1. Kat Hawthorne
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    Kat Hawthorne Member

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    Swearing Alternatives

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Kat Hawthorne, Jan 20, 2013.

    I am a young adult, dark fantasy writer. Lucky for me, teens are a twisted lot that seem to enjoy guts and gore, which is great for me because that is what I like to write. However, in the manuscript I am currently working on, I am having some trouble coming up with appropriate alternatives to the curse words we all know and love. I was hoping you may have some ideas.

    I have used "Hell" and "damn" a lot, but I know I will be editing these phrases out in my next draft, as they suggest western religion, which I don't want to touch on. In fact, I don't want to include religion in at all, as the story is complicated enough without it. I have seen other authors in my genre use phrases like "Rocks!" or "Great skies!" but not only do I find those words cheesy, but they also don't have the particular flavour I want for my character, who is really rather entitled and not shy about the words she uses.

    Just wondering if any of you may have some insightful alternatives so I can have one character say to another, "What in the name of living Hell are you talking about?" without the word "Hell."

    Thanks.
     
  2. Nicholas C.
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    Nicholas C. Active Member

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    There's probably been twenty or so threads on this subject. If you use the search function you can find all sorts of takes on this situation. Some people here will advocate you using cheesy, unrealistic replacements. I do not. I'm of the belief that if you aren't going to use the real thing, then don't use anything at all. But then again I don't write YA, so there's that.
     
  3. Pheonix
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    Pheonix A Singer of Space Operas and The Fourth Mod of RP Staff Contributor

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    Well, I know you said you don't want to include religion at all, but the word hell is a reference to ancient greek believe in a netherworld. The word is based off the greek idea of Hades, and the hebrew idea of Sheol.

    If your world has a common belief in a netherworld, Hell might be the easiest word to express that. Modern language is tinted throughout with cultural, and inevitably, religious references and it's difficult to avoid them all. Or, you could create a different word for Hell, and explain what it is in the story, that might work.

    Curses and Explitives are based off cultural experience. Damn simply means that you want something to be condemned, or cursed. If you look up the bases of those words, you might be able to come up with alternatives that have similar meanings. Curses or expletives with no real meaning loose effect. So, if you're set on using something still, try and make it something that actually has meaning, and not just a word that sounds good.
     
  4. Jack Dawkins
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    Jack Dawkins Member

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    I'm new to fanfiction but I enjoy it for the fact that the author can make these alternatives worlds where anything is possible and if you have an idea of what part of history you are drawing from you can refer back to oldtime curses. Balls! Hellsbells. There's no shortage of ancient cursing.
     
  5. Pheonix
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    Pheonix A Singer of Space Operas and The Fourth Mod of RP Staff Contributor

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    When you say fanfiction... what do you mean? Because fanficiton is taking an established story that someone else made and writing more about it, like writing an offshoot of starwars or something like that.

    If you mean Fantasy, which it seems like you do, that would be more in line with what he OP is talking about.
     
  6. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I used to say Shoot a lot. As in - Shoot! I got a friggin F on my math quiz.
    Or Darn-it-to-heck-and-back-again. But that's a mouthful, and pretty corny.
    Hell and Damn are probably better than the big ones. Plus, you could always invent
    a swear - but those can get pretty corny too - like calling someone a witch's booger.
     
  7. Dante Dases
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    Dante Dases Contributing Member Contributor

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    There are a few options open to you:

    1. It's easy to write without profanity, or with only mild language. Most writers follow this route, if truth be told. Study what you read. Off the top of my head, strong language was kept to a minimum in most of the YA novels I've read, but the dialogue didn't feel artificial or stilted.

    2. Substitute swear words. Example: Battlestar Galactica. As a result of the odd double standards of US TV networks (gratuitous violence: fine; strong language and scenes of a sexual nature: the corrupters of youth), the word 'fuck' was substituted for 'frak'. Not a fan of this option, myself. Frak worked just fine because it had that sharpness to it needed to carry the in-universe label of profanity (and everyone knew what it meant anyway). Unless you've got a great ear for strong language and what makes it so abrasive, I'd steer clear of this option.

    3. Go for it. With it being young adult story you're working on I can understand misgivings in this regard, but it might be necessary to just go ahead and use everyday swearing.
     
  8. Kat Hawthorne
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    Kat Hawthorne Member

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    Actually, I really like "balls!" but it will not properly fit into a sentence, you know? It's more of a stand alone curse word. And I don't want anything little-kiddish either, that's the dilemma. You know, the sentence: "She didn't know if she would be capable of decapitating the Emperor, but she sure as boogers was going to try" just doesn't have the ring that I want. It's the tone of "Hell" that works in that sentence. That's what I need to replace.

    Thanks for the responses.
     
  9. Bimber
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    Bimber Contributing Member

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    how about..

    She didn't know if she would be capable of decapitating the Emperor, but she bloody sure was going to try

    might be over used but i still bloody love it....
     
  10. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hell/heck
     
  11. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I don't think "hell" or "damn" are that bad. I've seen them used before in YA novels. I'm sure all YA readers are familiar with these words (and many more), and using substitutes somehow just seems wrong to me. Since you're writing fantasy, you may also consider inventing swear words. It's certainly an interesting option.
     
  12. MustWrite
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    MustWrite Member

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    Get creative

    Personally I believe the over-use of any swear words will lessen their effect, also a lot of readers are put off by having to read heaps of expletives. I think something like 'He swore vehemently' or 'she let out a string of curses that impressed even the --' or whatever does well in most cases, saving you having to actually write them or the reader read them.
    But for the sentence you used as an example I think you should find something that matches the world you've created. Most of our swear words are based on religion or sexual references, or something believed to be holy. What is the belief/value system in your world? What do people find disgusting/shocking or regard as powerful? [the name Jesus Christ has power, so people use it because it carries more weight]
    Anyway if you get inventive and use something that ties into the values of your world you are adding depth as well as teaching your readers something more of the story.
     
  13. mg357
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    mg357 Active Member

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    in my humble opinion you should just use the swear words.
     
  14. SilverWolf0101
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    SilverWolf0101 Active Member

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    The words "Damn" and "Hell", really aren't that bad compared to the words "Fuck" or "Shit". So I really don't see the problem in using them, especially when a lot of young adult readers are very familiar with these terms and use them on a regular basis. If however, you do decide to replace the words with other ones, you might also consider looking up words from other cultures. I have a character, that when she wants to curse and get away with it, she uses other languages to accomplish her goals. Or another example is Starfire from Teen Titans. She is an alien from another planet that has come to our world, and when she wishes to insult someone she will often call them something from her planet. I remember in one episode of the series she called one of her fellow Titans a name, and comes to find out it was a rather disagreeable beast that rampaged and destroyed everything.
    Another thing you might want to consider is listening to some actual young adults and how they talk. I know in my family we tend to replace curse words with other things that might not make much sense to others. A few examples are:
    Dude- My male cousins, which is a lot, will often use this term when someone is being a moron or an idiot. Instead of calling them such though they'll just use this word.
    Shitake Mushrooms- This phrase has mixed meanings. People in my family will often saying it in replacement for shit, fuck, or damn it.
    Mother hubber- This one should be obvious, we mostly say it to replace mother fucker. Even then it only usually comes out when something is being stubborn or we hurt ourselves.
    There's a bunch of others we use, but these are just prime examples. I'm not saying to use them, but they give you an idea of how people will twist certain things to achieve the same goal.
     
  15. SuperVenom
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    SuperVenom Contributing Member

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    Friend of mine always said shitehawks which was a surprise the first time i heard it. But if you finding it awkward to put a swear word in why not just imply the swear words.

    ie. Crude example.

    John run at full speed towards the wall, slamming hard into the brickwork. His calculated jump didnt go as planned.
    Rose blushed at the shear volume of profanities John yelled.

    Some authors remove the word, ie in the Truth by Terry Pratchett he removed the F word and made it '–ing'.
     
  16. Kat Hawthorne
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    Kat Hawthorne Member

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    Thank you all for the suggestions. You have given me much to consider. It is not the words themselves I am struggling with - I am perfectly fine with profanity in all its various colours - but the connection they have to our world, and more specifically, religion that the words suggest (I am just talking about "Hell," and "Damn" and words of that variety). Nothing else seems quite right. When a person wants to say, "God damn it!" nothing else will do. I have used the "...most impressive string of profanity known to mankind" several times in my story, but occasionally, one needs to hear the word. I may just have to keep them in for now, and see how it looks when I am through.
    Thanks again.
     
  17. iWant iStrive
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    iWant iStrive Member

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    Depending on the characters, you could use alternatives to speech, such as certain reactions.

    For example one thing I use I got from my grandfather. When something happened which infuriated him, he didn't curse, or even speak, in fact he became completely silent, and would speak very slowly but in a very unnerving way in which you knew he was mad.

    Things like that can work as alternatives to the typical reactions like cursing.

    Or maybe even do some things like roars, or grumbles instead of explicit words.
     
  18. Pythonforger
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    Pythonforger Carrier of Insanity

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    Just use the actual words. Stephen King's YA novels contained lots of swear words. The in-between-YA-and-adult American Gods by Neil Gaiman uses swears quite a bit. So does Game of Thrones, Casual Vacancy etc.

    Also teenagers swear. This is a fact of life. Don't insert expletives into every sentence, but when a teen is mad, he definitely will swear hard.
     
  19. ManOrAstroMan
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    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

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    I'm in a similar boat--not because I'm writing YA, but because I'm just not a fan of "conversational" swearing at all. ("Hand me the @#$%ing salt." I've heard people say this.) But I am making myself lightly pepper bad language in my book's dialogue for verisimilitude's sake.
    Couple of things:
    "Hell" and "Damn" may be religious in origin, and I get that you don't want to include religion in your story, but if your story takes place in the "real" world, (as opposed to a fantasy world like Krynn or Middle Earth) then it would still be part of the overall human culture. I know atheists who yell "Oh, my God!" when scared/upset/excited. (and are completely unaware of the irony.) So, even if religion never enters into your story, if it's set in the "real" world, chances are people would still use these swearwords.
    Even if you create a whole new world with a completely different culture, they would still likely use versions of these words. Religion is going to be a part of the overall human culture, whether people worship the Goddess, the Ten Shining Ones or a small lemon custard.
    You could look to older literature/cinema and pay attention to what people say when upset, if you didn't want something very harsh. (Lots of "Blast!" or "Confound it!" and similar)
    And if you're *really* stuck, you could always go with something like: The vase shattered, leaving a starburst of porcelain shards on the floor. Klyve swore loudly, letting out a stream of profanities and attempting to kick the cat, who had been watching with detached amusement.

    Oh--and Phoenix: Hell is from Norse myth.
     

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