Monday, February 26, 2007


I was just listening to a debate on talk radio where a city council in New York is considering banning the "n" word. As usual there were some pro, some against and lots of slippery-slope theories. The discussion is particularly interesting to me in the wake of scrotum-gate because the manuscript that my agent is sending around right now contains that particular word not once, but twice. It is said in anger by an elderly man living in a small town in the South and is completely contextually appropriate. Within my critique group there was a lot of discussion over whether to leave it out or not; in the end it stayed because the scene became watered-down and weak when it wasn't there. It is the very word itself that hangs in the air and lets the MC understand what he is up against. I didn't put it there to be controversial; I put it in because it had to be there. (My eighth-grade reader said it had to stay in her opinion.)

Every year, I go to stay in a small town in the South (pop. 4,000 - traffic lights: 4, movie theaters: 0) and while there are lots of good things about this place, I have heard the "n" word bandied about on many occasions, mainly by people older than myself. I'm writing contemporary fiction, and the use of the word in this context is contemporary and not altogether fictional.

In the end, it is up to the editor and me to decide what is right for the marketplace. It's too bad we can't decide based on what is right for the book.

On this date: In 1993 the World Trade Center was bombed.

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