1. Dylan_Gardner
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    Dylan_Gardner New Member

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    Can you swear in a young adult novel?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Dylan_Gardner, Mar 12, 2011.

    What do people think about swearing in a young novel writing?

    It's just used for effect and I feel it is needed if I'm trying to get into the character's feelings properly. However I am aiming for it to be a young adult book and some language may be a little too strong.

    As an example of the kinds of words used just by two of my main five characters, so won't appear very often:

    F-Word
    W-Word
    C-Word
    etc.

    Too bad? Or should I think about making it into more of an adult style book?
    Appreciate any views
     
  2. hawky94
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    hawky94 Active Member

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    Well, define young adult? 16-19? If so, then they've realistically all said or heard these words at some point... my current WIP contains quite a bit of bad language. Not every other word, but a fair bit. I wouldn't worry about it unless you're editor tells you to take some out...
     
  3. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    Personally, as a mother to a kid who reads those, I would say too strong. If the w-word and the c-word are what I think they are I would FREAK if they were in my sons books. Just saying. I realize how absurd that sounds since I am not too upset about the F-word if used moderately, and the B-word is okay too. Other low levels are acceptable as well. I think I would question whether I was using them for shock factor or because they are critical. How old are your characters?
     
  4. Dylan_Gardner
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    Dylan_Gardner New Member

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    The two characters that use these words are each 24 and 53. I also may swap the c-word for the b-word as well, thanks.
     
  5. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes. The children wont spontanious selfcombust into a ball of flames if you do. It depends on how you going to sell the book and to who, and what themes the book handles. Attidtude to swearing differs between cultures. In Sweden you see swearing even in young childrens books and tv shows.
     
  6. hawky94
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    hawky94 Active Member

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    Are your main characters involved in the military at all? If so, then the reader must take that into account and understand that they may use profanity more often than your average Joe.... my MC is in the military in the first few chapters, but then he gets out, so there's not as much profanity for a chapter, he's then thrown back into the fray... so, if you're aiming for a young adult audience, use it in moderation if it necessary...
     
  7. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with W176 - I am fairly sure the Machine Gunners written in 1970s uses the f-word. I know one book we studied in my first year of high school did. Others include swering.
     
  8. Dylan_Gardner
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    Dylan_Gardner New Member

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    Themes are identity, loneliness, being special, sacrifice, betrayal...
    They're not in the millitary, but are part of a mercenary group
     
  9. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    If the MC are struggling with adult and heavy themes, adult language won't kill them.
     
  10. hawky94
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    hawky94 Active Member

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    Agree with w176, just write it out and let your editor sort it out...
     
  11. Irontrousers
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    Irontrousers Member

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    What the hell's the "W" word? Wank?
     
  12. hawky94
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    hawky94 Active Member

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    That was my question too. Wanker? maybe?
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    it doesn't matter how old the characters who use the words are... what matters is which end of the YA market readers you're targeting... if the younger end, keep it relatively clean...

    if the upper end, anything publishable goes, as just about all of them use or hear that language anyway...
     
  14. JPLayne
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    JPLayne Member

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    Some of the young adult fiction that I have read only uses profanity in a few of the most intense sequences in the book. I would say if a couple of scenes demand something to reveal intensity of the action possibly but otherwise I would recommend another way to develop the characters and action. Just my opinion.
     
  15. Forkfoot
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    Forkfoot Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm guessing "whore". You can say that one on daytime television, though, unlike the other two that were up there.
     
  16. ellebell16
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    ellebell16 Member

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    There's plenty of YA books that I've read that contain swearing. S words, F words, even c words. Honestly, most kids have heard them all by the age of 15, if not in every day conversation at school.

    It all depends on what type of book you're writing. A book like Twilight (hate to use it as an example, but seeing as it's one of the most popular YA books out there as of now) uses swears sparingly. The only swear I remember in Twilight is "damn" (which I don't really consider a swear). This is because no matter what your target is, there will always be those little kids who decide they want to pick up your book and read it. I actually learned the F word from a YA book when I was in the fifth grade. It used to be so taboo but now that I'm in high school, nobody bats an eye when somebody drops an F bomb, including teachers.

    I'd say it's okay...but only sparingly, unless the plot/characters call for it.
     
  17. Pallas
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    Pallas Contributing Member Contributor

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    Unless the audience will be of a really early age, under 12 perhaps, I suppose it is best to keep it 'clean', but riding the metro or bus with junior high schoolers, it is quite apparent kids know all the 'bad' words. I don't even curse that much, if ever.
     
  18. Lazy_Otaku271
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    Lazy_Otaku271 New Member

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    Wouldn't you like to know.
    I believe that using swear words in YA novels in perfectly fine as long as the swearing is used in the right place and it is used in moderation. Overusing swear words can wreak any novel, not just YA ones.

    Kids in this day and age are learning things at a younger age. Heck, I'm still in high school, but whenever I"m over at the middle school for some reason I am amazed by the thing I hear come out of the those mouths. I didn't know about half of the swear words or "other" subjects that the kids now-a-days take as general knowledge.

    So I guess what I getting at is that anyone reading a YA novel has definitely heard the swear words before, and I wouldn't worry about using swear words to make a point.
     
  19. guamyankee
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    guamyankee Contributing Member

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    Whatever you do, never ever use the I word.
     
  20. SeverinR
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    SeverinR Contributing Member

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    I thought I was the only one.

    Now another letter I have no idea what is.


    Military and mercenary tend to use colorful language even more then HS kids.
    I am a quiet person, but I could string together a long profanity filled rant when I was in the military.

    So imo the target age would determine the language.

    I would use the movie rating system,
    PG-none or very little cursing. PG13-moderate cursing
    15 or older adult language as appropriate.
     
  21. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Go to the local bookstore/library and find books targeted at a similar age group, even a similar topic. Read them. See what's being accepted/published. That is a starting point, but in the end it's your story.

    Yes, the language may limit some opportunities, but maybe it will open other doors. Do your reasarch so that your ultimate decision is made with eyes wide open and then decide which way to go...YA altering the language to 'less foul', keep YA with foul words incorporated, switch to targeting an a more adult audience keeping words, etc.
     
  22. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Work? :D
     
  23. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    :D

    How adolescent Brits used to chuckle when reference was made to Peg's home county in Married with Children.:)
     
  24. hiddennovelist
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    hiddennovelist Contributing Member Contributor

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    Seconded. It's all well and good for us to tell you what we think would be kosher and what wouldn't fly, but the best way to know what a publisher would be cool with is by looking at things aimed at the age range you're looking at that have already been published.

    Also, glad to see I wasn't the only one wondering what the w-word was.
     
  25. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you're writing for the age group beyond middle-schoolers (so like ages 14+), then you should just be worrying about writing dialogue that is organic to the character. That's where the focus should be on--the character.

    So in YA books, you'll find characters that swear and those that don't. With a gruesome book like The Hunger Games, there was no swearing, but then this was a dystopian novel that was not grounded in contemporary language. In the book, Candy, by Kevin Brooks, there was a lot of it--and it made sense as the storyline involved sex, drugs, violence.
     

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