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  1. feather
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    feather Member

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    To curse or not to curse....

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by feather, May 15, 2008.

    I have a bit of a foul mouth in real life-truckdrivers turn their heads when I'm pissed:) In fic, I like an author to take it easy on the swearing. It can have its place though.
    There are many scenarios where the character is in deep caca and the words, 'oh, ****' or '**** me' just work. Its how a lot of us speak in the real world. Any agree?
    How do you all feel about that? Do you include, exclude it and/or place it when you feel necessary?
     
  2. Kratos
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    Kratos Contributing Member

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    I personally never swear. It's hard sometimes, but its something I test myself with. I don't like reading stories where the people are constantly cursing, it's really annoying. Throwing them in occasionally is fine, but I hate it when characters blurt out lines of cussing.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It does have a place, but is best used sparingly. As a writer, you should have a more creative command of vocabulary. As for your characters, most people don't swear as often as you might think. Even in dialogue, a little goes a long way.

    So far as this site is concerned, some profanity is permitted, as long as it is not excessive. Also, certain words (very few) are automatically suppressed.

    But in any case, you don't want your writing to read like the script to the movie "Cabin Fever," in which eff this and effing eff that you effer comprises half the dialogue (or seems to).
     
  4. KP Williams
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    KP Williams Contributing Member

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    My characters do swear occasionally, but I never spell it out for the reader. I usually say "He swore explosively and..." It's more expression of emotion than actual dialogue, in my opinion. No need to make sure everybody knows exactly which word he used.
     
  5. silverfrost
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    Or Magnolia, in which the writers tried WAY too hard to make their characters seem "more real" by making them say the F-word too often. It was painful to sit through--not because I'm uptight about swearing, but because you could tell the writers were trying too hard. It was just annoying.

    I also think it has a lot to do with which type of character you're using, I guess. Again, though, making characters swear TOO much is probably aggravating to a reader--at least it is to me. Find a happy medium if your character is the type to swear, but you seem to be considering that anyway.
     
  6. Silver1
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    I do wonder that sometimes too. I don't swear in real life unless heads are about to roll. I'm a little less strict in my work, but I see them in the same light I see adverbs. They should be used sparingly, and only if there is no better way to write the sentence.
     
  7. ChimmyBear
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    ChimmyBear Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have one character that is foul mouthed. But I have had to really use discretion, because I know that most of my readers are not going to appreciate his history or his mouth. I have had to carefully decide where these tantrums are needed and where they are not, and edit accordingly!
    Jonathon is now a much happier character...;)
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    One of my first short stories runs a little over 1000 words. In the first draft, one of the two central character uses the F word 6 times and a couple other words as well. He was intended to be a completely unsympathetic character.

    Well, it was over the top. He was flat as a character, and the horror of his fate is lost because not only is he unsympathetic, he doesn't seem real enough.

    The final draft ended up nearly the same length (an intermediate version was nearly twice as long, but was filled with junk), and the same character never swore even once. He was still an abusive loser, but the story was better for dialing him back.

    The foul language fell flat, despite being there for a definite purpose.
     
  9. Crazy Ivan
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    Crazy Ivan Contributing Member

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    At some point, everyone uses foul language- I often use it in stories just so I don't sound ridiculous. I write fantasy stuff, and let's face it: When you probably just caused the apocalypse, "oh, gosh darn it" just doesn't seem to cut it, whereas "damn" sums it up quite nicely.
    But I don't enjoy extreme swearery, unless you've got a character who uses bombastic blasphemy, like Mr. Wednesday from Neil Gaiman's American Gods. I will always remember the phrase, "Jesus ****ng Christ on a ****ing unicycle."

    So extreme swearing is not generally advised, but can be done right. Just consider that character a one-time kind of gig.
     
  10. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    If it fits, use it. You are hardly going to have some truckdriver breaking his fingers and saying "oh, fiddledy-dee, that hurts somewhat". But don't curse just for the sake of it. That will put someone off as much as lack of realism.
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    But you don't even have to use the obscenity in those situations:
    or
    I'm not saying you should never use the profanity itself. But consider in each case whether the alternative works better.

    You don't have to quote every word of dialogue verbatim to convey the scene clearly.
     
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  12. ChimmyBear
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    Okay, see your second quote works better for me because I am able to experience the action much more clearly, than in the first line. It is easy to get caught up in the obscenity and loose the actual moment to those words.
    I hope this make sense...;)

    I will have to remember this when working on my own story.
     
  13. TenderHeart
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    I sometimes do swear in the dialog, but it is rare and I only try to use it when it would seem more unreasonable for them not to.
     
  14. MumblingSage
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    As my sistr once said when I asked her for advice on this very issue: "What the s**t's wrong with s**t?"

    So I use cursing, unless it's for young readers, when I use phrases like 'Darron cursed.' and then continue with action.
     
  15. feather
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    Thanks a lot for your input. I agree with all your points and I use it sparingly. I have to say, if swearing isn't overdone and placed correctly, it tends to make me laugh ( which rocks! ). Its like being a little kid again, sitting around the family dinner table, trying to remember your manners and some natural body sound explodes from somewhere and interrupts the quiet. You can't help but laugh.
    Stephen King's well placed cursing, (IMO) does that to me everytime.
     
  16. WriterCindy
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    I use it occasionally, depending on the character. I don't swear a whole lot in real life. Some of my characters, though, develop into regular potty-mouths :) .
     
  17. Mad Madam Mimm
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    It depends on the character, the tone and the audience. Sometimes I develop (as many authors have done) a set of "personal words" for each character. Sort of like a mannerism, for example when they want to swear they'd say "flagnabbit" or something, rather than the actual word.

    But if its a rough, tough character in a mature piece of writing, I think it gives it an edge of realism, as long as its not overused.
     
  18. SugaredSweetRemember
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    One of my stories I had to write as an assignment, and I ran into this issue. It was for a class with a teacher who I knew would NOT like to see cursing, even though it was so realistic and really added to the charecters. Eventually I would just have the character saying, "You son of a-" and then something or someone interuppted. That way you obviously know what she was saying, without saying it.
    I dont cuss, but people do, and if it makes your character realistic, then fine. Just make sure you don't overdo it. That gets annoying VERY quickly.
     
  19. Cpn. Anon
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    My view on when and where to use 'curse words' is the same as when to use any other word (because, at end of all things, it's still a word, a social stigma shouldn't make it any less valid to use [if it fits of course]).

    If a word expresses exactly what you mean and is 'the best word for the job' then use it. Granted, curse words are rarely useful in high frequencies (just as any other word), but they have their niche.

    Finally, i dislike the idea that we feel the need to segregate certain words. It's only a word, and, just as we look back and laugh at how silly old curse words were, next generations will look back and think our curse words are silly, because they are. Our 'curse words' are excellent for when we're angry, take the F and C word; they both are phonetically harsh, sharp and aggressive, and so we should use them when we feel these things, not use a word that doesn't fit (eg 'sugar').
     
  20. feather
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    Many great opinions expressed. Thanks.
    I thought about this further after reading all your replies -be it cursing in real life or fiction. For me as a woman, it has always made me feel powerful. Mainly, because it wasn't always, and still isn't always acceptable.
    As I like to keep it to a minimum, and I am a woman who has never conformed:)-I've discovered I'll park it when appropriate.
    Any views on the association between cursing and gender-be it fic or not?
     
  21. Amor
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    I don't usually use actual swear words. It's rare that I do in my writing. If the character that I'm talking about does curse, I often simply mention that they cursed without using the actual language. It depends on the genre and style of the writing, too, I think. In humor, I noticed that curse words are actually typed out for comedic effect, but in other genres, the author may not spell out curse words. It depends.
     
  22. feather
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    feather Member

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    Simple Basic Scenario-You are dancing around the living room, belting out the tunes, when you finally get the house to yourself and you stub your toe on the end of that decrepit couch or coffee table. ( Don't you dare say you never rock out in your house-haha)
    For me, because it incorporates the pain sensation, it works when an automatic curse appears on the lips. And I love it because it FEELS real!
     
  23. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Oh, I will swear in person at times, although even in that regard, it's laziness. In writing (which is what we're talking about), I usually find it better to suggest the profanity rather than quote it verbatim.

    One advantage of that is that when I do use profanity, it's not diluted by overuse.
     
  24. Adelaide
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    I just want to emphasize what other's have said because I agree: use it if it fits the character, but don't overdo it. But if you want to drop the c-word or something like that for some special emphasis, by all means do it. It may add a certain flavor and realism to your story which might otherwise be lost.
     
  25. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    There are some words I ill not use under any circumstances whatsoever. That is one of them.
     

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