When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

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ameil16
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Re: When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

Postby ameil16 » Wed Mar 11, 2009 7:50 am

I have read many good books with foul language and I have known many wonderful and colorful people in life who use profanity. I think it depends on the character and the nature of the book. One must consider the culture and environment of the characters and book. If one were writing a book, for example, set in the ghetto in Los Angeles with gang members; yes, cursing would be appropriate. But, if one were writing a book centered around religion or a love story of medieval times, probably would not be an interesting with curse words.

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ecoll
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Re: When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

Postby ecoll » Wed Mar 11, 2009 8:30 am

To be perfectly honest, they are just words, you know. They only have meaning because WE give them meaning. If the big "F" were to mean something as innocent as, say, spit-up, no one would give a flying... well. ;) If mothers had, for hundreds and thousands of years, been saying "Dear heavens, the baby just f***** up on me," No One Would Care. The thing about it is, we are the species with the gift of language and we simply cannot deem words to be just words. A set of letters strung together to mean something. Any word in the dictionary is just a shorter way of saying something else.

Segue- to move seamlessly from one thing to another (In the most basic sense)

Now, who gave this word meaning? We did. Segue is a word for one thing, and the "F-bomb" is just a word for another thing. We say it's vulgar, but in reality, it is still just a word and if it fits with the character, then by all means. You may not have a highly recognized scholar blurting out F this and to hell with that, but people do say these words. They do. I do, all the time. Just because I use the F word, is that supposed to mean I'm a vulgar and bad person? Reserving "bad words" for just the "bad guys" is just silly. I am not a bad person, I swear. I haven't killed anyone in over a week now. I'm on a new 12 step program and my sponsor says I'm making real progress. (Just a joke. I don't make a habit of killing people. Only on vacations, I promise. Sorry, I'm in a silly mood...) Seriously, good people say some of the foulest things a person could ever hear. It's just another form of expression, whether we like it or not.

jrtomlin
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Re: When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

Postby jrtomlin » Wed Mar 11, 2009 10:07 am

That scholar might well say a highly vulgar word when he slams his fingers in the car door--just like most of the rest of us do.

Now there are other words he wouldn't use. He wouldn't call someone a wanker (which I think I can get away with here) though. It would be crude. He would probably say that he didn't want to know if the person was. You really do have to go with which ones and when so that your characters are convincing. If character is writhing in agony and says "oh fudge" it's probably unconvincing--for most characters anyway.

Edit: Incidentally, you might want to read Chaucer to find out JUST how colorful language was in medieval times. They said things that would make your granny blush. It was the Victorians who went to great lengths to convince us otherwise.

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Re: When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

Postby Prog_Bassist » Wed Mar 11, 2009 2:28 pm

A character I am working on, who is actually the narrator of the story, is a chronic potty-mouth. He's a cynical, paranoid piece of S**T! haha

so, ya know, there is tons of swearing. I just think that there isn't really a limit to how dirty or grimy you can get in your writing, as long as it pertains to the subject matter of what is going on or who is saying it.

in other words, I don't think that you should write something like "that f***ing bas****, he stole my f***ing money!" and have to backtrack because you think to yourself "hmm mabye that's too much swearing."

I dunno, maybe it's my fault for coming from an island where everyone is a fisherman or a musician, and they do nothing but swear all day! :P

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JTLake
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Re: When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

Postby JTLake » Fri Mar 13, 2009 4:19 am

I'm reading "Pagan Babies" by Elmore Leonard and he curses up a storm. However, it seems to fit. It doesn't distract from the story. It adds to the flow.

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JTLake
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Re: When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

Postby JTLake » Fri Mar 13, 2009 4:20 am

Of course, it would not be appropriate in some forms of literature.

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RE: When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

Postby clkottke » Fri Mar 13, 2009 4:36 am

Exactly! I agree! $%*& For Sure!!!

Anyway, I believe it depends on the character. If you use phrases like "oh! fudge!" for a rebellious teenager with tattoos, a drug problem, chains, and spiked hair it just isn't going to fit the character realistically. On the other hand, you wouldn't want Auntie Maude using the same language as the rebellious teenager. Personally, I feel that characters take on a personality of their own if you create real people as your characters. To become real, they have to be as real as the person next door, at work, or church. Watch real people and create your characters to be real people.

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RE: When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

Postby AprilHMcC » Fri Mar 13, 2009 7:40 am

We are going to have to face that so called "swear words" are as much a part of adult contemporary vocabulary as even certain common adjectives are. To ignore them as part of the English language would be ignorant.

That being said, to use "swear words" more than is necessary is an error that is comparable to bad grammar. Bad grammar makes for reading that makes your skin crawl and your ears tingle as they do when somebody scratches his nails down a chalkboard. Likewise, an overabundance of swear words indicates that the writer has lost his or her vocabulary somewhere inbetween the keyboard where he or she was typing the story and the bathroom.

If the writer has to use the same word or couple of words to convey the same idea ten or twenty times, then that is bad writing. If, on the other hand, the writer is using those swear words a few times here and there to create a sense of what kind of character we have on our hands, then the purpose of the swear words is fulfilled.

It is not just villains, drunken sailors, bank robbers, and teenagers with raging hormones that should use these words. Occasionally, a fifty-year-old retired preacher will drop the F-bomb when he finds out that his wife has been cheating on him with the ex-music minister. Good people curse too. In dire situations, one forceful swear word alone can do wonders.

Swear words are o.k. in writing if used properly.

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Re: When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

Postby jrtomlin » Fri Mar 13, 2009 8:48 am

I have a female retired photographer open a mysterious door in my current urban fantasy. The doorway is filled with a strange purple coruscating light. She says "crap" and slams the door. I mean, come on. Isn't that what you'd do? lol

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RE: When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

Postby Holly624 » Sun Mar 15, 2009 9:00 am

I hate to be generational with this. I'm 27. If I read something with a ton of cursing, I'm never offended and I don't criticize the author as being unintelligent or lazy. I really don't even notice it. You know what offends me? Unnecessary sex. Like the smutty spam star from "The Gargoyle."

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