Writing Forums

Writing Forums is a privately-owned, community managed writing environment. We provide an unlimited opportunity for writers and poets of all abilities, to share their work and communicate with other writers and creative artists. We offer an experience that is safe, welcoming and friendly, regardless of your level of participation, knowledge or skill. There are several opportunities for writers to exchange tips, engage in discussions about techniques, and grow in your craft. You can also participate in forum competitions that are exciting and helpful in building your skill level. There's so much more for you to explore!

Stories and bad words. (1 Viewer)

Status
Not open for further replies.

LadySilence

Senior Member
Stories and bad words.


Is it right to insert if the context requires it?
Or is it better to replace them?


I'm writing a short story, set in a prison.
The use of bad words, I find, "Normal".

I give an example:
Lunch time, one inmate spits into another inmate's plate.
"Please don't spit on my plate. Thanks."
"I'll spit on your plate again, because I don't like you and I'm bored"
I don't find it realistic, such a dialogue.

I find it more realistic:
"Hey son of CENSOR, as CENSOR you allowed yourself to spit in my plate, CENSOR"
"I spit where I want, CENSOR. CENSOR CENSOR"


I imagine a speech, much more vulgar, being the protagonists, locked in prison.




How do you regulate, with swear words, in your stories?
 

bdcharles

Wɾ¡ʇ¡∩9
Staff member
Media Manager
Nothing wrong with a good swear if the story requires it. I do see some stories where there is so much swearing so early in in an effort to establish voice and setting, that it seems a bit blunt-instrumentish. But other than that? Nothing wrong with a good swear at all.
 

Nicola

Senior Member
I struggle with the same issue. For me, I prefer not to use swearing too much in my writing (I am not much of a swearer anyway) but sometimes after spending ages trying to come up with a milder alternative, it just doesn't sound right. With your example above, it absolutely sounds better with the swearing as it's more realistic. Another thing I have done a couple of times is start the swear word but then cut it off where another character interrupts, but obviously this doesn't always work.
 

Foxee

Patron
Patron
One of my best writing friends, an older gentleman from Australia, would say of profanity, "Horses for courses. Put the right word in the right place."

If it's for a publication that wouldn't welcome swear words but you're writing a character who would there is also nothing wrong with saying, "He swore" or "she cursed".
 

LadySilence

Senior Member
I look for the right balance, between using them at the right time, and replacing them.
In a quarrel, some dirty word is normal.
In a banal speech, they are useless.


I was thinking of a street language, like in
"Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh"
 

luckyscars

WF Veterans
A lot of beginner/poor writers tend to overuse profanity because they believe it gives characters an 'edge' or achieves some sort of realism goal. I don't think a whole lot of people find swearing particularly edgy anymore -- maybe thirty years ago -- but swearing can obviously make a book more realistic. It would be weird having a couple of teenage boys say 'oh gosh darn it', right?

I tend to treat swear words a little bit like adverbs -- i.e. I reserve them only for when they are absolutely necessary. I think 'only when needed' is a pretty good perspective to have with ANY language, but given that most swear words are fairly ugly to most people and overuse can weaken effect, I think it's reasonable to take particular care not to overuse them. In YA it's particularly important to be careful with that stuff.

Maybe that's not a very fashionable opinion, I don't know. I may be in the minority: I find Samuel L Jackson -- a good actor -- extremely tiresome with his endless 'motherfuckers'. It hasn't been funny since 1985.
 

Cephus

Senior Member
Depending on the story and the audience, I throw them in if necessary. I don't do it just to do it like a lot of people do, but if you've heard young people these days, that's kind of normal and if that's what you're writing, you'd better make it sound authentic.
 

Foxee

Patron
Patron
Maybe that's not a very fashionable opinion, I don't know. I may be in the minority: I find Samuel L Jackson -- a good actor -- extremely tiresome with his endless 'motherfuckers'. It hasn't been funny since 1985.
I'm finding the same thing with Amazon Originals and the like. Story may be great but sometimes it feels like profanity is ladled in with enthusiasm to prove that they can use as much of it as they want, not because it serves the story. In that case it's just distracting and annoying. I used to enjoy watching Suits but when the profanity became more significant than anything else happening in the show I gave up.

Last night my husband and I were talking about how overused the f-word is and how hilarious it would be if everyone started using the word that it means in its place. So we were saying things like, "Get out there and move that sexing car!" and "I'm going to sexing make tacos and you can't stop me!"...and we ended up with the giggles.

So there's something fun to try if you're bored.
 

Tiamat

Patron
I agree with the others who've said to use them sparingly. Also for what it's worth, I subscribe to a number of well-regarded short fiction markets, and I've seen a fair share of F-bombs in things like The New Yorker and Clarkesworld, to name a couple. I've not seen a published piece in those markets that was heavily peppered with the swears, but a well-chosen "motherfucker" does not appear to be a deal-breaker.

Off topic: I disagree with the comment about Sam Jackson, but then, humor--much like writing--is quite subjective.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
Swear words are essential for authenticity in some cases. You don't need to use them all the time though. Just flavour the story with them here and there. The same goes for dialects.
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
A lot of beginner/poor writers tend to overuse profanity because they believe it gives characters an 'edge' or achieves some sort of realism goal. I don't think a whole lot of people find swearing particularly edgy anymore -- maybe thirty years ago -- but swearing can obviously make a book more realistic. It would be weird having a couple of teenage boys say 'oh gosh darn it', right?

I tend to treat swear words a little bit like adverbs -- i.e. I reserve them only for when they are absolutely necessary. I think 'only when needed' is a pretty good perspective to have with ANY language, but given that most swear words are fairly ugly to most people and overuse can weaken effect, I think it's reasonable to take particular care not to overuse them. In YA it's particularly important to be careful with that stuff.

Maybe that's not a very fashionable opinion, I don't know. I may be in the minority: I find Samuel L Jackson -- a good actor -- extremely tiresome with his endless 'motherfuckers'. It hasn't been funny since 1985.

I use swearing for emphasis - and if everything is emphasized, nothing is.

In my youth I hung with a LOT of sketchy people, and the 'f-bomb' is often so overused that it just becomes background noise - which in writing would be a wasted word.
Where's the FKN wrench?
Hey, grab me a FKN beer!
Where'd I park my FKN bike?
... the list is endless.

In my writing 'fuck' is almost never used - in my 7 books I think it's been used twice. Crap, shit, and damn are much more common, but still used sparingly - as luckscars said, overuse weakens the effect.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
I use swearing for emphasis - and if everything is emphasized, nothing is.

In my youth I hung with a LOT of sketchy people, and the 'f-bomb' is often so overused that it just becomes background noise - which in writing would be a wasted word.
Where's the FKN wrench?
Hey, grab me a FKN beer!
Where'd I park my FKN bike?
... the list is endless.

In my writing 'fuck' is almost never used - in my 7 books I think it's been used twice. Crap, shit, and damn are much more common, but still used sparingly - as luckscars said, overuse weakens the effect.


True, but the F-word and B-word have become so commonplace in daily language, if you watch reality TV, they don't even bleep them out. Many young people use them so abundantly, some I doubt even realize that they were once considered 'bad words' and may not even know the original usage. I think the effect is already weakened.

I'm using them in a humorous, playful way in my dialogue between highly educated professional people. It is what I had experienced myself in my industry. I think my target market will appreciate that usage and find it adds value to the writing. However, I may lose some. For example, I have to substitute them with not so bad words, for my beta reader who is a very religious, retired, elementary school English teacher.

 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
A lot depends on audience. I'd like my books to be acceptable for any age level, so I keep my expletives on the light side.

From the reader side, I don't have a problem with coarse language unless it's obviously being used just to use it. I started a sci fi book one time where the first chapter started off with dialogue between two characters. They weren't discussing anything emotional or objectionable to them, but the F-bombs flew right and left ... must have been 20 on the first page. I simply didn't want to read an entire book like that, so I shut it, permanently. The language didn't fit the circumstance. The author was trying to "impress the reader" that it was an adult book. That sort of goes with some discussion under another thread here. Entertain me, enlighten me, educate me, move me. Don't TRY to impress me. It leads to forced writing that gums up the story.

In a very odd example, I was reading a mystery book that would have been appropriate for any age, then suddenly in the middle of the book the author drops a single F-bomb ... the only one in the book. It was unwise and should have been caught by her editor. If the rest of the book is clean, why do that? I noticed several reviewers marked her book down for that one reason.
 

luckyscars

WF Veterans
I personally enjoy the word 'cunt'. I especially enjoy it when it's used against men: "Fred is a cunt". It's a nice, evocative Anglo-Saxon word with a long, proud history (they used to name roads in England where prostitutes hung out 'Gropecunt Lane', for instance). It amuses me how in America (probably Canada too, IDK) it's considered anathema but in the UK and Australia it's no big deal. I also think it's a word that should be normalized (as much as any swear word should) because I consider the idea of a 'cunt' being something more obscene than a 'dick' to be symptomatic of societal misogyny.
 

clark

Met3 Member
Staff member
Chief Mentor
Context is all. As a young man, I worked in logging camps, mine sites--bush camps, in other words. In the cookshack, fifty men eating dinner in two shifts tightly controlled by the cook (a tyrant but a superb cook), had you said, "Excuse me, fellows, would you please share the butter with this end of the table?". . . the meal would have ground to a halt while the guys stared at you, slack-jawed. If you wanted the butter right away, you said something like, "Would you assholes shoot the fuckin' butter down to this fuckin' end of the table?" The coarse language is neither right nor wrong, it is simply effective usage for that language group at that time. There is a story--I heard it 30 years ago--which, even if apocryphal, illustrates the principle well: The Duke of Edinburgh (Queen Elizabeth's husband) was apparently touring one of the Royal Family's landholdings around teatime one day, when a brazen cottager asked him if he'd care to join the family for a "cuppa". Prince Phillip took off his jacket, rolled up his sleeves, held his tea mug with the handle facing away from him, smacked his lips, and wiped his mouth on the back of his hand. THAT is good manners. Using the word "fuck" in a context where your character would definitely​ use it, is good writing IMO.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top