August 26, 2011 at 8:02 pm #2981
Here’s a great article from Agent Sarah at Curtis Brown Ltd on swearing in novels. What are your thoughts on what’s appropriate?August 27, 2011 at 12:28 am #4378
I don’t write YA, currently anyway, so my opinion is more for adult fiction, though I might venture into YA at some point.
Anyway, I agree with Sarah in that any swear words should be appropriate and natural to the character, setting, and plot. In my paranormal romance series, one half of my main couple is almost always an Enforcer – roughly equivalent to a special forces soldier, or a law enforcement rapid response team member. They tend to swear regularly. 😉
One of my Enforcers, from a currently shelved manuscript, was of noble birth, raised in a time when coarse language was frowned upon for the nobility. His worst swearing was an occasional ‘damn’ in extreme circumstances, when it looked like the bad guys were bound to win.
The MMC in my current WIP is a heavy metal musician and a 300+ yr old vampire. The F-bomb is part of his everyday speech patterns. The FMC is the Enforcers, and her language is less ‘colorful’, but hell and damn are her most frequent swear words, and it takes more to make her swear.
I’ve read books where the swearing seemed to be more for shock value than any real purpose of the plot or character. To me, that’s as bad as the soldier in desperate combat who confines himself to ‘golly’ or ‘darn’ just because the writer doesn’t like swear words, or thinks the potential readers wouldn’t.August 28, 2011 at 3:56 am #4379
Great topic, Laura. And actually, one of concern to me recently. I also agree w/Sarah on the fact that swearing should be character/situation appropriate — not just for the sake of “shock value” or trying to appeal to teen readers who only want to read/listen to/watch things that will make their parents have a heart attack.
But I sure do with there was some sort of warning label for books. The Magicians (Grossman) was recommended to me as a YA novel. What? There’s more cursing and sex in that thing than most adult novels I’ve read in the last few years. But I do think it’s a good example of where cursing is done appropriately. It fit the character/tone of the book.
Now, here’s something I don’t get (and feel free to beat me like the whomping willow if you disagree): Mrs. Weasly’s infamous b***h moment in the last Harry Potter book. It felt completely awkward IMHO. The whole series has been devoid of even the most meager swear words.. damn, shite, etc. Then this pops up out of nowhere. Huh? Call me mad.
But, overall I’m not real big on the swearing. I’ve been reading so much of it lately, seeing it at the movies (wouldn’t Bridesmaids have been just as funny without all the cursing??), and I certainly don’t think encouraging it is the best idea. Saying s**t when you stub your toe is one thing, but if all teenagers have to read/watch are characters that drop the f-bomb every other word because they can’t come up with a better descriptor… well, you can only be saturated with so much culture before you start to meld with it. At least somewhat. Just human nature. And just my two cents.August 28, 2011 at 4:21 am #4380
Wow, I didn’t know about the F bomb in Harry Potter! I haven’t made it that far in the series.
And I can curse with the best of them (when I see fit), but at the risk of sounding like an old lady it p*sses me off (I’m being ironic) when scripts use swear words for want of a more creative vocabulary or for lack of humor. I see comedians do it ALL the time. Instead of a joke or a good come back, they use a few hundred curse words. It doesn’t work for me.
Bridesmaids would have been even funnier IMHO, great example!August 28, 2011 at 2:09 pm #4381
@laura – To clarify, it wasn’t the F bomb in Harry Potter, but the B bomb. Sorry for the spoiler. And it’s nice to know someone agrees with me about Bridesmaids!August 29, 2011 at 4:27 am #4382
I don’t watch, or read, comedy for precisely that reason. Comedians and comedy writers seem to have the impression that profanity, vulgarity, and stupidity, are funny. As Laura said, instead of jokes or good comebacks, it’s easier to throw in the swearing, or rely on crudeness. At least, that’s what seems to make it into the final product, from the admittedly small snippets I’ve been subjected to in advertising and by accident.
IMO, animals and small children are far funnier than adults acting stupid, making fun of others, or displaying their repertoire of nastiness.August 31, 2011 at 11:17 pm #4383
Considering what a potty mouth I have, there’s hardly any swearing in my stories. Weird.September 2, 2011 at 7:16 pm #4384
I’m trying to think of all the stories I’ve written and I don’t think I’ve even put a swear word in any of them, I just don’t see the need for it most of the time. I just won an ARC copy of a book being released later this week and started reading it today…there’s a lot of swearing in it and I find myself cringing when I come across it- I’m just not used to it. It’s used appropriately in this novel I’m reading but because it’s not something I go out of my way to read, it still has some shock factor.
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