As someone still circling around the site and feeling like a bit of a freeloader, I think I should pitch a question. By background: As anyone who has viewed my profile will know, I’ve written a fair amount of non-fiction relating to the Mafia. In doing these books I find I rely an awful lot on wiretaps – often thousands upon thousands of pages. These intercepts are unedited and verbatim; my current batch, on CD ROM has a neat little feature that allows me to click on an icon of an audio tape and actually hear through the speakers of my computer the folks talking. Tone of voice, pacing, loudness, intensity; all make for a totally different understanding of the underworld, whether they are, as on this current batch, planning a murder or a kidnapping or discussing leasing an apartment and how to furnish it cheaply or who is taking which kid to hockey. The day-to-day stuff is easy to work into my characters in fiction to give characters the human base all of them have. My question relates to the non-domestic dialogue. The business, so to speak.
Allow me to make an assumption – I’ve only published two novels with a third coming out in July; I don’t read a lot of popular fiction when I’m writing my own, so I’m somewhat behind – and I’m sure there are a lot of folks on the site with more experience in writing and reading crime-driven fiction. My assumption is that, when writing about crime and criminals, authors try to be realistic and accurate. DNA, for example. Police procedure. Authentic descriptions of police uniforms and equipment. Realistic and accurate slang and terminology.
The question, and thank you for waiting for it: How accurate would/should a writer be in presenting the reality of the dialogue of the underworld in a novel? I understand that a lot of people don’t have access to some facets of reality in the crime world, but if you did? I’ll add: my concern is specific words and phrases that might offend people, either racially or by gender or sexual orientation. Which is more important, then, accuracy to the story or the sensibilities of the readers?
Sorry about that: it turned out to be a long one.