In one of my favorite movies, Misery, based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name, James Caan plays Paul Sheldon, the famous author of a popular historical romance series. Paul decides that, if he’s ever going to be a “real” writer again, he needs to produce something else. He goes to his usual writer’s retreat, a lodge in the mountains, and completes a new novel, as yet untitled; he’s very proud of the book. The new novel depicts life as he knew it on the streets of New York when he was growing up.
Unfortunately, on his way down the mountain in a blinding snow storm, Paul loses control of his car. Annie Wilkes, played by Kathy Bates, is Paul’s Number One Fan (she has a copy of every novel in his Misery series) and an extremely unstable woman. She finds him trapped in his car, which is buried in a snow bank, and carries him back to her house, presumably to nurse him back to health. Paul allows her to read his new manuscript. Here’s an excerpt of their conversation.
“It’s the swearing, Paul,” Annie says.
“The profanity bothers you?” he asks.
“It has no nobility.”
“Annie, these are slum kids. I was a slum kid. Everybody talks like that.”
“No they don’t! Do I go to the feed store and say, ‘Give me some of that f---ing pig feed’? Or at the bank, ‘Here’s one big bastard of a check’?”
While I’m not a fan of the overuse of “four letter words” or using them when it’s inappropriate to do so, I agree with Paul. I believe that, in order for fiction to be realistic, the language in the story needs to be in sync with the characters and the situation. Street kids do use that kind of language and, if the story is to be believable, the characters in it need to use it too.
I’d like to hear your thoughts on the subject.