I’ve written about this before, in a post called To Cuss or Not to Cuss. That is the Goddamned Question, but the subject has come up in a practical sense.
I heard about an anthology that will pay pro prices, called No Shit, There I Was. Every story must begin with that line. No question about it: If I want to try for inclusion, I must use the word “shit” at least once.
It tickles me to write a wide variety of characters while using a minimum of actual foul language; although I don’t shrink from dropping the occasional f-bomb when necessary, I don’t descend into what I would call nastiness. Which, you know, depends on my mood.
ANYWAY, “shit” is not an uncommon word in my vocabulary. I try not to say it in front of my mother. If I do, she says, “I wouldn’t have in my hand what you just had in your mouth.” She cracks me up.
Still, not many of my characters would just haul off and say it, all casual-like. So I was puzzled. Would I have to invent a new character?
A friend said, “It’s too bad Mr. Sugar wouldn’t say that.” (Mr. Sugar is a neutered, gay, white Persian cat of refined sensibilities but enormous courage.) I said, “Yeah, it is, but he totally would not say it. … But Mrs. DiMarco would!” Mrs. DiMarco has happened to be part of both Mr. Sugar stories I’ve previously written, “Mr. Sugar vs. the Martians,” which appears in the collection LONNIE, ME AND THE HOUND OF HELL, and “Mr. Sugar vs. the Cake Thief,” which appears in the anthology MARDI GRAS MURDER.
Mrs. DiMarco has “the bluest language and the deadliest throwing arm in the neighborhood,” so she was perfect for the job. DiMarco and Sugar are a breeze to write, too, since they’re so different, and yet share the same grit and clear vision — literally and figuratively.
The title jumped into my head: “Mr. Sugar vs. the Wicked Uncle.” Why? Dunno. Sometimes random titles do that, and I have fun seeing if I can write a story that fits. If the story goes somewhere else, there are plenty of titles to be constructed. In this case, I got to dig into Mrs. DiMarco’s past. After all, somebody taught her how to cuss, smoke, drink, and gamble. The story ended up going in a somewhat different direction that I originally thought it would, but I’m happy with it. I hope the place I submit it is happy with it, too.
I’m reading it to Mom tonight to get her edits before I send it off. What do you suppose she’ll say, after I read the first line?
MARDI GRAS MURDER is available at Amazon in print and for Kindle.
A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: What is your main character’s most common imprecation?