Aug 12, 2007

I Should be a Reverent Writer

by Marsha Ward

I'm giving the Relief Society lesson today, filling in for the teacher, whose mother died this week. The title is "We Should be a Reverent People." As I pondered this subject, preparing to introduce it to the sisters in my branch, I wondered what kind of example I set?

Personally, I hope I'm doing okay. Professionally, I have some questions about how to remain reverent and still write my characters so that they are true-to-life.
  • When I'm writing about a profane and no-good character, do I use his language?
  • Can he refer to other characters in coarse terms?
  • Do I allow him to swear and take the Lord's name in vain?
  • How many times can a character under duress cry out to God before it becomes a vain repetition?
  • Is even considering using the name of God in a novel an indication that I've sunk into an irredeemable pit?
I still don't have good answers. I hope you'll help me with your comments.


  1. Marsha:
    You bring up some good points in writing. Thanks for your thoughts.

  2. Thank you for bringing these questions to our attention. I've been shown so many different perspectives of reverence today! As far as your stories go, I think it is something you want to ask the Spirit to help you with as you write it.

  3. Marsha,
    I'm so glad to know I'm not the only one who struggles with these questions! I usually skirt the profane character issue by simply having them "utter a curse" or "mutter a blasphemy" or some such thing, but I also like to study other LDS writers to see how they handle the problem in their novels. (As in, "If they can do it that way, then maybe it's okay for me to do it that way, too!") I haven't found any definitive answers to your questions, and if anyone else has, I'd love to know it, too!

    And no, I definitely do NOT think you've "sunk into an irredeemable pit" for considering these issues. I think they're issues that all of us, especially those of us who write fiction, struggle with in our writing.

  4. Marsha, I love the way you write--right to the point. And no, I cannot solve that delemna. I do like it when booksellers (like the Large Print catelog I get) label their books that have 'explicit' sex, violence, or language. Yet most books have 'some'.

    Maybe we simply need to remember, (though I admit I had to stop and look it up) D&C 58:26-28.

    "For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant, wherefore he receiveth no reward.

    "Verily I say, men (and women) should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;

    "For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward."

    Just keep up the good work, prayerfully doing the best you can.

    (How's that for 'good' advice that could scare the socks off most anyone?)

  5. Well, Marsha, you ask the tough questions. How can you be authentic, genuine, honest with your character and well, not have a potty mouth if that's who this person is? I like what Joyce does - "uttered a curse. . . "leaves so much to the reader's background - I can tell you the curse I would hear in my head would be really different from someone else's.

    Too much language is like too much sex in a book - it really gets old after awhile.
    And then there is always body language which can be so eloquent!

  6. Thank you, ladies. You've given me a lot to think about.

  7. I hate to admit this but it's a huge reason I read fantasy. They curse (but to weird made up god) and they mutter softly (against unnamed gods) and for some reason I feel much better. It's not an option for those of you who write in the "real" world, but when I do, I try to make up a word to use. One of my favorite TV shows, the original Battlestar Galactia, dubbed the word "frack" for cursing. I loved it and used it for years. Star Wars used "blast." There are wonderfully inventive ways around the dilemma. Let's explore them.

  8. Great posting, Marsha. You ask good questions. Hard questions, when you've got a charcter wresting himself away from you.


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