What Can You Really Say and/or Do in a Clean Read?
The $64 Dollar Question
While it’s pretty obvious what one can’t say in a clean read, writers of same still wrestle with just what they can say. It’s a sticky proposition, even a slippery slope.
SMOP (Simply My Own Opinion)
I shared on Monday the fact I write about real life in all it’s grittiness and loveliness. No one an deny life has two sides, much like a coin. There’s the good and the bad. I happen to believe there’s right and wrong--black and white, if you like--certainly not shades of gray. As a Christian, I believe my words and actions should necessarily reflect Christ--not that I don’t foul up many, many times a day! But how about the characters I write?
Those Imperfect Characters of Mine
Do my characters foul up like I do? Certainly. Do they let slip the odd “naughty” word? Um. . .yes. Do they find themselves in situations they know to be wrong and take their own sweet time extricating themselves from same? Again, yes, they do.
I remember my aunt calling the Grace Livingston Hill books “too sweety sweet”, and she had a point. Only the villains had faults--exaggerated ones. The heroes and heroines were pure as the driven snow. Did I love the books as I grew up? I did. Were they relevant to real life? Only insofar as they pointed out the difference between right and wrong--which most of us already know. But we struggle--and real characters must also struggle.
So How Do I Keep It Clean?
I have some hard and fast rules which I never break.
1. No four-and-five-letter obscenities. Have any of my characters ever “cussed”? Yes, in extreme circumstances OR to highlight a characters flaw. But they’ve never been obscene.
2. God’s name never taken in vain. I also try to stay away from the use of “My God!” UNLESS it is an actual call-out in a terrible circumstance.
3. No shades of gray. Characters may have a reason for doing what they do--but that doesn’t excuse it or make it right.
4. Physical affection never goes beyond what I consider “decent”. Again--I have to rely on my own comfort zone. You may learn a character has had an extra-marital affair, but you won’t be “treated” to a blow by blow account. I’m a fade-to-black sort of person.
Have I Ever Broken a Rule?
Sadly, I must confess I have done so in one book. No, there are no obscenities, and the love scene(s) fade to black--but the older couple are not married. I struggled with their physical relationship and realized that in the real world, they wouldn’t be shaking hands at the front door. For the premise of the book to work, the physical relationship had to be there. I hope I didn’t make it sound like it was “okay”. However, if I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t write it that way.
Have Reviewers Criticized “Clean” in My Books?
Oh, yes. Everything from the terse, “No sex scenes!” to “This is the 21st century.” And that’s okay. Those one-stars glow like five for me.
Am I Goody Two-Shoes?
You’d have to know me to answer that question in the negative. Let’s just say the beliefs I hold dear have brought me safely through a long life. If I can pass them on to someone else who needs a life-preserver in these restless seas, so much the better. Meanwhile, as my precious “adopted mom” used to say, “To each his own”. I don’t have to read what I don’t like-and no one has to read my books either. It’s all okay.