1. Picillo
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    Picillo New Member

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    Foul language in writing?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Picillo, Dec 4, 2010.

    What are your views about using foul words in the dialouges of characters if they are less than admirable? Such as felons, and basically scummy people? Of course, the novel I am writing is not intended for children.
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Unless you are striving for comic exaggeration, underuse profanity in dialogue. A little goes a long way, and it always reads like there is more there than what you actually write in.
     
  3. Zombie_Chinchilla
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    Zombie_Chinchilla Member

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    I agree with Cogito, but in some cases I think profanity fits. In Push, Precious swore a lot, but it seemed...right. She had a tough, abusive childhood, and she didn't know any better. There can be a lot of situations where foul language is a good choice to make the characters/situation a little more believable.
     
  4. cjs0216
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    cjs0216 Member

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    I don't mind profanity as long as it seems warranted...
     
  5. FrankABlissett
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    FrankABlissett Active Member

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    Ditto Cogito. The power of a profanity is released when it is used, but is built when it is withheld.

    -Frank
     
  6. hiddennovelist
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    hiddennovelist Contributing Member Contributor

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    Same. I wouldn't use profanity just for the sake of using it, but if it fits with the story, not using it would be a mistake.

    Back in my Mormon days, I used to avoid swearing in my writing at all costs, and rereading some of my old stuff, parts of it just sound awkward.
     
  7. miss_darcy
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    miss_darcy Member

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    I think swearing would only work in certain novels (like Push for example). For it to sound right to me it would have to go along with the character, the character's story, and the story in general. If the swear doesn't go along with the rest of the story then it's going to sound awkward and like it shouldn't be there.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    In Janet Evanovich's Four to Score, Stephanie Plum meets transvestite musician Sally Sweet for the first time. One of the first paragraphs out of his mouth is 107 words long, 11 of which are "f*cking."

    Evanovich writes mystery-humor, and that paragraph uses the heavy F-bomb load as part of that humor. But after than, the author cuts way back on the profanity for that character. The point has been made, and she thereafter opts for better readability.

    Also note: the paragraph makes it seem like the F-bomb is every other word that comes out of the character's mouth, but in truth it's "only" ten percent of the paragraph. And that is in a deliberately exaggerated passage!
     
  9. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I find that having to read a sea of profanity is even more tedious than having to listen to it in dialogue. After a while, it's as if it all disappears.
     
  10. JeffS65
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    JeffS65 Contributing Member

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    I think that in addition to what others have said, and I fully agree with; there is a 'landscape' to swearing. I mean, I swear more than my mother would like to know but there is a variety and context to the words I use. When I'm at work, if I swear at all, it's nearly under my breath and to a trusted co-worker (I work in an office). If I'm at home trying to level that goofy shelf and the tape measure keeps getting limp, I swear a bit more and kinda creatively (my best swearing is when I'm frustrated...I've been told it's an art for me...).

    Point being is that if you do insert it, do so with some depth. Don't just go for the F-Bomb but weave it in to the context of the person and situation.
     
  11. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree pretty much with what's been said.

    I'd say it's not just for the 'less admirable' characters either, in my opinion.
     
  12. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I use profanity heavier than "damn" very sparingly. I've used it, but only in rare instances and it was meant to stand out when it was used.
     
  13. Celia.
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    Celia. Senior Member

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    I curse like a sailor BUT if I am reading a character swearing, I tend to think of that character as intense, uneducated or even the "bad guy"
     
  14. BUDDY GORGEOUS
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    BUDDY GORGEOUS Active Member

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    I do sometimes preffer bad language to be used sparingly in a novel but where i live the people are tough, hard knock, blue collared folks who wouldn't care one iota in telling you where to stick your head if you have a problem with their "Potty mouth". Not that I'm saying they are a horrid bunch of peeps, it just explains why I'm personally not bothered at all with bad languge (I work in a prison and I'm called EVERYTHING but my given name :p). I do hate, very much, though reading a crime novel and theres a sentence for example where they catch a truly vicious killer who's disected a kid or a criminal who has phone book's worth of crimes under his/her's belt and reffer to him/her as simply (and weakly) a "Piece of grabage" or "Scum" *roll eyes, take deep breath*...for Christ sake's call the guy a C**t, give him a verbal slap and be done with it for pete's sake's :) haha.

    I read more than a few novels that use bad language poorly sometimes. They use it in the wrong places so it doesn't fit or sound right. Just clunky and awkward when they are supposed to be taken seriously. People's opinion with bad language in writing is a mixed bag really but i preffer to not wear the kiddy gloves when writing and preffer an author to say what needs to be said without worrying wether the reader may be offended. I recently had a binge of James Ellroy, Boston Teran and Tim Willocks and they use tough, no nonsense language throughout which ticks the right boxes.
     

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