terms for body parts and sex acts were going to put some readers off ab initio.

I've run into this before, on more than one occasion. I've had near-misses on a couple of important career goals because people said, essentially, "this was very well written, but the story grossed me out so much I just can't bring myself to take positive action." Think "The Goat Cutter", or Trial of Flowers Powell's | Amazon ], for example.

My response to that, in principle, is to point out that if the story grossed you out that deeply, my craft is probably doing its job. A reader turning away from words they prefer not to experience isn't going to have a emotional reaction to a piece. My response in practice is silence, because I firmly believe the story belongs to the reader.

I'm sending "America" to the editor on Friday. I'll have another revision session tomorrow evening. I'm probably going to leave the language in question in place, because in my vision of the story, it belongs there. To bowdlerize myself for the sake of potential readers strikes me as the deepest sort of disservice to me, to my readers, and most of all, to the story. Much, much better to write a story where that language (or the squick behind it) simply isn't part of the fabric of the narrative in the first place, than to blunt the edge of the knife I've crafted.

Still, I mull. Of such lemmas is the writer's life built.
Tags: personal, process, trial, writing

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