1. writewizard
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    writewizard Contributing Member

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    I need some new words!

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by writewizard, Dec 29, 2009.

    In my new book, a lot of my characters seem to want to swear to release their anger. While I don't mind swearing, I don't want my characters doing it. So what words do you use instead of swear words?

    THanks
    Writewizard :)

    Edit: Please do not post any actual swear words on this post. Thanks.
     
  2. m5roberts
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    m5roberts Member

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    I use "frak" but that one's taken.

    Why don't you want your characters to swear? Is it due to your intended audience? I'm just curious.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Michael swore viciously and yanked his hand away from the hot metal coil.

    ###

    Kevin glared at Susan. "Who the f--"

    Susan slapped him, hard. "You don't talk like that to me. I'll knock you into next week."
     
  4. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    You can state stuff like this in the narrative. For example: "He swore." IMO it's an effective way of reducing swear words.

    You can also show a character's anger or frustration through his actions.
     
  5. m5roberts
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    m5roberts Member

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    Or you could have them mumbling incoherently - that's always fun...
     
  6. SurrealOdyssey
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    SurrealOdyssey Member

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    Read On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan. It's very short, I read it in a couple of days, and there's an argument at the end between the two main characters that is an extremely well written and realistic release of anger.
     
  7. Irish87
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    Irish87 Contributing Member

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    I always tend to say the character cursed or swore or whatever instead of actually saying the word itself. While I'm perfectly fine with cursing in real life, but I think of it as purely an emotional outburst, the same as hitting someone or falling to the ground and crying. That's just me, though.
     
  8. Delphinus
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    Delphinus Senior Member

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    Just one problem; normally it's insane people that mumble incoherently or particularly timid characters that are afraid of the consequences of swearing. Making them mutter under their breath might give the wrong impression.
     
  9. Sophronia
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    Sophronia Member

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    I find Shakespearean insults much more gratifying than swear words (swearing in literature and writing, especially in fantasy, just sounds unintelligent and awkward to me). It can give a bit more character to the people in the story and you don't have to worry about offending the reader. However, I suppose even these can be awkward depending on the context of the story - I've used them several times in my fantasy stories.

    Here's a link to a list of S. insults you can mix and match: insults. You can also create some of your own that are similar.

    Like others said, saying that the character swore could work as well, although even I would use that sparingly.
     
  10. Cosmos
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    Cosmos Contributing Member

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    I don't personally see anything wrong with having characters swear in a book unless the audience you're aiming for is children, of course. Then again I'm not sure a book with that much hostility should be aimed at kids anyways.

    That said you're determined not to so here's a few suggestions:

    1) Use in-verse curses. This only works for different worlds or something fantasy, etc. based.
    2) Just say "they cursed" or "said something entirely inapprorpriate" etc., as was mentioned.
    3) Use the "F--" as was said, since you can get away with refering to it in a way, but you can always cut the character off. Not sure how many times you can pull that off however.

    I generally just go with whatever curse comes to mind but if I had to choose I generally go with the second option as it is still very direct without being direct, yes?
     
  11. writewizard
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    writewizard Contributing Member

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    Thanks for all the awesome replies, you make me very happy. I don't mind my characters cursing. Just in a few places they need to tone it a bit. I like the idea of them throwing shakespear insults at each other, it would work for the group.

    Thanks everyone!!
     
  12. Coldwriter
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    Coldwriter Contributing Member

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    Terry Brooks uses the word "Shades" as an oath. I like it and it is pretty effective. If you are writing fantasy, creating a word might be a way to go. It may be difficult, however, for you cannot just pick a word and think it fits. (obviously) Just a thought
     
  13. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    Besides vulgar speech, your characters could express their feelings through body language. For example:

    Her eyes are like the lit end of a cigarette, burning into me.
    -Gennifer Choldenko, Al Capone Does My Shirts
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Even if you don't eliminate swearing entirely, it's a good idea to make a little go a long way. Profanity is most assuredly one of those areas where "less is more." Overuse will brand you as crude at best, a rank amateur at worst.

    You will hear writers, particularly unpublished ones, loudly proclaiming that swearing is a part of real speech, so it should liberally pepper your dialogue. They aren't entirely wrong, because the use of foul language can be an important element of characterization. When your character swears, and when she does not, can say a lot about her. But good dialogue is not a transcript of actual speech, either. If you have ever seen a real transcript, it is extremely boring, with every um, err, sniff, and throat clear represented. Good dialogue gives an impression of natural speech, but in fact is carefully constructed too deliver both the literal message and the subtext. The subtext is usually of far greater importance than the actual words used.

    Profanity itself carries very little information, but it stands out. For that reason,very sparse profanity in written dialogue communicates its mood far beyond itself.

    Try it sometime. Write a passage of dialogue loaded with profanity, then rewrite the same passage with a half or quarter of the profanity. You'll probably find that the one with less profanity carries the same overall effect but far more smoothly.
     
  15. writewizard
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    writewizard Contributing Member

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    Thanks Cog. I'd like to edit it out entirely except for maybe the word hell but unsure if I'm going to manage it. I think I know what I'm going to do. Just trying to cut down on the junk.

    Thanks everyone!!
     
  16. nacht
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    nacht Member

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    I don't want to read through two pages of comments, so if this has been stated ignore it please lol I'm in a bit of a hurry.

    The author Eoin ("Owen") Colfer, in his Artemis Fowl series, uses a made-up word for what I'm assuming is "damn it". He uses "D'arvit!" instead. Maybe you could use something like that? Or replace the words with phonetics? lol
     
  17. TedR
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    TedR New Member

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    Don't overuse swear words, though. I've seen a lot of stories that have f's and gd's in the narrative, just for the sake of swearing, and it gets old fast. The amount of swearing you should use in dialog depends on the personality of the speaking character. I've heard that people who can't express themselves well compensate for it by swearing. Lots.
     
  18. writewizard
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    writewizard Contributing Member

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    This is exactly why I want replacement words - or to eliminate them entirely. :)
     
  19. nacht
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    nacht Member

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    Then, yeah, you should go with the aforementioned idea and just be done with it. In the narrative simply state "He swore."

    "John's rage blossomed into a flurry of inappropriate remarks for the classroom setting."

    Cruddy example, but it'll do lol
     
  20. sidtvicious
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    sidtvicious Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've always like alternative swear words, things that the narrator uses. Came as an idea when my friend's mother was trying to avoid swearing in an office setting and replaced "f**" with "fluffy bunnys"

    I mean I would never use something like that example, but you get the point.
     
  21. writewizard
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    writewizard Contributing Member

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    Haha. I do that in real life; I'm just not sure how well that would work out for five trip-wearing 16 year olds ;)
     
  22. navyblue
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    navyblue Member

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    Use rude hand gestures. You can even invent your own, like how Ross Geller did in Friends?
     
  23. Tessadragon
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    Tessadragon Member

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    I agree with them, it depends on the genre. Kids books can get away with individualising it to the character (i.e. demon headmaster books, Lloyd and his brother Harvey made their own swear words, that weren't rude, such as 'purple pumpkins!' etc.

    My rude character tends to flip up her middle finger and stick her tongue out at whoever crosses her.

    I know what you mean though about not liking the idea of swearing. Problem is, the most important thing to me is to have realistic speech so that the words can flow properly through the reader's mind. Sadly in this age, everyone swears. Sometimes the only thing you can really do is get a cup of coffee/tea/hot chocolate at eight o'clock in the morning, in McDonalds or some cafe and listen to the people talk.
     
  24. ipromise
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    ipromise New Member

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    In place of a swear word, I usually say, "Poop Scoop!"
     
  25. JTheGreat
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    JTheGreat Contributing Member

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    Well, I don't think I'll be of much help to you, since there's no way in hell you would catch me swearing *Rolls Eyes*.

    Don't do "*&(&^$#". That's best left to Marvel and DC.

    Cut off swearing is okay, but that kind of defeats the purpose, since the reader's would know what word you were going to write anyway.

    I suggest the "write about it" method. It works without being too explicit.
     

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