1. Geckofeet
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    Geckofeet Member

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    Characters swearing

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Geckofeet, Aug 27, 2011.

    Hey guys. Just to ask for your opinions, how often do you have characters swearing in your stories?

    Here, I'm writing about a male MC who finds out that his captors killed his injured best friend (whom he was trying to save) and imprisons him (the male MC). You can guess that he's pretty P/Oed about it.

    I don't have him swearing a lot, but he does have his anger issue moments.
     
  2. Backbiter
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    Backbiter Contributing Member

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    Well, to be honest, it all depends on who the character is.

    A few of my characters use profanities, because that's their way of expressing their anger or frustration and it goes along with their personality. Almost everyone has their moments when they just can't hold it in any longer, but if your character isn't the kind of person that would swear in the first place, I wouldn't have him swearing too much.

    Just take a minute or two to analyze your character and think it over, and I'm sure you'll come to a conclusion.
     
  3. StrangerWithNoName
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    StrangerWithNoName Longobard duke

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    Well almost all the characters of my story are in the military so they swear a lot.
     
  4. CH878
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    CH878 Active Member

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    Never feel you shouldn't have a character swear. If it needs to happen, write it. As the others have said, certain types of characters are more likely to swear. Try and visualise the scene in real life and if swearing would happen, put it in. Most importantly, never ever use substitutes like 'oh sugar' for 'oh sh*t' and so on. These just sound daft.
     
  5. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    Have to disagree. Sometimes the character calls for it. There are REAL, actual, living, breathing people who use substitutes like "Oh sugar" and your character may very well be one of them. If your character is, it would be a disservice not to use them. I have a character who uses sugar, fudge, and fussbudgit. Those are her swear words. She's actually quite lovely. You'd like her ;)
     
  6. WriterDude
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    WriterDude Contributing Member Contributor

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    I know it can feel weird to have a characters swearing if you avoid it in real life, but that's why you need to distance yourself from the characters sometimes. I mean even though are the one writing the swear words, you are not the one saying them.

    My charactes don't usually swear, but it depends on the story and the characters. In my steampunk story, they don't really swear much. Even if they do, it's weird stuff. One keeps saying 'bells' all the time, though even I don't know why. :redface: I think it's because she's trying to say hell's bells (a common expression in some places), but shortens it to bells. Or it could be a nicer version of a very similar, slightly ruder word. :p

    I think it depends on the words. I have no problem saying fudge instead of... that other word. But yeah, saying oh, sugar instead of oh sh*t doesn't have quite the same impact.
     
  7. CH878
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    CH878 Active Member

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    You're right, I should have said don't use substitutes when it's unrealistic, just to avoid putting a swearword in the book.
    I'm sure I'd love your character! :D
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I have to disagree with CH878. Yes, there is a place for swearing in writing, but it is not always appropriate. Even where it is appropriate, it is easy to overdo it.

    Dialogue is not a report of conversation. It is an element of writing that gives the illusion of conversation.

    Profaniity stands out in writing, so much that it overwhelms unless you use it in lower doses than you hear in real life. And what you believe you hear in real life is also colored by that sane effect, so the actual frequency of swear words is invariably lower than what you remember.
     
  9. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I personally have no objection to swearing in books - but yeah, it doesn't have to mimic real life (or even the impression from real life). I've worked with folks who used f*ck practically every other word - that doesn't mean I need/want to read that.

    Use swear words if the character would - but use them for their impact.
     
  10. CH878
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    CH878 Active Member

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    I think it depends what you're using profanity for. In some novels it's used to create an atmosphere, many military novels spring to mind here in which excessive profanity is used to mirror life in the forces, in the same way that slang would be used in dialogue in some YA novels. However, what you say is very true in other cases. If profanity is used to convey passionate anger or other strong emotions, then absolutely a smaller dose is far more effective.
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Always pull it back. Even in the cases you list, a little goes a long way. It's easy to destroy the illusion and turn it into a farce.

    Ever watch the movie Cabin Fever? It's supposed to be a scary horror film, but when we saw it in the theater, we couldn't stop laughing at the f--- this and f--ing that, f---ity f--- f--.
     
  12. CH878
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    CH878 Active Member

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    ^^ Yes, there is such a thing as too much, in every case you can always push it too far.
     
  13. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    And now I have to disagree with you, Cog. While it's most CERTAINLY true that every character shouldn't be dropping f-bombs every ten seconds, because really, what's the point? If you have a character, who part of his/her innate character is built upon the fact that every other word they say is the f-word, well then that's just who they are. It's who the reader identifies them as, just as much as they would any other trait, and it should be skillfully used as such.

    Just because it was, aparrently, not used with skill in Cabin Fever (which I've never seen) doesn't make it a rule.
     
  14. Geckofeet
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    Geckofeet Member

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    I agree with CH878's "passionate anger" spiel. My male MC is really quite a nice guy and the way he came to life doesn't really strike me as the swearing type. Nothing irritates me more than having to plow through dialogue that contains more swear words than moving-on-with-the-story ideas.

    Cabin Fever sounds like an AWESOME film. Gotta check it out sometime.
     
  15. jpeter03
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    jpeter03 Member

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    I absolutely agree- always err on the side of restraint, and if there's even a hint of uncertainty hold off on swearing completely. I've seen too many instances of an author, even a gifted and well-respected one, trying to incorporate swearing to give the characters a "gritty authenticity" and it almost always falls flat.
     
  16. GreenRain
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    GreenRain Member

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    I am working on a set of stories where the main set of characters are from a neighborhood and lifestyle where cussing is both accepted, and you might be considered odd – no, odder than that – if you don't spit a meaningless and aggressive emotive in a sentence or three. [And because some are from another world, I've invented an interesting word or two for color.] Yet, as the story progresses they find themselves role models and are striving to set good examples. In this case, should they cuss from time to time, out of habit or need, it would fit the story.

    First, do you have a problem with cussing? If you do then writing it into your character, even under situations as stress filled as the one you describe, might not work so well. You might narrate the cussing while describing the emotional turmoil he is going through. If you are not that people, then does the cussing fit the character? You might edit it later, but spill it out on paper and see if it flows like acid or like the Rockies.
     
  17. Geckofeet
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    Geckofeet Member

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    I don't really have a problem with my characters swearing. Like I said before, my male MC doesn't really have that type of nature (he's a nice guy) but he is a soldier and he has gone through hell. My female MC doesn't swear, except for this one time she got very very angry at the male MC.

    I've read and reread what I've written. I think it's not too bad and it fits with their personalities. :D

    Thanks for your all your input, guys
     

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