Censorship is alive and well and living inside every writer’s head. It comes to fore when the topics get tough and every word matters. A clever observer once said the key to finding your true voice was to write as if your parents were dead. As writers, we have to grow up, to mature, to throw off our exhibitions, ignore the urge to self censor and just write (as if our parents were dead).
My first act of rebellion was to include bad language. Somehow writing the f word seems much stronger than saying it. For one thing, it remains on the page in full view long after it is written. There is no denying its presence. A spoken curse on the other hand can be an accident or an ephemeral explosion of sound. It may not even be heard. My next was to discover that a central character, the mother, was as horrible as you might even have the misfortune to meet. My third was to include sex, lots of it. In desperation my sister suggested I publish this terrible book under my ex husband’s name; and bring shame on my in-laws instead! My mother politely suggested I write proper stuff instead.
At a work reunion some years ago I met a colleague who was also writing. We spoke about composing sex scenes. He confessed it was beyond him; that the pages rejected his words. I asked was he happily married and he said he was. Newly inured by my own divorce, I could only suggest that he wrote as if he were never married,
Then last month at a book launch, I met two women; an old friend and a new friend. We were all writing. My two friends were writing crime books, dark subjects with bodies and serial killers and twisted methods of murder. They laughed over how they researched the most gruesome of topics with delight; how long it might take a body to decompose, how difficult it was to sever a head, how much blood might be pooled on the ground after a murder. They said their children despaired of them and the genre. They politely suggested their mothers write proper stuff instead.
Armed with this nugget of information I returned home to my teenage children. They know I am writing a book which contains graphic sexual scenes. I lazily call it my sex book, my Irish version of the Fifty Shades of Grey. It is actually hen lit; the grownup version of chick lit. The working title is The Cougar Diaries. I pointed out to my children that it could be worse; I could be writing about serial killers and twelve year old children being tortured and killed. They were not impressed. They politely suggested that they would rather I wrote despicable crimes than sex.
So I have a new observation for writers stepping into troubled waters. Write as if you were an orphaned lone child who never married and who never had any children!
PS: Well done to Louise Phillips on Red Ribbons – her debut novel which includes a serial killer, dead children, and gruesome violence. It is a great read and my children would much prefer I wrote something along those lines.
Jillian Godsil is a writer living in Wicklow, Ireland. She went viral in 2011 and hasn’t looked back since. Her blog is at www.JillianGodsil.com.
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