1. kingzilla
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    kingzilla Senior Member

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    Swearing

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by kingzilla, Jul 15, 2012.

    I am sure this has been a topic talked about quite a bit, but this is more specific. I am writing a YA book/Adult book... hard to explain, but my target age is 14+. The main cast of characters are teens, but I am representing how kids really act these days (to a certain extent). In other words, I want to let my characters swear in non-sexual contexts. Problem is that, as I mentioned, my target crowd is older... older teens, but my book has very complex themes. I want to appeal to adults and older teens, but I am afraid that my book will be censored if I make it far enough to get it published. So my question is if I did have swearing in my book, would schools ban them (highschools)? This is important to me because I want to get that young crowd because most of my material is YA.

    Thanks, Kingzilla
     
  2. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    This is a hard one to judge really, as you can never judge for certain how others -- especially institutions -- will react to your writing. With swearing, the key is almost always not to overdo it. What has effect once can quickly lose that effect if used too commonly.

    I think what you need to do is just write it, as your instincts tell you to, and then take a look at it in editing. I wouldn't have a blanket policy against, but from both age-appropriateness and good writing perspectives it's best to air on the conservative side with swearing.
     
  3. Kammerice
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    Kammerice New Member

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    You could always have the characters swear without quoting them. For example, if something is frustrating me, then rather than describing what I said, you could just say "Kamm cursed softly" or something similar. If it's integral to dialogue (i.e. used mid-sentence), then I'd err on the side of caution.
     
  4. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    Be careful with that though, depending on how it's done it can come across really...tackily.

    For example, I remember a bit in one of the Harry Potter books to the effect of:

    Ron said a word which made Hermione shout out angrily "Ron!"

    Which is just...eh...
     
  5. Kammerice
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    Kammerice New Member

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    True. Like all tricks, when it works, it works. When it doesn't...well, you get Hermione and Ron, I guess.
     
  6. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    I've seen YA books with swearing: I think SPUD by John van de Ruit had swearing and it's not been banned from libraries haha.
    Also, my YA book which is aimed at 16+ has swearing in certain scenes. I mean, it only makes sense. Us teenagers swear, don't we? Just don't overuse do it, in my opinion.
     
  7. Steph4136
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    Steph4136 Senior Member

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    I agree that if it's used in dialogue sparingly, it makes it more real. Teenagers swear. And if your book gets banned then that usually makes you sell a buttload of copies and get wildly popular. :p
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You're assuming you'll be able to get it published if the swearing is excessive.
     
  9. Steph4136
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    Steph4136 Senior Member

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    No, if you read what I wrote, I said to use it sparingly.
     
  10. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, since reading is supposed to be a good way to learn what you should do, I see plenty of swearing in mainstream fiction. :p

    My personal philosophy is to use it sparingly or else it becomes meaningless, and you want your dialogue to have meaning. So if you must use it, make it have effect.
     
  11. tinyplanets
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    tinyplanets Member

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    I had a similar dilemma myself when writing my first book. I personally found it hard to write the swear words, especially thinking about family who may end up reading the book.

    I am also aiming for older teen and adult readers. My motivation for writing this story, was to try and get people talking about abuse.

    Given the subject matter, I felt that it would be unrealistic for the perpetrators to use wholesome language. I reasoned in the end that I was writing about something which is distasteful and hard to sanitise.

    I did try to use it sparingly but I still get a funny feeling when I know somebody who won't appreciate the swearing, has downloaded the book.:redface:
     
  12. JackElliott
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    JackElliott Senior Member

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    You are worried that your book will be censored if it includes too much swearing?

    So many things wrong with this it's hard to know where to begin. Who's to say your book will even get published, that schools will carry it, that it will even be important enough to censor in the first place?

    Swearing, even excessively, is so minor anymore that it's actually funny to think a book would be censored for that alone. It's not 1950 anymore. I can guarantee if you are worried about such minor things, enough to let other opinions sway you, you're probably not going to write a book that is danger of being censored. If anything, you should worry about it being too milquetoast.
     
  13. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Maybe not, but there are plenty of people in the U.S. who are trying to get us back there. Censoring certainly is an issue, especially with respect to the YA market.

    That said, however, your point is valid. Writers should first focus on getting out their story, as authentically as they can. Worry later on about marketing and economic ramifications. If the book makes it to the point that a publisher thinks it can sell, the swearing can be adjusted.

    The use of certain words is always going to be an issue -- there are always going to be people who are offended by them no matter what genre you write. Not everyone is your target reader, so you really have to do what you feel is right for your story and your characters.
     
  14. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    If I have my characters swear, I often use it sparingly, especially the vulgar words like the F-word. The worst swear word I'd allow most of my characters to utter is "shit". That's a personal decision on my part, though.

    It would also have to depend on who that character is. To use the Harry Potter example, I wouldn't be too stunned if Ron were to utter, "Shit! Goddamn it! Goddamn it!" because it would fit with who he is. But if Harry did it? I might be a bit taken aback, as it wouldn't be like him to use foul language.
     
  15. Hettyblue
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    Hettyblue Member

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    There is definitely a cultural aspect to this topic. In the UK swearing, if not exactly socially acceptable, then it is very commonplace. Teens are often the biggest 'sweary marys' as they are trying out their adult identity, generally overdoing it and trying to impress their peers. Writing set in modern day Britain without swearing in the dialogue would not quite ring true for me. You can be very creative and dare I say even poetic with swearing though I wouldn't suggest going for Malcolm Tucker-esque proportions just enough to be 'real'.
     
  16. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    Please excuse my language in this but think of it this way. If you're going write a YA novel with teens. They will swear sometimes. there are some who curse all the time and some who don't. You may write a jock who's 'catch phrase" is "I don't give a fuck what anyone says, I do what I want" or he he has anger issues and storms off he'll probably exlaim 'sh**' or "f**k" on his way out.

    If its casual conversation, swearing is tacky in most cases and should only be eppered in lightly :p so a "hey jim, how the hell are ya" may be out of place, while a "Hey Jim! Where the hell have you been? I've been looking for you!" might work...

    aptly I've done enough cursing for a week lol
     
  17. Complex
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    Complex Senior Member

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    If the character is intended to swear, then they should swear. I listen to my characters rather then my own sense of self-censorship.
     
  18. Iron Orchid
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    Iron Orchid Member

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    It's hard for anyone to answer how much is too much without reading all of your story, so you're the best qualified. You know your characters best and I agree with everyone who says it's fine in moderation. It all depends on context too, the person's background and what's happening at the time to make them swear.
    A warrior who's just been injured is not very likely to mutter "Oh, flibbertigibbet!" if he's genuinely in pain. I know the last thing on my mind when I stub my toe is not swearing :/
     
  19. Vanlande
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    Vanlande Member

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    I agree with those who have said that it's all about making the character realistic. You shouldn't be so concerned with the endgame right now. Write the book how you feel it is SUPPOSED to be written, then worry about the cursing if and when it comes up.
     
  20. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    Maybe, JKR had submitted her ms with the word written into Ron's dialogue and the publisher asked her to reword it - who knows?

    edit;

    i have just searched for 'young adult fiction censorship' and a whole load of search engines came up - strong language is mentioned.
     
  21. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Why don't you check out books that targets the same audience and see how much swearing they include?

    And after that, would google search uncover any useful preferences amongst agents/editors/publishers?

    Have you asked school teachers, maybe GCSE English teachers, school librarians? Give them an example of the amount of swearing involved and the type and ask them - would they allow their students to read this book? Would they pick it to go into their curriculum? Would they recommend it in their own classrooms? There're often lots of difficult regulations surrounding education and teachers are the best ones to ask about that. Many may or may not promote a book based on their own personal discretion outside of any law/rule. You need to gauge what may or may not be appropriate in schools according to their teachers today.

    And after that, write it how you see fit. I'd say if the agent/publisher likes your work, the swearing isn't gonna stop them because they could just edit it out. At that point you could even ask your editor for advice.
     
  22. Hettyblue
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    Hettyblue Member

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    I agree with above - except when i stub my toe with children around then i will come up with creative alternatives to swearing "Shi-ugar!" and "fu-lippen heck" come to mind. Even when giving birth i was anxious not to offend the midwives so the strongest curse uttered was 'Gordon Bennett'!
     
  23. Jamie Senopole
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    Jamie Senopole Member

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    Kingzilla,

    What I'm doing in my writing is similar since my MC has a potty mouth, it is directed towards a more mature audience. I'm just planning on letting it flow and whatever they feel like saying, they will say. Down the line if I consider getting it published, I will just let them decide what is appropriate for my target audience and censor it or change the wording to fit accordingly.
     
  24. kingzilla
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    kingzilla Senior Member

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    Well, twenty thousand words into my novel, I have taken the advise of all you fellow writer and put in swear words. As I said, I don't even consider using swear words in their sexual context, but phrases like, "Kick some ass" are relatively common in the book. More stronger words are used with much more care. The f-word is used only once so far when the MC is giving a speech to his team and shit is used a few times, usually when the character when a character is angry or is hurt badly.
    @Jamie
    That's a good way to approach it. I also find by talking realistically, I write more smoothly. The risk is, however, you fall in love with a part that portrays how you feel about a situation. I have found myself tied to multiple scenes where two character go at it and there are a bunch of swear words. I feel like my anger is apart of it and if I ever had to cut that particular scene, it would be hard.

    @Iron orchid

    My characters are teens who have to go to a military school and work their butts off and then are shifted off to another world to mediate an entire war. Then take into fact that all these kids have had their parents dead for most of their lives and live with foster families and boarding schools... its safe to say that they are not the "gee-whiz" kind of kids.
     
  25. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it would be a good idea to check publishers guide lines and see what they have to say about it.
     

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