1. Burdus
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    Burdus New Member

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    Vulgar and cursing - how much is too much?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Burdus, Oct 21, 2010.

    Hello all,

    I'm currently working on a novel that revolves around a young gang. To be even more precise, a gang that is wrapped up in the drug trade. All the characters live a rather hedonistic lifestyle and as such, lean towards using a certain kind of language. They curse a lot and use rather vulgar words when describing females they are intimate with.

    So how much is too much? How many times can they drop the 'f' bomb before the reader scowls and drops the book from the overabundance of swearing. However, I'm worried that if I use less harsh language the dialogue would seem unrealistic given the nature of the characters.

    Should I not worry about the language? Is there a middle ground?

    Thanks for any help in advance.
     
  2. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    When you intended audience thinks it to much.
    This depends on who they are, why they read the book (if it because they like realism, or escapism, or because they are curiosity, or because they admire gang culture....), how well you use it as well as how much you use it.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Just remember, a little goes a long way. You may think someone drops the f-bomb in every sentence, but if you write it that way it will be too much. Understate it. You'll get the message across more than adequately.
     
  4. Egil1Eye
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    Egil1Eye Member

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    Unfortuately vulgarity, violence and indecency, are an unpleasant and ugly part, not only of our society but, of the world in general. Organized groups (my polite term for gangs, young or old) are not the originators of this, but a by product of what has become a common place thing, and can be found almost everywhere you look.

    I digress and apologize for this, and so back to your question, how much is too much. This is a difficult question because it is flagrant, and an all too common thing in most forms of media.

    This is not to say that your ideas are wrong or untoward, you are being realistic in both wanting to write something both current and believable, but this is really one issue that you will have to decide on your own, having someone else give their own opinion is all fine and good, but the final decision will have to be yours.

    This is the best advise that I can give, I hope that it helps, in some way, a little bit, and sincerly hope that I did not offend in any way.
     
  5. Leah Woods
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    Leah Woods Active Member

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    I mostly agree with what Cogito said. To me, honestley, the books with lots of cursing (like at least one word per paragraph) are very unattractive. While I realize that we curse on daily basis, including me, somehow when I see written that on paper is too much.

    But then again, it's just personal opinion. If you want and think it's the best way to write, then write :D
     
  6. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I just feel like adding that this is a cultural issue. Many culture, unlike the north Americana don't consider bad language something that need to be BEEEP out of daytime TV or restricted or avoided in fiction.
     
  7. Agreen
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    Agreen Faceless Man Contributor

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    I think one of the best presentations of the type of culture you're wanting to portray can be found in seasons 1 and 4 of The Wire. That show featured swearing- a whole lot of it. In fact, one famous scene consisted of nothing but f-bombs. But it never felt excessive. It fit the situation, the characters, and their pattern of speech. And I liked it. It's hard to find that balance though. If you're in doubt, or think another word fits, then use the other word. But if you aren't, and you can't, then that's the time to use the swear word.
     
  8. Leah Woods
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    Leah Woods Active Member

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    Somewhat true, I don't remember the last time I heard beep in any tv show here, but I could be wrong. I find it interesting that cursing in English books irritate me way more, than any I found in books on my language.

    I think I went off topic, apologises.

    Well, in the end, sometimes it's just part of the culture.
     
  9. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Well, one rule that tends to work for many such questions is:

    If you are worried that it might be too much then the answer is YES!
     
  10. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would use the bad langauge sparingly. I know your characters may be undesirable and prone to using the F word, but I think you should try to get that message across by the tone and content of the dialogue.
     
  11. tangent_string
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    tangent_string New Member

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    The main problem I see with writers using harsh language is they simply do it wrong. They do it too much and it comes off as immature writing than accurate character dialogue. If you want to see it done right, I would read some steven king. He'll drop the F bomb, but it's not every page. Depending on what character perspective he's writing from, there may be a little or a lot, but it'll never clash with eloquence and it also isn't so frequent that you read it every sentence.

    So yea, while gangsters don't shy away from using strong language, as mentioned, a little does go a long way. Your reader will get the point with a few well placed naughty words :).
     
  12. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Cogito and others have it right. A little goes a long way. If you transcribed real gang talk word for word, there might be three or four f-bombs every sentence. If you read it in a story, you'd think the writer is overdoing it to the point of comedy, then to the point of insanity. You can get the flavor of the dialogue without having to fill every line with f-bombs. Use only a few, and use them when they're most effective.
     
  13. MissPomegranate
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    MissPomegranate Member

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    As long as you make it fit into the dialogue realistically, it shouldn't be a problem. I second tangent_string saying Stephen King is a good example. Some of his books swear a lot, while others only contain a few cuss words; both extremes work well because his dialogue makes the words choice seem believable.

    I do think the f-bomb should be used sparingly though; it makes a bigger impact if you don't use it as often.
     
  14. helltank
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    helltank Member

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    I suggest them using milder swear words more often, like "damn" or "crap", but conveying their f-bombs through images. For example:

    1)Max felt the cold metal of a gun pressed against his head. "<F-bomb>!" he cried, plunging the blade of his knife backwards, into the stomach of his attacker.

    2)Max felt the cold metal of a gun pressed against his head. "Crap! Damn this to hell!" he cried, plunging the blade of his knife backwards, and twisting it to completely gore his attacker.


    As you notice, in example 2, Max is more violent towards his attacker, causing him unessasary pain by gutting him. He also uses the mild swear words more often.
     
  15. Agreen
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    Agreen Faceless Man Contributor

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    Not sure I agree. I often find replacing hard swear words with euphemisms or softer swears makes the dialogue stick out more, and makes it sound artificial. One reason I could never get into Battlestar Galactica. Were I watching a show or reading a book, and a character established as a hardcore gangster actually said 'Crap!' I would either change the channel or set the book down. It would be better to work around having to use a swear word at all instead of using a 'lesser,' one.
     
  16. helltank
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    helltank Member

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    Actually, I don't really mind and hardly notice it. We each have our own views, after all. :)

    Note:Also, softer swears would let you sell your book to a younger audience. If you want to sell your book.
     
  17. Agreen
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    Agreen Faceless Man Contributor

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    Yes, you have to consider your intended audience when deciding whether to include swearing, and what kind of swearing. To go back to my example earlier in the thread, The Wire was clearly intended for an adult audience- it could never have worked on prime time network television. Yet, in large part because of its intense realism it is regarded by many as the best series in the history of American television. So yes, this is case where you have to know your audience.
     
  18. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I think the problem with "softer" language is that it just isn't realistic. It comes across as forced and artificial. You can have dialogue that uses normal language, and the occasional swear word for emphasis and authenticity. I actually think this goes back to a more basic idea for dialogue - that it should not be written as it would sound in normal discourse.
     
  19. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I agree. In the example provided above, #2 just doesn't sound authentic to me. It might if the character was previously established as engaging in this sort of speech, but for just an average guy, I wouldn't buy it.
     

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