January 12, 2015 by David T. Allen
Ever hear the phrase “kill your darlings?” Usually I’m fine with letting them go, but sometimes they crop up in unexpected ways.
Here is an excerpt from one of our revisions of Dream Eater’s Carnival:
“Young miss, this is a private space!” he yelled, his voice like gravel. He lurched to his feet, causing the razor to bite into his face. The woman shrieked feminine obscenities as she crashed to the ground.
A majority of beta readers highlighted it and asked what we meant. I thought it was a clever way to reinforce language and culture – although our characters all speaks English, men and women had different cuss words. I would have also accepted if readers thought it was a word that was offensive when uttered by a woman, but no one would raise an eyebrow if a man said it.
I dug in my heels on this one, and we had a mix set of responses:
♀: Ha ha, just gets more bizarre, as it should.
(same reader, second pass…) This made my mind wander off into what female obscenities would sound like, how they would be different from male obscenities… in other words, I don't think you need ‘feminine’
♂: Feminine obscenities? What are those? Have I missed out on a whole catalogue of obscenities my whole life?
♂: Are ‘feminine obscenities’ different to male ones? Or has she said them in a feminine way?
♀: Not come across this term before, I can guess what it means
♀: LOL, there’s a difference?
♀: What does this mean?
(same reader, second pass…) I’m still trying to figure out what this means
♂: What does that mean? She yelled names for female body parts?
♀: Also, what are feminine obscenities? Do women have particular curses or something?
It wasn’t until this one, one that we received weeks after everyone else had finished looking over our story, that I gave up (with a little chuckle):
♀: I’d love to know what constitutes feminine obscenities. “Fucking fairy farts” or similar ;)
This is why beta readers are so important. I would like to smack my former self with a rolled up newspaper for being so stubborn.