Swear Words in Fiction!

Before I start, I want to say: “I am NOT sorry if I offend anyone.”  I’ll tell you why:  One of the greatest lessons ever taught to me was “say what you mean.”  I won’t tell you to “please go away” if I really mean “fuck off!”  It takes away the impact of the demand if you play it down for the sake of courtesy and propriety.

What does this have to do with writing?  Everything.

Getting to the point in fiction writing while still giving it the impact that you want it to make upon the reader is an art form.

Cursing is not.  That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its uses.

I cuss like a sailor, but not all of my characters do.  Lulabelle doesn’t curse often, and when she does it seems hilariously out of place, giving a light to the moment.  Z swears like it’s her job, but Gage feels that it’s beneath him to talk in such a manner, especially during the times he’s around an ‘uncivilized’ sort of people.  As if refraining from cursing is a way to keep his respectability in the mire of filth through which Z continuously drags him.  When Gage swears it has an impact.  When Z swears, it’s simple conversation.

In that way, it aids a small portion of characterization for my cast.  It’s useful.

In narrative, I think that cursing should be used a bit more selectively, if at all.  If your main character hires a whore, and he’s ashamed and eager to get off and get gone, odds are… he fucked her.  If your heroine finally falls into bed with the man she’s always been in love with, it may or may not have been a desperate, needy fucking.  Maybe they made love.

ALSO!  Making up curse words and vulgarities for fiction is fun.  It may not have any real significance in reality, but the way your character says it, the context will tell you “I bet you wouldn’t hear a ten-year-old spout that off in front of his mother.”  It makes your world and language unique, and, once again, it deepens your characterization through the linguistic style and culture of the place s/he comes from.

In short, I love curse words.  They have their uses, and they make my characters richer (to some degree).  I like to make sure I say what I mean. ~



Filed under Writing

4 responses to “Swear Words in Fiction!

  1. Yaaaaaaaaay! I love your honesty. And I’m sorry, but what is the big fucking deal people have with curse words? I mean, why do so many people become horrified by it? I’d rather have someone curse at me for hours than hit me, for instance.

    You’re right, it’s quite useful in characterization, if used carefully, but I agree about narrative. Narrative should be either vulgar or not, but anywhere in between can throw the reader a bit off.

    • I agree, to some extent, that cursing has its time and place. Not in front of kids for example, but with my friends, in public or private, if there aren’t kids present (and I’m not at work), I’ll swear whenever I damn well please.

      Cursing and coffee. <3 Two things I can't seem to live without. =P

      • Erin M

        I’m going to agree with both of you on the cursing count. It definitely has its uses in fiction, and I think people get way too offended by bad words in general (although I don’t actually like being called rude names! . . . It’s more the intent than the word). When I’m by myself I’ll curse like a blue-streaky-sailor if the occasion calls for it; however, I usually do try to refrain from saying what I really mean in polite company. I can act refined. But mainly it is acting =P

  2. I think polite company joins ‘little kids’ in “who I shouldn’t say things that will get me slapped in front of.” XD

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