Swear words or profanities are used in almost all pieces of literature today. My question is about the usage of them. Sometimes you might read or write a piece of work where the main character’s bad language becomes somewhat prolific. General advice has always been to stay clear of using such words but to avoid them might not be true to the characters. And here lies my dilemma.
‘Well *@%~ me, Bill! What can I say?’
This depends on who your readers are. I’ve used swear words/profanities, at some points in both of my novels, but I’d never dream of using them if I was writing a children’s book or a book of religion.
Times and trends change, but I still believe the mainstream market doesn’t like lots of swearing – it’s all depends on whether it’s appropriate to the tale. I think the market plays a huge part here in dictating what type of characters you create. This being so, the problem should solve itself. Some characters won’t ring true unless they swear and the market will then accept the swearing in this case.
But you still run the risk of offending someone as you cannot always be sure just who is going to read your piece! My mother was very proud and pleased when I handed her a paperback copy of The Assassins’ Village, but she did admit that the bad language employed by my heroine when she was under duress made it difficult for her to read.
There are ways round this. I wouldn’t substitute a harsh swear word for something banal like “oh darn it”, I’d be more inclined to say , “she swore violently”. There again you could show the character’s anger by their action or thoughts –or by simple omission – describing a look or a body action.
It comes down to genre, potential readership and the setting and era of your storyline, using realism as the key and being aware that readers can be turned off by bad language, especially if it’s too gratuitous.
I believe I’m a moderate profanity user. I occasionally use the F word, different assorted B words but never the C word, which is the one word most readers find offensive. And hopefully I’m always within the context of my dialogue. Remember less is often more.
Yes I curse when I drop something heavy on my foot, or I miss the last train home, but it is tedious to read a constant F word throughout a book.
So research your market! What do you think?
Good reading to you all and thank you for your interest.
Faith will be a regular contributor to the Independent Writers Association.
You can also read other blog posts by Faith on her website http://www.faithmortimersauthor.com
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