Swearing in Fiction

Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Cazzara, Aug 8, 2018.

  1. Alan Aspie

    Alan Aspie Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2018
    Messages:
    518
    Likes Received:
    333
    Imagination, creativity and language skills are big part of reading pleasure. And pace is very important.

    1. Too much of anything same turns many readers away.

    If I overuse "often", "impact” and/or ”door” it turns readers away. With swearwords... Multiply by ten.

    As a reader my first thought would be "doesn't he/she have large vocabulary.

    2. If it makes story more interesting, it's good, if not, it's not good. You must ask yourself and your beta readers how they feel.

    When they say, it's good, take 20-30% away.

    3. I'm a reader. I spend 15 euros to a book. Then author throws a load of crap to my face. It does matter - to me.
     
  2. Adenosine Triphosphate

    Adenosine Triphosphate Old Scratch Contributor

    Joined:
    May 24, 2014
    Messages:
    1,129
    Likes Received:
    678
    Location:
    USA
    Curse words are part of life, so I think it makes sense to have characters use them, however much or little you need for the effect you're trying to create. I've read novels where the characters said "fuck" an astronomical number of times, and while it gave them a rougher feel, sometimes that's what the author is going for. IMO the real trap isn't so much having them curse too much as having them curse as a substitute for the real meaning of their speech, but I've read plenty of articulate, even scientific dialogue with large amounts of cursing.

    However, I second what Alan said about how too much of anything can turn readers away.

    Coprolalia (involuntary swearing) is a relatively uncommon symptom for people with Tourette syndrome. Simpler motor and vocal tics are more common.
     
  3. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2018
    Messages:
    192
    Likes Received:
    255
    I think its hard to give a general answer for your questions. People are different. I heard swear words growing up but my family never swore (in the house or around me), so it was never a part of my vocabulary. With that being said, I cant stand hearing excessive amounts of swearing. I know people who, every-other word out of their mouths is a swear word (my coworker, for example... every other word is "M-effer"). However, a swear word here or there doesnt bother me. same withr eading swear words. It doesnt bother me.... its hardly noticeable if its used sparingly. If it is a part of a character trait (like in my WIP there is a particularly vulgar character), then it doesnt bother me. yet, if the narrator/voice/writer uses swearing (ex. "his shirt was an ugly shit colored brown" or "The bitch had the nerve to....") then it takes me out of the story
     
  4. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    May 20, 2012
    Messages:
    4,065
    Likes Received:
    2,695
    Location:
    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    I just finished a first draft and I'm starting to edit and going through sort-of your dilemma -- my characters feature two teenage boys and some angry directors and I averaged about two to three f bombs per page. During a re-read though it's a bit much. And I'm with Deadrats on this they start to lose their impact. I'm going to
    cull them out not just specifically but also because there's too much dialogue going on. So the plan is -- clip dialogue, occasionally turn reactions into statements -- i.e. Finlay cursed and switch up the reactions so they don't become so predictable. Swearing is repetitious and it can become a predictable response, a killer for any writer wanting to keep ahead of their readers.
    1. yes. definitely. And even the ones that don't care have their limits. The trouble with swearing is it can become frilly -- it can be an adjective an adverb not just a noun and sometimes it's more of a mouthful to add it than clip it -- it's the difference between get to the point or get to the f'n point. One sounds more savage but only if it's unexpected.
    2. My pet peeves are creative swearing-- some works, a lot doesn't, c*nt & when females call each other bitch.
    3. Sure. But you have to ask yourself as a writer what am I really doing -- being creative or being sloppy. It's easy to write a tough character with violence and swearing much harder without them.
    I also watch that I don't fall into the trap of trying to excuse my decisions with it's more real this way as I'm coming to learn more and more that writing and stories are hyper-fiction they're not real nor are they fully intended to be real that's their pleasure. So to fall back on that does me a disservice -- realism will come less from the swearing and more from the way I shape my fiction through theme and intent.
     
    cutecat22 likes this.
  5. exweedfarmer

    exweedfarmer Senior Member

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2016
    Messages:
    415
    Likes Received:
    221
    Location:
    Undecided.
    Well, it didn't hurt Catcher in the Rye. I like to use curse words as punctuation. It stops the reader for half a beat, or, it can be a joke. For example you have a character who is usually well spoken and suddenly responds with a half hearted expression of disappointment "shit..."
    I'm in favor of using ANY word (yeah, even that one) if it adds to the story.
     
    Shenanigator likes this.
  6. Irina Samarskaya

    Irina Samarskaya Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2018
    Messages:
    291
    Likes Received:
    138
    Even the G-word??? (according to some Holywood creep, "Gash" is even more offensive than cunt lol).

    Maybe it's because of my environment, but cursing has no shock value unless done by someone that never does it.
     
    Shenanigator likes this.
  7. exweedfarmer

    exweedfarmer Senior Member

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2016
    Messages:
    415
    Likes Received:
    221
    Location:
    Undecided.
    "Gash" is offensive? ...Fuck!
     
    Shenanigator and Cave Troll like this.
  8. Irina Samarskaya

    Irina Samarskaya Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2018
    Messages:
    291
    Likes Received:
    138
    Apparently lol. Gashhead!
     
    Cave Troll likes this.
  9. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2015
    Messages:
    11,839
    Likes Received:
    12,343
    Location:
    Where cushions are comfy, and straps hold firm.
    Good thing axe wound hasn't been put on the offensive list. :p
     
    Irina Samarskaya likes this.
  10. Irina Samarskaya

    Irina Samarskaya Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2018
    Messages:
    291
    Likes Received:
    138
    Now that I think about it, "properly offensive" would be "oi bruv, I got me an axe here. Am I gonna use it, or are you gonna lose it?"

    I mean, actually threatening somebody is a lot more offensive than curse words lol. Especially if taken literally (heck actually chopping somebody with an axe is more offensive than any string of words could ever hope to be lol).
     
    Cave Troll likes this.
  11. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2015
    Messages:
    11,839
    Likes Received:
    12,343
    Location:
    Where cushions are comfy, and straps hold firm.
    I am using it in context to a ladies nethers. :p
    There is a whole list on both guy and gal bits
    slang terms in another thread. :D
     
    Irina Samarskaya likes this.
  12. cutecat22

    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2014
    Messages:
    2,781
    Likes Received:
    1,402
    Location:
    England
    Gash? as a swear?
    Gash like a bucket ... maybe?
     
    Cave Troll likes this.
  13. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    12,465
    Likes Received:
    6,777
    Location:
    California, US
    Slang for vagina, though I haven't heard anyone actually use it that way since at least the early 90s.
     
    cutecat22 likes this.
  14. Adenosine Triphosphate

    Adenosine Triphosphate Old Scratch Contributor

    Joined:
    May 24, 2014
    Messages:
    1,129
    Likes Received:
    678
    Location:
    USA
    Curse words follow an interesting hierarchy. When you look at what they literally mean, "damn" and "hell" seem like they should be a lot worse than "fuck", but that's not how it works socially.
     
  15. cutecat22

    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2014
    Messages:
    2,781
    Likes Received:
    1,402
    Location:
    England
    I knew it existed, as a slang for a fanny, (in the UK the fanny is the vagina not the butt) but I don't think I've ever heard it used in conversation. I've probably heard it referred to as a bearded clam more than a gash.
     
  16. exweedfarmer

    exweedfarmer Senior Member

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2016
    Messages:
    415
    Likes Received:
    221
    Location:
    Undecided.
    Actually, I find not-swearing can be more effective. Rather that saying gash, or pussy, or any of the thousands of slang terms, try vulva. In some cases folks will have to scurry for the dictionary only to find that they never really knew the proper term in the first place. One of my favorite lines from my first book in the current series describeds a not very attractive woman in a shower. "She had uneven breasts and more labia minora than anyone would know what to do with short of a sail maker."
     
    cutecat22 and Cave Troll like this.
  17. Lemie

    Lemie Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2015
    Messages:
    1,352
    Likes Received:
    1,794
    Location:
    Sweden
    Fanny - now that is a word I can't stand. I had to remove it from @LostThePlot vocabulary.

    It's not offensive, though, just ugly and childish.
     
  18. Kipski

    Kipski New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2015
    Messages:
    8
    Likes Received:
    2
    Completely depends on the subject matter, in my opinion. If it makes sense that the character would curse, or say something vile than the character should do that. If you have a character that is supposed to be a hateful racist pig, he or she shouldn't sound like a stereotypical "Stepford Wife". Then again, it might work for certain stories. It just has to fit the work.
     
    Cave Troll likes this.
  19. Writersaurus

    Writersaurus Member

    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2018
    Messages:
    90
    Likes Received:
    88
    Location:
    Milton Keynes, England
    There are worse words than fanny. They rhyme with 'runt' and 'hat'...
     
  20. Lemie

    Lemie Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2015
    Messages:
    1,352
    Likes Received:
    1,794
    Location:
    Sweden
    Think you missed one of my earlier post. I like words that rhymes with runt.

    I don't mind ones rhyming with hat either.

    I assume we're talking about cunt and twats here.

    Like I said fanny is just and ugly word. Used by adults it's right out cringe worthy.
     
  21. Writersaurus

    Writersaurus Member

    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2018
    Messages:
    90
    Likes Received:
    88
    Location:
    Milton Keynes, England
    Wow, potty mouths. :D
     
    Carly Berg likes this.
  22. Lemie

    Lemie Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2015
    Messages:
    1,352
    Likes Received:
    1,794
    Location:
    Sweden
    No, no, no. People already had that conversation in another thread. Twat ryhms with hat unless you're an American and in that case you mispronounce it ;)
     
    Carly Berg likes this.
  23. S-wo

    S-wo Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 11, 2008
    Messages:
    350
    Likes Received:
    15
    How common is it for a book to have cussing in it? I'm not even sure if I even read any? Is it by design or are people just used to not seeing that they're not putting it in their works subconsciously? I know I'll eventually write a book with a lot of cussing in it.
     
  24. exweedfarmer

    exweedfarmer Senior Member

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2016
    Messages:
    415
    Likes Received:
    221
    Location:
    Undecided.
    Some people curse a lot just as part of normal speech. I used to work with a man who said f*** in the same place where other people would have said "ah" indicating a hesitation. I have a recurring character who is a tiny homosexual woman who curses a blue streak whenever she opens her mouth, it's just her idiom. If you're going to accurately represent persons of that type, you'll have to use some naughty words.
     
  25. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Not a Fucking Doormat Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2017
    Messages:
    3,570
    Likes Received:
    5,174
    Context is everything. If the character would swear, have them swear.

    In my current WIP, my MC's old-world sensibilities, combined with the year in which the story takes place, mean that he only swears out of earshot of women.

    My next book takes place on a major rock tour in 1989, with lots of things going wrong on the tour. There is no way in hell they wouldn't swear. ETA: It would read as bad comedy if they didn't.
     
    cutecat22 likes this.

Share This Page