1. superman
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    superman Member

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    Foul words and profanities

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by superman, Jul 31, 2011.

    Hi

    So basically, there are a lot of really tense scenes in my book that demand curse words lol. Now i don't want to drop the F bomb as it is kind of cheap in my opinion. But all ive got is " god damn it" and the occasional "B***ard".

    Are their any "clean" alternatives?

    As i don't want my book turning into smut lol

    Kind Regards
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    F-word is fine if it is something one would realistically say in that circumstance.

    Maybe you can use frak :)

    The problem with completely sanitizing the language is it isn't often a realistic portrayal of people.

    Oh, you can also just say something like "He swore." That lets the reader fill in the appropriate word.

    I think that's a better approach than cleaning the language. Depends on the characters and situation of course, but if a character says "Gosh darn it, lads, if we don't get through that stupid door those mean old bad guys are going to have us trapped" I'd be laughing more than taking the situation seriously.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Learn from television, particularly older American-made dramas. They have had to work around Standards and Practices for decades without losing impact,
     
  4. Blue_Lotus
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    Blue_Lotus Senior Member

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    I use the occasional Ugh! or Frigging A
    every now and again I use the old what the hell or son of a pup.
    hope that helps.
     
  5. Ollpheist
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    Ollpheist Member

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    What Cogito said. Additionally, "damn" is a pretty generic swear word. It's used fairly often, especially in many of the old Westerns I've seen. Having grown up around a rather polite and conservative crowd, "damn" isn't nearly as offensive as other words, but it still gets the point across.

    Also, I suggest watching True Grit, both the John Wayne version and the remake. They both contain language that is used in appropriate circumstances (and by that I mean understandable ones). One of my friends is a Marine who is a very strong Christian and does not typically swear at all. However, on that issue, he said that when he's been in combat, there are some situations in which the "f-bomb" is simply appropriate.
     
  6. pyrosama
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    pyrosama Member

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    A rule for myself is I never use profanity in my narrative and if I use it in dialogue, it only serves to characterize. Out of 6 short stories, I've only ever used the F word once.
     
  7. Seye
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    Seye Member

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    Strong language is like any adjective, and must be used when only needed, when it contributes to the story/character sketched. If not, and used for the sake of swearing, then it becomes a distraction to pull a reader away from where their mind should be.

    Even in dialogue a writer has to be constantly aware of their intended audience and possible new readers their writing might grab. Abundance can pollute a writer's writing.

    Anyway, my thoughts simply.

    Seye
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Profanity is not like other adjectives (or adverbs, or nouns), because they sieze the reader's attention. If you are going to use them, use them less frequently than you believe they actually appear in speech, because the reader will see a higher density of profanity than what you actually use.

    In other words, a little goes a lohng way, more than you will believe.
     
  9. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    I cracked up reading that.:cool:
     
  10. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it depends on your audience. If you are writing for the Christian YA market the handling of profanity is unlikely to be the same as if you are writing for the South Park team (unless they're spoofing the Christian YA market). In a fantasy setting you can invent your own swearing (my favourite is The 10th Kingdom's "Suck an elf!") In any other setting then either go for it or avoid it completely as suggested by using phrases like "he swore". Steerpike has illustrated very well why you shouldn't use "clean" alternatives -- the result is likely to be comic. (In the Metrozone trilogy, Simon Morden has characters swearing copiously in Russian and Japanese -- the first languages of the relevant characters -- but that only passes the problem on to his Russian and German translators).
     
  11. another wasted day
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    another wasted day Member

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    If profanity works, put it in. Don't force it, but don't avoid it. Just let it flow.
     
  12. Mikeyface
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    Mikeyface Member

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    This is my first post on the forums--seemed appropriate to chime in.

    Write for your audience. Asking for rules to dictate your prose when we (the people offering advice) have no context for the question, is probably not helpful.

    Profanity is a punctuation. If it naturally occurs to you in the writing process, go ahead and write it down. You know the stakes of any particular scene better than anyone else. Emotion is the worst thing to get wrong, that's our (the reader's) connection to the story. There are certainly some simplistic guidelines that you could follow, but I'd follow them in the editing process (number of times, etc.)

    I mean, shit, Catcher in the Rye goes off the rails along with the characters. Used correctly, it can be quite potent.
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    And used indiscriminately, it can be laughable and/or tedious.

    Remember, dialogue is not a verbatim record of conversation. Dialogue presents the illusion of conversation. A little profanity in dialogue goes a long way.
     
  14. Red Diamond
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    Red Diamond New Member

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    I use bad language like it's going out of style simply because most of my stories are based on real-life events and that's how the people my characters are modelled on speak. However, when I change genre, I almost never use profanity because it doesn't suit the fictional characters I have created.
     
  15. Nicholas C.
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    Nicholas C. Active Member

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    As others have said - it depends on A) your audience and B) the characters and situations you're writing about.

    But ultimately, I think writers have a duty to be unabashedly honest when it comes to language. If you have your character scream "Ahhh, SUGAR!" instead of "Ahhh, SHIT!!!" when they hit their thumb with a hammer, you're going to lose credibility with readers (unless it's a grandmother-ly character who would actually say the former).

    I mean you don't need to go overboard, but you shouldn't ever find yourself trying to think of a more "PG" version of a word because that first word that instinctively popped into your head was an obscenity. You're not here to dictate your personal moral principles - you're here to tell a story.
     
  16. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Don't overlook that possibility! Especially if you have established in other characters that you, the author, are not intimidated by profanity, you may vey well have characters who habitually use euphemisms instead.

    I often speak out here against overusing profanity in writing. I use it but rarely myself in my writing. But I am no prude. I can shock people with my use of colorful language, especially because I don't do it all the time. And in a work situation, where such language is completely inappropriate, I use euphemisms very effectively.
     
  17. Nicholas C.
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    Nicholas C. Active Member

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    I have to admit -- you do raise a pretty good point here. The less you use profanity, the more gravity it carries when you actually do so. I suppose like anything else, you have to find a proper balance.
     
  18. PeterC
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    PeterC Active Member

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    I'm working on a science fiction story told from the point of view of an alien race. I have a few alien characters who might naturally use profanity but, despite the fact that the story is written in English, it sounds very wrong for them to use English (human) profanity. To deal with this I tried making up some alien profanity for them to say.

    What I discovered was that profanity unfamiliar to the reader sounds even sillier than English profanity spoken by aliens. I'm in the process of editing out all instances of my failed attempt at creating suitable alien profanity. I think I can live without it.
     
  19. Nicholas C.
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    Nicholas C. Active Member

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    You probably have Red Dwarf to blame for this ("Rimmer, you're such a smeghead!"). ;)
     
  20. Lightman
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    Lightman Active Member

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    To me (and I don't mean to attack you), that sounds much worse and draws more attention to the (lack of) profanity than anything. If you're going to do it, do it - don't tiptoe around it.
     

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