Monday, September 5, 2011

If It's Good Enough For Films, It's Good Enough For Books!

Recently I found myself appalled by the stuff that's making it onto the book market. There are certain things I don't want to read. I'm not speaking of genre--we all have our preferences--I'm speaking of language. For many years I stuck closely to Harlequin Mills & Book Modern Romance because I knew when I picked up one of those romance novels, I was assured a clean read. I loved the sexual tension, banter, emotion, characters etc and I knew I could relax and simply enjoy because I felt assured I wouldn't encounter my absolute pet hates--the use of the F word or having to read blasphemies. I can't stomach the use of my Lord's name as a curse word!

So you can imagine my shock when I happen across not one--but two! HMB romances which used Jesus' name in this way. Needless to say, it ruined two stories I'd been enjoying and I instantly stopped reading the novels. I can't bring myself to purchase any of the new stories for fear of the same thing happening.

That said, I've been looking at the indie stuff at Amazon and was amazed by some of this stuff--and not in a good way. Thankfully, as I read the reviews of one particular book I was about to purchase, I noticed a couple of readers complained about the over use of the F word. These reviews saved me wasting my money.

Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against authors who feel they lack the necessary vocab to express themselves or their characters; I just don't want to read that sort of stuff. I am aware some authors cater to the market and I'm sure these books sell by the ton.

But there are still a few of us who like clean reads. I'm not jumping on a soapbox to blabber on about flooding the market with bland books. I won't buy them either! Cos I like my books sizzling, emotional and feel-good. What I am saying is: please, oh, please can we find a way to give books a rating?

As I inspect my DVD shelf, I see BBFC ratings on every single one!

When you look at any DVD case you’ll see a rating symbol on the front and back of the case. This is the film’s classification or rating. In the UK films are rated by The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC). And in America it’s The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).

Film classification gives viewers a guide to the age requirement of the viewer and an idea of the film’s content. Why can't we have something like this on our books? And, like DVDs, give a reason for the rating.

I grabbed a few random DVDs from my shelf and had a look. Here is what I found:

Knight And Day {(12) Contains moderate violence and one use of strong language}
What Happens In Vegas {(12) Contains moderate sex references and language}
Cougar Town {(15) Contains frequent moderate & crude sex references}
Dream Girls {(12) Contains one use of strong language and hard drug references}
Something's Gotta Give {(12) Contains infrequent strong language and moderate sex references}
The Lake House {(12) Contains mild language and accident scene}
Red {(12) Suitable only for persons of 12 years and over}
Two Can Play that Game {(15) Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over}

I can keep going, but I'm sure you get the idea. The fact is, I can read the DVDs' blurbs, look at the ratings, and decide whether I wish to go ahead and purchase/watch these films.

I then look at my bookshelf and grab a novel. I read the blurb and it looks like a fantastic story. I can't wait to snuggle down and start reading! I want to get lost in this story and it does not disappoint. Then bam!! Without any warning, I'm knocked sideways by something I consider to be offensive. Had that book a rating/warning I would've been able to decide whether I wanted to read it or not.

I'm not asking writers to change what they write, I'm simply asking for the opportunity to buy or leave books based an informed choice. I feel we seriously need to have books rated. If it's good enough for films, why, pray tell, isn't it good enough for books!

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  1. I understand what you're saying here, but I don't totally agree. Rating teen or young adult books is a good idea, but as an adult I don't feel that I need someone to do that for me. I can usually tell from the cover blurb and/or photo what kind of story it is.

    My reading time is limited, so I usually stick with my favorite authors and those I know from online interaction.

  2. Hiya, Chicki,

    I'm simply proposing the need for a warning on books re strong language etc. As busy authors and family keepers, we all have limited time for pleasure reading. But as you just said, you stick to the authors you know, which means you don't often try new authors.

    I love new authors and believe we should give them a chance, but I want to know that the book I'm prepared to spend precious time on is not going to offend me.

    I daresay, it's rather impossible to know whether you'll encounter the F word or blasphemies from the cover, blurb and/or photo of any book, since these are not usually on the outside of the book :).

    Yes, one can look at the cover/blurb and know what type of book--dark, light, rom-com, mystery, woman's fiction, literary etc, etc we're dealing with. And we can and do decide to purchase on that strength alone.

    Which brings me back to me point. How do you know the entire contents until you read the story?

    As always, I love talking to you, Chicki ;)


  3. I have actually noticed a sort of system employed by some publishers which gives pictures/icons to indicate whether a book is a certain sort of read. I think it's easy in a bookshop where you can flick very quickly through the pages and get a clear idea of what you're getting. Not so easy buying e-books where they might only show you the first chapter.

  4. Hiya, Cara,

    I'd like to hear more about the icons system you mentioned. Sounds like an idea.

    Thanks for dropping by.


  5. Hi Monique.

    This is a very interesting topic. Have you written to M&B about your concerns? As a M&B author, I know I was restricted in cuss words. (not that I use a lot) Certain words were definitely off limits, and I was surprised when the word "bastard" was left in. Usually the strongest we go is damn and hell. I'm not happy to hear they have added Jesus to the mix. It isn't necessary. Really.
    I have used the F word exactly once in a book, not a M&B - it would never pass my editor, and I wouldn't want to use it for my Medical Romances. I have a Romantic Suspense that isn't published, and the tough cop, at a highly dramatic moment in the climax admits he "effed" up. I believe the sparse use of that word delivers far more impact than if the guy had been throwing the f-bomb around every other sentence.
    Recently I tried to watch Deadwood - a really good show - but the languate drove me away. Do we need to be foul all the time folks?
    In literature we can skip over the words.
    I do encourage you to let M&B know you are a long-time reader, you've noticed a new trend in the cussing and you don't approve. M&B is a company who listens to their readers. I believe it is what makes them so good. :)

  6. Hiya, Lynne!

    I totally agree. I know the world is becoming much more immune to deteriorating language, but not everyone appreciates having to listen to it. I remember renting Knocked Up because I really wanted to see it and had to turn it off almost immediately. I never saw the film and I never will.

    I'll consider letting M&B know my views, but I really can't remember the titles of the offending books. Not sure how much of a complaint it would be without proof.

    Thanks for stopping by.

    Hugs x


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