I’ve written a couple posts about the use of colorful language in literary works, highlighting a problem without offering many solutions. With that I mind, I wanted to share a few creative ways for characters to express themselves while still allowing the reader to use his imagination.
The first two are from Randy Alcorn’s book, Deception. The novel features a homicide detective named Ollie Chandler. Ollie’s investigating a murder and every detective on the force is a suspect, including himself. I enjoyed the story, as I did the first two in the trilogy: Deadline and Dominion.
This first scene is where Ollie is interrogating a room full of his fellow detectives, each of them a potential suspect. You might imagine they are none too happy with one of their own questioning their integrity. One of the officers expresses his displeasure, (Ollie’s the narrator)
“Chandler’s a horse’s rear end,” Cimmatoni said, or something to that effect.
We all have guesses as to what Cimmatoni said, and that’s what I appreciate – the reader fills the blank. He avoids the character coming off as corny, while still keeping the book clean.
The second example uses a different technique and it’s equally effective. Chandler’s about to be grilled by the internally unpopular Chief of Police. Here’s how their dialogue begins.
Finally he stepped out and said to Mona, “Any calls?”
“Yeah,” I said under my breath. “Your proctologist called. They found your head in your –”
“Chandler!” Though he couldn’t have heard me, he beckoned, and before I was through the door he asked, “Situation changed with the professor?”
“No. He’s still dead.”
Waster basket? Clouds? Neighbor’s business? I guess we’ll never know. But then again, we all know exactly what Ollie was about to say. However, the pages are still free from the colorful language that graffiti so many books.
There was a third trick Alcorn used, but I was unable to find it as I flipped back through the book.
Another author, Dale Cramer, used some creative means to help give voice to his gruff characters without profaning the reader’s experience. His novel, Bad Ground, was in storage when I wrote this but Mr. Cramer kindly posted one of his methods in a comment.
He broke into a run— actually started running down the road toward the dead chair, the way a sane person might have done if a child had been run over— and as he ran he let fly with a veritable river of caustic poetry, a unified body of professional-grade profanity so focused and intense that Jeremy pictured it snuffing out entire constellations on its way to punching a new hole in the envelope of the universe.
None of us know what was said, but there’s no denying the emotional intensity of the moment. Each of these examples are methods of creatively dealing with emotion without cheaply penning the profane.
I appreciate the effort these guys are making to keep the pages clean.
Keep Discovering Writing.