Tuesday, August 16, 2011

You Want Me To Say WHAT?

"There are some words a lady does not use." That's what my mom always told me. Another line I heard a lot while growing up was, "You are too intelligent to use such language." My mother, God rest her soul, would be appalled by the language I use today, but I think she would've gotten over it.
In the fall of 2009 I wrote Divine Grace. It took 236,000 words to tell Grace's story. After several rounds of edits, we'd managed to knock that number down to around 200,000.
Of that grand total, I used "pussy" 211 times and "cock" 311 times. It was a mènage, so the cock to pussy ratio is actually a little lopsided if you ask me. In the final manuscript, I used "cunt" 30 times. Why the big difference you ask?
In the originally submitted manuscript, "cunt" appeared exactly zero times. That was a conscious decision on my part. I grew up in a home where that word was used frequently as an insult by a close family member. It made me shudder and I studiously avoided people who used it.
My heroine originally had a big problem with the word and so her men never used it. In every other way the story earned the hottest rating Siren gives to a book. With the encouragement of their talented editors, I stripped every trace of purple prose from that manuscript and went for the gold, so to speak. If I was writing a story for women readers accustomed to seeing it in print, why would I shrink from using the word "cunt"?
I pondered the word "cunt" for a while afterward and obviously grew very comfortable using it in my writing. Why had I held out? The reason was obvious. Training by my mother to never use it and conditioning by the male relative in my life to believe that it was fit only to be used as an insult.
If you've ever watched "Braveheart," you will undoubtedly recall the scene in which William Wallace's Irish friend Stephen reports to him, in a nutshell, that the Irish will be helping them in the battle they are facing. Referring to Ireland, Stephen proudly says, "It's MY island!"
Well, I've taken that word back. "Cunt" is no longer a bad word in my world. It actually makes me quite a lot of money. In fact, "It's MY word!"
In Divine Grace, the heroine, a domestic violence victim, had originally asked the men to not use the word because her abusive boyfriend had used it as an insult toward her. Her heroes agreed and over the course of the writing and publication of the book, I could see that both for her and for me the word had evolved into something beautiful, to be celebrated and cherished. It was freeing to re-write that aspect of the story.
Many authors read their manuscripts aloud to catch errors and problems in their stories. I have found that to be a helpful tool. The word "cunt" flows from my fingertips with ease but thanks to my departed mother's training, "cunt" never gets spoken above a whisper. I blame my mother for that. Some training just goes too deep.
Heather Rainier writes erotic romance for Siren Publishing. The sixth book in the Divine Creek Ranch Collection is now available on Amazon as well as at Siren. Summer's Indiscretion, the seventh book in the series is currently in the works and scheduled for release on September 30th.


Edith DuBois said...

I love this post!

I think a lot of people have it out for "cunt," especially in the US, but it's definitely become one of my favorite words. And I think it can be oh so sexy when used the right way.

Love, love, love this post!

SheriV said...

I love the way you use cunt. It's a favorite of mine these days. Love the post. And love your use of cunt and I will make you say it above a whisper at least once. lol

Celtie said...

I love the word Cunt!! I am so glad you have taken back the power of the word!! It is a lesson in not giving others the power of words to hurt you. I am so proud of you!!!

Luna Wildwood said...

CUNT! a powerful word to use in certain situations.

Awesome blog about the word and how you decided to take charge of the word!

Corinne Davies said...

Heather you're my favourite cunt! Loves you lots!!

Heather Rainier said...

Edith, I thought long and hard before posting the article but decided our readers could handle it. It's a touchy subject for some. I felt very empowered the first time I cut the flaming purple prose "throbbing folds" and replaced it with something more graphic, earthy and beautiful. I might go so far as to call it a "bad-ass" moment! Thanks girls, I really appreciate your comments ;-)

Juniper Bell said...

Great post, Heather! There's actually a book called "Cunt" whose purpose is to reclaim the word for us ladies! When I first saw the title, all big and bold, I had to hide my eyes. LOL. But it makes some really great points much like what you're saying. Thanks for the post!

Heather Rainier said...

Thank you, Juniper. I'm going to have to look that book up. LOL, I can picture myself looking through my fingers at the title:)

I do find it interesting that although it is used as a curse and an insult by some people, it is still one of the few things those same individuals want more than anything and probably chase after every chance they get. Thanks again Juniper:)

Dawn Gore Meador said...

I think I just grew to like the word cunt even more ;) For me, knowing how you use to feel about it will make it even more powerful in your writing. Heather Rainier's power word. Write on fellow cunt!

Lily Harlem said...

I'm certainly more comfortable with the word now than I was a few years ago, and writing it isn't a problem, in fact its a nice change from 'pussy'. But like you, saying it is harder, sticks slightly, not least because my best friend can't bear the word cunt and won't have it mentioned, spoken or implied around her.

Thanks so much for posting and great pictures :-)

Lily x

Heather Rainier said...

Thank you Lily! It certainly seems to strike a chord with people. I know that is how I used to feel. I really value that experience with editing it 'into' a book. LOL, I guess if I no longer viewed it as an insult, I couldn't be offended by it anymore. I appreciate you commenting;-)

Savanna Kougar said...

I think it's great that cunt is being reclaimed as a good and powerful word. However, it just doesn't resonate with me personally. So, I guess I'll sell less books.