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Swearing

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Fri Jan 28, 2011 3:42 am
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Talulahbelle says...



I have a character that seems to want to be a potty mouth. It comes naturally to him and I can't break him from it. Do you think that its okay for characters to swear? Not excessively, of course, just on occasion. Or, do you know of a way to allude to the fact that he's cussing with actually using the word in a way that doesn't disrupt the reader?
Thanks for your help!
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Fri Jan 28, 2011 9:51 am
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Alpha says...



Hi!
In The Mediator series, by Meg Cabot, Suze's brothers swear a lot. For example,in book three, Jake says,
" What a freakin' jerk."

Then Suze thinks "
...Only he didn't say freakin'. Or jerk.
"
So this way, we know that he swears without reading it. Same effect minus the awkwardness.
Another example, in Jinx (different book, same author) , she ,Jinx, thinks,
" this time she {Tory, Jinx's cousin} really said the F word."
Or something like that.
Hope this helps you!
Alpha
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Fri Jan 28, 2011 5:09 pm
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Talulahbelle says...



Yeah, it does. I thought about doing it that way, but I wasn't sure if it would work since I'm writing in 3rd person, but I'll try it out. I don't mind swearing, but I know that some people are bothered by it so I don't want to over do it, you know?
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Fri Jan 28, 2011 5:31 pm
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Lauren2010 says...



It depends on what audience you're writing for. If you're writing for kids in the middle school, early high school range then yeah try and censor as much as you feel is appropriate. But if you're writing for older (late high school, college, adult) then chances are they've heard those words before and aren't going to be very phased by it. Especially if it's only every so often, and not every other word is a swear.
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Fri Jan 28, 2011 5:37 pm
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Jetpack says...



Firstly, it depends where you're aiming at - young teenagers, or the 16+ grouping. If it's the latter, I'd just write as it comes and make sure you rate accordingly. If it's the former, I'd avoid a few of the stronger swear words if you can, but don't restrict yourself too much.

I say that because sometimes, a character can come across as weaker if you're in a situation where you're substituting random words for swear words. If you mention that a character deliberately doesn't swear for moral reasons, or you can construct an argument without reaching a point where characters need language to express their points, you can try it, but the language a character uses is unquestionably part of their development - and swearing is a part of that. It's about choosing when it's appropriate for your character to swear because it suits their voice and their emotions at that moment.

This is an excellent blog post on the subject. It deals with young adult fiction. I hope it's useful. :)




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Fri Jan 28, 2011 5:41 pm
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AquaMarine says...



Alpha wrote:In The Mediator series, by Meg Cabot, Suze's brothers swear a lot. For example,in book three, Jake says,
" What a freakin' jerk."

Then Suze thinks "
...Only he didn't say freakin'. Or jerk.
"
So this way, we know that he swears without reading it. Same effect minus the awkwardness.
Another example, in Jinx (different book, same author) , she ,Jinx, thinks,
" this time she {Tory, Jinx's cousin} really said the F word."


See, I think that this works up to an extent, but to me it sounds kind of patronising, which isn't great. It also distracts me from a story far more than simply saying the word would, as it sounds unnatural.

In general, I feel that you need to judge this (as Lauren said) based on the age group you're writing for. Consider it a little like the ratings on YWS, and so include the swearing as appropriate! You could always just add in '-name- swore' without specifying exactly what they said.
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Thu Feb 17, 2011 3:57 am
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Lena.Wooldridge says...



It really depends on the audience. If you're writing for middle school aged kids, then obviously you should keep the swearing to a minimum.

It's all about creating a believable character. Most people don't swear every sentence. It's kind of weird when they do.

Take Holden Caufield from "The Catcher in the Rye" for instance. He says "goddamn" at least once a page. However, this just adds to his character of sort of a phony badass.

In my own writing, I've found that I either write extremely formally or extremely informally. Usually I write from the POV of a disgruntled teenager, and so swearing is a big part of their vocabulary. There's some words I'd just never use, like c*nt or something. But most swearing, when artfully used, is okay.

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Mon Feb 21, 2011 9:57 pm
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purplegirl14 says...



Cursing in stories is okay. Just don't curse every other word that your character says. That gets kind of annoying. Also, make sure it's rated properly!

If you don't want to have many or any (hey, that rhymed! :smt003 ) curse words, there are always things you can do to avoid it. Say that the character cursed at the teacher. That Mr. Whoever-Your-Character-Is kept on saying the *insert desiered letter her* word. That after Martha spoke, her mom wanted to make her wash her mouth out with soap. Or maybe have Mrs. Teacher-Lady lecture the student and say, "Don't say that if you wouldn't say it infront of your grandmother." (Sorry if that one's not good. It just what my teachers say :smt002 )

Let's say you do want to use curse words. Make sure that it isn't too offensive to a specific race, gender, religion, ect. Once again, the rating is important.

You could also post two versions of the story: One can have curse words, while the other you can keep clean

Or you could just do that if one chapter has a lot of cussing in it.

These are just my thoughts on it. Hope this helps you!




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Mon Feb 21, 2011 10:06 pm
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Snoink says...



When my characters swear, I usually have it go, "He swore and punched the nearest wall." Or something like that.

If it's important, I'll let them swear.

If it's ridiculous, they can swear, whatever.
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Mon Feb 21, 2011 10:19 pm
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Ego says...



This seems like a no-brainer to me. If it's in the character's a nature to swear every other sentence, then let him swear. Anyone will swear in the right circumstance. Even the most mild-mannered individual will swear on occasion. It's all about what's realistic for the setting, the character, and the circumstance he's in.

Finding little workarounds like mentioned above my Snoink and Alpha, quite honestly, will just soften the story.

Do what feels right for the moment.

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Thu Mar 24, 2011 4:25 am
psudiname says...



if you're charecter swears, then he swears, but it is vital that you make sure it doesn't sound forced. if it sounds like you purposefully put those words there just to catch people's attention, then it loses effect, so you want to make it subtle
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Mon Apr 04, 2011 6:37 pm
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YellowAeroplane says...



it's ok. do what you feel comfortable with. Maybe, instead of actually swearing, just write "He swore", "I swore" etc.
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Sun May 01, 2011 4:37 am
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ilyah says...



If your character just feels like he must swear, then there is probably no way to stop it. As so many others have said it really depends on your audience. Personally, I don't mind swearing as long as it is part of the character, not just in there for the sake of it!




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Sun May 01, 2011 7:56 pm
SmylinG says...



Personally, I don't think a little swearing can ever hurt a persons writing. I mean, of course it's not the best choice of vocabulary, but in moderation it can help you to build onto a character.

When I first read Catcher in the Rye, I didn't think that Salinger was completely mental for including the "F" word or the "B" word in his story. Because he tended to use other milder swear words along with the really bad ones. It also put a lot of really great character into his protagonist/anti-hero Holden. :D To this day it remains one of my favorite books in whole because of his main character.

I also feel that if swearing is a part of who your character is, then don't try and stand in the way of it. Just be careful on how you go about things as far as your writing is concerned. And if the moments in the story tend to be either slightly funny or just flat out serious, well swearing tends to fit into both categories very well. You must always choose your settings.
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Mon May 02, 2011 4:19 pm
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Shearwater says...



It depends on the audience, as everyone was saying.
But it also depends on the character you're writing. If he's a young but terrible kid then the chances that he knows these words are higher and the chances that he'll use them are too, higher.

Censor if you feel uncomfortable writing them, though. And if you don't like doing it, don't make your character into that type of person, right? lol

You have to consider a few things in the end and make a decision based on that. Is it okay to have a few? Okay to have none? Okay to do like Snoink said and say "he swore and punched the wall." Honestly though, I do the same if I feel like it's unnecessary to really write down the official word.
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