Implausibly Profane

August 31, 2009

I recently received a submission response [1] from an established Sci-Fi/ Fantasy publisher. It was a reach, but I was hoping more for constructive feedback than I was expecting publication.

A paraphrased excerpt from said response:

The term: Hasidic shit farming Wop was used quite early in the story; this took me out of it. In total you used the word fuck, or some derivative, 51 times in 32 pages: when you factor this with the numerous other profane words and terms, some of which appear to have been created  whole cloth for the story, it stretches the boundaries of realistic speech.

I enjoyed much of the story but the profanity was so excessive and the tone so base it continually jarred me from the narrative. You need to consider your readers (and potential publishers) sensibilities when shaping the verbiage of your characters dialogue.

My initial response was mild dejection mixed with personal affront. The speech of the main characters was patterned after my own, so them reading as implausibly profane is somewhat of a knock on my own gentility. More concerning was the question of audience: is there a niche for R-rated magical realism? Is the vulgarity and absurd violence a crutch in lieu of careful plotting? Did that strand of Panda seamen really serve the story?

It bears considering.


[1] Other might call it a rejection letter.


6 Responses to “Implausibly Profane”

  1. w0rmwood Says:

    If this is a relatively unembellished representation of the response the publishers sent you – they are fools.

    One of the most highly acclaimed novels last year begins with a rather graphic description of a young women’s first anal sex experience – along with sudo-sexualized discussions of feces and hemroids. Granted she was German, but still.

    One notion that may be of help is that some of the greatest writers of our generation got their stats by having stories published in Playboy magazine – mostly because it was willing to take considerably more chances with interesting content.

  2. Ginny Says:

    Fuck. That. The “base” elements of the story? Are what kept this non-Sci-fi reader reading.

    Keep submitting it.

  3. max Says:

    “The speech of the main characters was patterned after my own, so them reading as implausibly profane is somewhat of a knock on my own gentility.”

    That totally cracked me up. But, editors do not usually write personal letters to new writers, usually they send out form letters that say “not interested” and have no details. So, ya know, if the editor wrote you a personal letter, that is encouraging. Even if the, er, panda semen was problematic.

  4. splicedt Says:

    Yeah. I’d say you have a potential fan. My rejections letters were scanned in, crumpled versions of form rejections from the 80’s that the agents found under a desk chair or something.

    In fact, there were lint marks and a rather questionable smudge in the corner.

    I try not to let it bother me.

  5. splicedt Says:

    Umm, so what did you have against writing in September, anyway?

  6. Stiletto Says:

    I think you did consider your readers lol

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