1. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    Why Is There No Swearing In YA Books? (or at least the one's I've read)

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by TLK, Jul 14, 2013.

    Teenagers swear, fact.

    And actually, as someone who fits into the category of YA, the language people my age use is pretty vulgar. Using three completely unrelated but all rather offensive words for no other reason than that you've dropped your phone is quite commonplace.

    But, for some reason, there's hardly any swearing in YA books, or at least the ones I've read. "Bloody Hell" and "Crap" come up a lot, but that's not exactly what I'm on about here. As far as I'm concerned, swearing in YA books is not going to make the readers' language more vulgar.

    I'm asking this because I'm writing a YA novel at the moment and have really been wanting to put swearing into it, but have stopped myself. I'm not wanting to do it for the hell of it, but because my characters (both teenage and adult) find themselves in some pretty dire situations and "oh darn we do seem to be in a bit of a pickle" isn't what, realistically, these people would be saying. I'm not wanting to put really offensive language in, but I think a "holy sh*t" from time to time would be beneficial.

    So, yeah, problems.

    Thoughts?
     
  2. sanco
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    sanco Contributing Member

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    Go for it.

    I have no insight into how it would affect your chances of getting published or if they'd ask to have you edit it down, but I think that's a stylistic choice. Some writers would prefer things a little cleaner than others.

    Personally, I'm on your side and find it more realistic when characters cuss when it's appropriate.
     
  3. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    YA/Teen books have swearing, explicit sexual language and depictions, and deal with all sort of issues that affect the lives of teens and young adults (rape, murder, suicide, drugs, and so on). You may not have read them, but they are out there. If that's how you want to write your story, the fact that it is YA shouldn't stop you.
     
  4. TimHarris
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    TimHarris Senior Member

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    I agree. People swear, and having your characters be pissed off, full of emotion and having a hard time restraining themselves just makes them more human. I think it's fine to use swear words as long as it's suitable to both the character and the story. Do it too much, and your reader might wonder why you didn't bother/was unable to properly convey the emotions of your character without daisy chaining swear words together.

    As for publishing, I have no clue how the use of swear words would affect that. I would guess it does not matter as long as you keep it down.
     
  5. AnonyMouse
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    AnonyMouse Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have always been a supporter of writing characters exactly as they are. Don't clean them up. Don't dumb them down. Let the characters speak for themselves. I feel this is an important part of writing the best story you can. I would rather present my very best to an agent/publisher and be rejected or told to "clean it up," than to present something that doesn't 100% reflect what I wanted to write. There's a market for nearly anything. And, as Steerpike pointed out, there are plenty of YA books with mature subject matters, swearing being the least of them.


    But what if that is a proper conveyance of the character's emotions? I know some people are of the belief that swearing means you can't come up with something better, but the fact of the matter is these words exist for a reason and people use them in that way (daisy-chaining) in real life. There are connotations attached to them which cannot be substituted. "Fucking" is not the same as "having sex." "Holy shit" is not the same as "uh oh." Not every character behaves this way, but the ones who do should get their proper treatment.

    As for excessive swearing... anything in excess is a problem. Some people get their knickers in a bunch when a character says "fuck" every other sentence, but wouldn't it be equally obnoxious if s/he said "cool?" "I'm cool. He's cool. She's cool. We're cool. They're cool. That's cool. It's cool. Everything's cool, man." Yuck. The words aren't the problem. The repetition is. But, once again, that's how some people speak. I went through a phase a few years ago where everything was "awesome." It happens. So glad I grew out of that... :rolleyes:
     
  6. redreversed
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    redreversed Active Member

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    No swearing in YA? I found plenty.
     
  7. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    YA novels aren't written for young adults. They are written for their parents. No parent of a thirteen year old girl would have let her read Twilight if it had been full of swearing and sex. Teens are vulgar, fact. But every parent believes their child is innocent and pure and won't subject them to inappropriate writing. Period. I'm surprised no one on here realized this before.

    Go ahead and write it how you want. Good luck getting published, though.
     
  8. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Lea, as noted above, there are plenty of Teen/YA books with explicit language, sexual depictions, and very mature topics across the same spectrum as those addressed in adult books. They get published all the time.

    Chuck Wendig wrote a nice piece on YA fiction that I've linked before. Two paragraphs relevant to this conversation:

    The idea that YA books can contain vulgarity or adult situations is a misperception. If you browse the Teen/YA section at the closest Barnes & Noble, it doesn't take long to see that it's not true.

    Paragraphs linked above are here: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2013/06/04/25-things-you-should-know-about-young-adult-fiction/
     
  9. Kita
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    Kita Senior Member

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    I find that military fictions usually incorporate plenty of swearing, especially if they were written by a ex squaddie. I often would put down a modern military book if they didn't because that's how soldiers are. They swear often, have inappropriate names for pretty much everything and do some weird stuff in their spare time...I spend far too much time around soldiers.

    Forgot to mention, Chris Ryan is a good example of this.
     
  10. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Writers want to appeal to the biggest range of readers. Overdoing it on the swearing could cut your
    readship. Even if kids swear the idea is to make dialogue authentic without being repetitive or
    headache indusing. Plus swearing has gotten so clouded the character could swear when he's
    happy, sad, angry, embarrassed - leaving it doubly hard to show range or excavate his real emotions.

    Swear - but like anything in writing - don't over do it.
     
  11. Steve Day
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    Steve Day Senior Member

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    You are a writer, not a stenographer. Sure kids swear a lot today, probably more than adults.
    If Dad is always saying "G D F'ing M F'ers", and you hardly hear it. but if Mom uses the "F" word- look out!
    Point being, swearing in moderation carries more weight than a string of barracks expletives.

    For an interesting take on swearing take a look at Barry Balwin's "Classical Swearing: A Vade-Mecum."

    ://www.shattercolors.com/nonfiction/baldwin_swearing.htm

    “Man invented curse-words to give form and substance to his malign wishes, and he invented swear-words to back up his vows and establish his veracity.” - Burges Johnson, The Lost Art of Profanity (1948)
     
  12. CyberFD
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    CyberFD Member

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    I feel like dropping a swear every now and then is okay. Just don't let it run rampant through your story, because immense amounts of language can distract a reader.

    Also [MENTION=53668]TLK[/MENTION] - You've got yourself a damn fantastic avatar.
     
  13. maskedhero
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    maskedhero Active Member

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    Teenagers swear, but most adults don't want them to. When teenagers start publishing YA novels, swearing might follow.
     
  14. Cydramech
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    Cydramech Member

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    I don't know about YA novels in general, but I would say the language of swearing should be treated no different from any other item of dialog in general. If you want to portray a character as someone that curses, then go for it; vice versa otherwise.
     
  15. Dryriver
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    Dryriver Senior Member

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    I presume you are talking about expressions like "fuck", "shit", "fuck this", "that's fucked up", "when the shit hits the fan", "same shit different day", "we are so fucked", "oh for fuck's sake", "that's so shitty of him", "shit I am slow today" and similar.

    I know plenty of people - 30 - 50 year old adults - who use those expressions and similar in real life all the time.

    If a character's trait is that he/she likes to curse a lot, then the character should CURSE BELIEVABLY in the novel, even if it is a YA novel.

    Oh and yes - real life teenagers curse a lot, so a young character in a YA novel cursing is pretty normal...

    My 2 Cents
     
  16. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that the reason you probably find that a smaller percentage of YA books contain swearing is due to the fact that publishers want the books to go in libraries, too. And when you get into libraries (which are public entities) and especially school libraries and anything that is school - related, that is, school recommended, teacher recommended, part of a school curriculum, etc., you are involved with school boards and parents. This brings out all of the kooks. The parent who doesn't want her precious darlings to know about death, or sex, or, horror of horrors, swear words (her little Johnny is never going to say "fuck!" He doesn't even know what it means, and God forbid he should come across the word and ask her what it means!)

    One parent can bring about a tremendous brouhaha with respect to schools (or public libraries) with respect to a single book. Many schools and local governments don't want to deal with this kind of controversy, and many will do what they can to avoid it, which often means giving in. Also, many of these folks get onto the local school boards or local governments, because not enough people pay attention to these elections, so there are many parts of the country where these public entities are run by wackos.

    Knowing this, some publishers don't want to bother with the potential for acrimony, or take the risk that there will be some kind of campaign against the book. (Of course, there is the very real possibility that this kind of campaign only increases the visibility of the book and ends up increasing sales, but not every publisher wants to risk alienating some large group of target readers or the guardians of these target readers.)

    There are probably more and more publishers willing to take the risk, especially with the ease of obtaining books today. But I think insofar as the problem with swearing exists, the parental issue is the reason for it.
     
  17. Steve Day
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    Steve Day Senior Member

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    One parent can bring about a tremendous brouhaha with respect to schools (or public libraries) with respect to a single book.

    Huck Finn is still not on the shelves of many school libraries!
    And forget about a kid getting their hands on a copy of The Nigger of the Narcissus! Oh, the horror!- wait, that's another Conrad novel. Or was it Marlon Brando?
     

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