Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Swearing in books.

In real life I swear.Lost keys, a bus running late and overcooked pasta will all make me swear. We all do it.

Where the game changes is when I read. Usually the first one or two on a page stick in my mind. There are obviously characters and scenes which lend themselves to swearing - someone walking in on their lover with another for example.

I can´t imagine too many people saying:

Goodness me! Why are you in our bed with another? 

It just doesn´t cut it  in today's gritty world.

What I don´t like is swearing for swearings stake. Some authors and screenwriters push swearing prehaps to fill space. F this and F ( or maybe even C) that on every page.  On one hand,there is a strong desire to reproduce the actual or real language of the characters. On the other hand maybe people would already assume that the characters would swear - why include it in the dialogue?

I am struggling with this idea in my own work. A have a coming of age story and my main character is 22 years old. Most 22 year old males swear. I did. Trying to justify and exclude situations to minimise the swearing is proving to be a difficult task.

So here are my questions :

1) Do you acknowledge swearing in print?

2) If so, how much do you tolerate?

and most importantly

3) Is it possible to write scenes of strong conflict between adult characters and NOT include any swearing?


Erica said...

I also have a 22 year old MC, though female, Rocky has a bit of a foul mouth. I think it's unrealistic and- frankly- boring to write a 20-something without using controversial language. Though it also depends on the context of the book (and genre), the occasional f bomb in my prose is peanuts next to things like drug use or premarital sex. But, like you said, the key is that every last syllable is crucial to the story and couldn't possibly be achieved otherwise. Never shock for the sake of shock value.
Great post!

Hilary said...

I can't tell you about the writing end of things but from a reader's perspective, I have no problem with sharp language if it's appropriate to the setting, the individual(s) using it or the general nature of the story. If used for reasonable effect it can certainly enhance the message. If used liberally and excessively it can lead to my closing the book (or ending a movie.. etc). I would imagine that for an author, it would have to feel/sound right or its awkward placement would be felt by the readers. Good luck.

wordsareforwriting said...

Never shock for shock's sake - I think you've hit it on the head there Erica.I think your comment about how to approach certain topic matter is very true as well.

A significant amount of people out in real world swear for swearing' s sake. I think beyond the most hardcore characters, this isn´t really desirable in print. It would just become too much.

Hilary - many readers and audiences also feel the same way.I have a very low tolerance for violence in films. Unless it is really crucial to the storyline, I am not buying into it!