Monday, June 25, 2012

Using Curse Words in Your Story

Let me just tell you that I'm not much of a 'swearing' person.  On occasion I'll curse in my head, or if things are really bad (EXAMPLE: I realize all the edits I made last night weren't saved) a word might accidentally slip.  But usually I'll say it quietly and I'll cut myself off before I finish.

Swearing makes me uncomfortable.  Of course, it bothered me a lot more when I was younger than it does now.  Back then, saying 'crap' was a bad word.  But still, hearing people swear just makes me feel a little on edge.

Verbally, I have issues with swearing.

But for some reason, when it comes to writing, swearing and cursing is no problemo.

I don't know what it is.

Maybe it's because I don't feel like it's me cursing/swearing.  My story line has grown so much from what it was that I hardly have control over what my characters say.  THEY'RE the one's cursing, not me!

When I'm reading other stories, cursing doesn't bother me.  Maybe it's because I know the writer's trying to show me a character.  Not all people swear, so when you've got someone who does, it shows their character.  But if I hear swearing in an audio book, for some reason my opinion changes.

In my current trilogy Rise, I made up my own curse words.  It's a sci-fi/dystopian trilogy, so the made up curse words work (I hope).  But whether I'm using the actual words or made up versions of them, in writing I have no problem using them.

Do you guys use curse words in your work?  Are you uncomfortable using them?  Do you make up your own?  Please share!


Oh, just something random:  yesterday we went bike riding for almost twelve miles through really pretty forest (yes, we have pretty forests in Ohio).  It was so much fun, despite how much it hurt over time.  The one downside to it all was that near the very end, a bird pooped on me.

I honestly wish I was joking.


Happy Monday :)

--Jess

18 comments:

Kyra Lennon said...

I don't mind a little swearing in books, as long as it fits, if that makes sense? I read a book not so long ago that had curse words injected all over the place and it felt like they were there just because.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I write older YA and there's swearing in my stories. Mostly it's the guys who swear. I tone it down for the girls (some don't swear at all). And the characters only swear when it's needed for emphasis. In other words, they don't swear as much as real life teens. :)

Miranda Hardy said...

I don't mind reading the occasional curse word, but I find myself not using them too much. It really depends in my characters. I can see writing an edgy character now and then, but over doing it distracts from the scene, I think.

Good luck with your writing this week.

Julie Dao said...

I have a potty mouth sometimes. It usually comes out when I'm driving in the city with people who don't understand how to use turn signals or common courtesy. My characters usually never swear. If you're uncomfortable using certain words, there are many other ways you can have them express their anger/frustration. Great topic! And I have also had a bird poop on me... at the beach. It was not fun.

Jaime Morrow said...

This is an interesting topic and one that I've thought a lot about lately. I think you have to be true to your characters, and if your character just hit their elbow really hard on something, they'd probably drop an expletive. I would. It feels false when characters don't act 'in character', you know?

Having said that, I don't love reading the f-bomb in YA books. The occasional use doesn't usually bother me—it packs more of a punch if it's used infrequently—but overuse just feels either try-hard or borderline inappropriate.

Great post, and a great topic to think about and discuss! :D

Ginger said...

I rarely swear in real life - and I feel like the only one not to! In my stories, I only use local swears, as most of my stories are set in villages like mine - these swears may not be perceived as traditional swears and are more derogatory than curses. Although, if there is too much swearing in a story, I find the character looses his/her impact. Saying that, I find different characters would be expected to swear - angry, drunk old men would swear a lot more than children. It's up to you, but I think moderation is the best advice :)

Alyssa said...

I don't usually use swear words in my book because it makes me feel uncomfortable too. It's smart that you make up your own swear words! Biking 12 miles was really fun! Except for the bird part...

Carrie-Anne said...

My Atlantic City books are a mix of historical, social satire, and spoof, including young people who think they're all grown-up already, so there is a fair amount of cursing from my younger characters. Since I wrote the first drafts of the earliest books in these series by hand, I used symbols to represent the curse words.

I couldn't bring myself to type out the swears till 1999, when I was transcribing some of the books. Even then, I had to build myself up to it, like taking out one symbol and writing the rest of the letters, and then eventually filling in the blanks and writing the whole word from the start. Now it's no big deal at all, even though I don't curse much beyond "damn" in real life.

For my Russian novels, most of the curses and vulgarities are in Russian, though there is one F-bomb in the first book, and several in the sequel. They're used for a very good reason, not just to shock or titillate.

russell1200 said...

I don't use foul language all that often: swearing almost never.

Rarely is swearing going to add much to a story. Most of the time they are simply excalamtions without much content. I supose it could be used to signal that a person is a bit crude.

Voltech said...

I kind of bounce around on the subject. In real life, I've cursed maybe ten times altogether (half of which were reading lines from other characters). In my blog and other online postings, sometimes I curse -- typically to add some emphasis to my usual storm of words.

In my fiction...well, some characters curse and others don't. There's one guy who only does so once; there's a lady who only starts when it has really hit the fan; most of the others have a standard frequency. There's one, however, who would make even the crustiest sailor blush. Of course, given that he's SUPPOSED to try and look crass and tough, I'd say it's an acceptable deviation.

prerna pickett said...

it's a personal choice. Doesn't bother me when I'm reading it, and sometimes I use it when I write. I tend to stay away from the truly offensive ones.

Tobi Summers said...

It depends on the characters, but there's cursing in most of my books (not including my brief foray into MG). I cursed as a teenager, and I had some friends who did and some friends who vehemently didn't, and my characters can go either way. Doesn't bother me when I'm reading as long as it's not superfluous.

Krista McLaughlin said...

I rarely swear... except maybe when I'm extremely agitated during certain times of the month.... lol!

I do have some cursing in my novel, but granted the girl is cursing at her father because he murders children. It fits. I don't like to read a lot of cursing. It can turn me off in a book, but I do like the idea of having your own curse words so they aren't as offensive. :)

Daisy Carter said...

I'm exactly like you! I don't cuss IRL, ever. I do sometimes feel the need to mutter the first half of a shhhhh when I stump my toe, but that's it.

One of my characters in my current MS cusses up a storm. She has a potty mouth, for real. But it doesn't bother me at all.

So with you on this! Great topic!

Liz said...

Funny, I swear in real life all the time, but I don't use it in my writing. Then again, they aren't on Earth necessarily, so they don't swear like we would.

As for bird poop, it could have been worse. It could have fallen into your ear. (True story.)

Reiko said...

What are the chances of having a guano attack in a park!? I wonder if that Spanish word is a swear word, too... Love, Grandma

The Insolitus Lupus said...

You know what's odd? I'm just the opposite! I don't mind hearing or saying swearwords, but when I read them I get a little uncomfortable. Odd, isn't it?

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