Wholesome is Not a Dirty Word
Wholesome isn’t cool or popular. “You write clean books. Really?” Sounds like writing intended for children. In fact, WHOLESOME is a dirty word in that it is a turnoff term to many if not most potential adult readers. Clean. Family Friendly. Wholesome. Safe enough to tell the parrot belonging to the town gossip.
I have my grandmother to thank for the censor that monitors my writing style. Or, maybe it’s the era in which I grew up or the influence of a small town. Whatever the reason, there’s a governor onboard this writing bus.
That’s why you won’t find overt sex or vulgarity in my manuscripts. It’s just not in me. On the few occasions I attempted to push the envelope, the scenes were removed in the first edit. Makes me uncomfortable.
Flashbacks to my childhood provide some clues. My mother threatened to wash my mouth out with soap. Never suffered those consequences but I watched a friend go through it. I did, however, lick from the bar, just to see if it was a punishment I thought I could endure. It wasn’t.
Then there was the time when I was walking home from school with a buddy. Fourth or fifth grade, I think. We played the cursing game. Rules are simple. Whoever can string together the most different curse words in a sentence, wins. I was on a roll. Blew him away. Unfortunately, my grandmother’s best friend, and the head of the Lutheran Ladies Guild, was sitting on her front porch when we passed by. One phone call was all it took. My grandmother shamed me so badly that I never played that game again.
Admittedly, I grew up in a time where there was tempered violence on TV and in the movies. Lots of people killed. Plentiful mayhem. The limited flow of blood was reportedly only ketchup or catsup. Pick a spelling.
Back in the day, in my hometown, there was little to no cursing. Wholesome speech and entertainment were the way of life. Then came the Navy where I was introduced to Salts, salty language, and a jaded worldly view. But my values had already been firmly set. Made me feel like an outsider.
When I turned my ambitions toward writing, a wholesome style seemed unrealistic. My G/PG mindset didn’t fit the stories I wanted to tell. In my adopted profession, wholesome was profane.
Here’s the thing. I believe that integrity is integral to all we do. At the end of the day, we must be true to ourselves. The challenge then, was to pen sagas that make you feel by still leaving something to the imagination. The seedier parts of life and language are implied. Great artists do it all the time. Give you just enough to allow your mind to fill in the blanks.
As a musician, I learned the importance of expression. Music is so much more than just the notes on the page. Good writing also requires richness of feeling. Relatable emotion. Seeing yourself or someone you know in a character or a circumstance causes you to become engaged in the story.
One of the comments that meant most to me from a reader was that “the characters feel like family.” Uncle Harold. Aunt Maude. Cousin Henry. Your mom. Your dad. Your sister or brother. That kid in school or coworker who made your life miserable. The people who make you laugh, cry, angry or sad. The ones who make you feel love, joy, ephoria and romance. A setting that engages your senses.
Expression. Feeling. Relatability. Stirred passions and heightened imagination. All in a wholesome/family friendly style. The reader fills in the details that matter to them.
Wholesome writing is not intended to be judgmental or preachy. It’s just a writing style that enables me to be true to myself and real to my readers.
My new novel, Alexandra’s Song, is hot off the presses and available in print and electronic media. It’s the first in the Angels Diner series. I have started work on Book II, Alexandra and Grace. Release is targeted for mid September.
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