1. Phineas Love
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    Phineas Love New Member

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    Letting Characters Be Themselves

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Phineas Love, Jan 14, 2012.

    I'm writing this character who uses language that, quite frankly, makes me blush. I can normally suck it up and write him, but there's this one thing... I feel like he would use the word goddarn (you know what the darn really is) but I really don't approve of that word because I'm somewhat religious, and I feel really bad writing it. You would think it wouldn't really bother me because my character used crude language in general, but this word really gets me. I don’t mean to sound evangelical, and I don’t condemn people for using the word, but personally I don’t feel at all right using it.

    I know I'm the author, but you know how characters are their own people. I feel like I would be selling my character short by censoring things about him based on my own personal feelings. But I also feel kind of stupid--I mean, if I have such a problem with the word, I can just not use it, right?

    The thing is, I've not used that word in the past, but I feel like I'm not doing my character justice. He's not me, and he doesn't feel the same way about that word as I do. I'm a vegetarian, but I don't make all my characters vegetarians just because I am.

    So, here's a question: Should author's censor characters just to make themselves feel better?
     
  2. KrystaK
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    KrystaK New Member

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    That is a tough call...
    I like to let my characters be themselves to. I don't have a problem with censoring, I have a problem choosing the language they would use. (I enjoy writing historical stories but it's difficult for me to determine period accurate language)

    If you really want to be true to your characters than censoring them isn't right, but then again, if you aren't comfortable with the wording than you aren't comfortable with it. It's a case of how true you want the character to be.
    Have you considered using synonyms? I'm not sure that there any that would make you more comfortable but still be right for the character.... And I'm not sure I want to offer any in case of offending you :p

    This a sort of a difficult question to answer.
     
  3. Granville
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    Granville Member

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    I think you're being subjective about this and you need to get into an objective attitude. The question shouldn't be: Should author's censor characters just to make themselves feel better? But rather: How do authors isolate themselves from their own moral values and feelings when they interfere with the integrity and individuality of a character?

    It's a good question and not something I ever thought much about, but al least getting the right framework around the problem might help towards getting the right answer.
     
  4. KinkyCousin
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    KinkyCousin Member

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    I don't have a problem with bad language in texts, if my characters swear excessively it's because that's how they talk. It doesn't mean that's how *I* talk. I do find it odd writing a character with radically different views from mine though which came up a lot when I was writing about a christian extremist. I just had to remind myself that what a character says, does and feels does not necessarily show how I talk, act and feel.
     
  5. Show
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    If you don't feel comfortable writing it, then don't write it. It is important to remember that it isn't you saying it, it's your character. But if it's just that phrase that bugs you, don't include it. I am sure he could say something worse in it's place. It's not as if "gd" is especially crude. If he's such a toilet mouth, just have him say something more severe in it's place. (Or, to be funny, give him a hangup with that word in particular. It could be funny that he'll say profanity with every other word but will refuse to say that one word. lol)
     
  6. DotTheI
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    DotTheI New Member

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    If you don't feel comfortable writing it, then write it. You can't have every character filter through yourself. If the character would say "gd" then the character would say "gd." You have to stay true to the character. The fact that it makes you uncomfortable makes it all the more meaningful. That means it might be uncomfortable for the audience as well. That means you've just written truth, and that means you've just written something worth reading.
     
  7. Protar
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    Protar Active Member

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    Personally I'm fine with having characters swear if it's appropriate and really goddamn is quite mild. Obviously if you're religious you might have a different opinion but that's just me. Whatever you do, don't replace goddamn with some silly, childish phrase. All that will do is jar the reader because they'll know from prior experience that the character shouldn't be speaking like that. Instead say something like "bob blasphemed."
     
  8. Felipe
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    Felipe Active Member

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    There are ways for this character to show contempt toward God without using that particular word. It shows his character when you do. My story, this part, took place in 1639, here goes.....

    After a while the door opened up and the tall man entered looking at Marianna. One of the soldiers was backing in the door carrying one side of a stout wooden table. The soldiers carried the table into the room and sat it in front of Marianna. It had four loops of rope coming up through holes drilled in the table. A set of thumbscrews were mounted in front of them in the center. Dark stains of dried blood surrounded the vise like instrument and Marianna’s eyes went wide in terror.
    The men grabbed her arms and forced them through the loops of rope. Another man tied them tightly from underneath the table, one at her elbows and the other at her wrists. Her thumbs were placed into the device and the top was attached.
    “For the love of God, do not do this!” Marianna said.
    “I do not believe in your God!” the man hissed.
     
  9. BFGuru
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    BFGuru Active Member

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    You could also try breaking up the phrase to "God" or "Dammit".

    Perhaps it won't feel as harsh.

    I personally feel weird writing curse words, but I love to say them. ;)
     
  10. joanna
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    joanna Active Member

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    The simple answer is no, we shouldn't censor anything to make ourselves feel better. Writing is about truth and sometimes the truth is harsh and we don't like it. But the end result is that what's rendered on the page, whatever emotions it may cause in the author or the reader, is authentic -- not in the sense that really happened, but in the sense that it tells some emotional truth about the human condition or reveals something about the nature of reality.

    If you don't want your character to say 'goddamn,' that's not a huge deal. There are ways around it, as suggested. Just make sure the nature of the character is real, not toned down.
     

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