Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Cussing Ad Lib


*Check out this website with a comprehensive, alphabetized list of swear and cuss words. It'll make you blush. Then insert swear/cuss of choice into the following blanks.*

----!

I have a problem in my WIP.
Oh cussing. So ----- annoying. If you cuss too much in your writing, you get blamed for being so ----- rated R, or being shocking for the sake of being ------shocking.

-----!

I mean, really? -----!

I have some cussing in my YA WIP (the age range is 13 and upwards). I throw an F-bomb here and there. The inflammatory excrement word starting with "s" is occasionally used. But I'm paranoid that it's too much.


I've read plenty of reviews that people won't read certain YA because of cussing. I've also read that substitute cuss words (Like in Beth Revis's Across the Universe) sometimes work, sometimes don't, and those that don't like it prefer a good old fashioned swear word instead.

What's your take on cussing in your writing? In your reading?


Also, please take a moment to visit Sarah Fine's blog for her take on this month's Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog question: Does each book/story you write have an overarching theme, and if so, do you think of it ahead of time or discover it after? If you missed it, check out previous posts by myself (Theme Me Up, Scotty!) and Laura Diamond, and stay tuned for next week's post by Deb Salisbury!

47 comments:

Laura Pauling said...

I much prefer the real thing compared to fake swear words. They pull me right out of the story.

It depends on who you're writing for. If you're writing for the library school market then you should probably take out the swears. But if you don't care and write upper YA and it fits your character, then go for it.

Christine Danek said...

If it fits the character, I prefer the real words. I haven't used the mother word, yet in my own writing. I don't think I've had the need, but it doesn't bother me when I'm reading it as long as it fits the character.

Liza said...

So far, I think I've managed a "damn." Otherwise, I'm not sure my characters are the cussing type.

Old Kitty said...

I love it when Dr Elliot in Scrubs uses "frick" as her swear word! LOL!!!

I tried (and couldn't finish) this book (it;s got zombies!) because the main character who was supposed to be the hero was so unpleasant. She was so nasty and mean without any reason to be and so the fact that she swore everytime she spoke just made her even more unpleasant! I know that if she were not nasty, the swearing wouldn't matter but because I disliked her so much, the swearing just grated.

Hope I'm making sense! Take care
x

Anne Gallagher said...

In my contemp. women's fiction I used the F-bomb because I thought it fit the scenes (arguments). However, I realized in order to reach a wider audience (who wouldn't be turned off by so many bombs) I changed it to 'frigging'. That seemed to work just as well.

I prefer real cussing to fake (although I have read a recent YA that uses fake in an extraordinary way and was really well done.)

I think YA has too much swearing in it these days. If it's used only in one or two spots for emphasis it's fine. But bombs on every page are too much. IMO.

Words like h*ll, d*amn and sh*t arent' really cussing to me. But that's also my opinion. I have never used the mother word or the c-word in any book I've written. Too distasteful for me.

Lynn said...

Sometimes cuss words need to there for emphasis and even character trait. But like all words in writing, only if absolutely necessary. When a comedian throws out too many during his act it turns off the audience. I believe the same goes for readers.

salarsenッ said...

If it's appropriate for the character's development then use it...with caution and balance. Too much of anything is still too much. lol I'm not a fan of using cuss words in YA a lot, but I have encountered characters who wouldn't have been the same without a few loose words dangling off their tongues.

B.E. Sanderson said...

I think that, like any other writing device cussing is fine if it's done right and it's a killer when it's done wrong. There should be a natural flow to the words. Throwing curse words in for affect jars that flows and throws the reader out of the story.

Theresa Milstein said...

Across the Universe has the benefit of being in the future. Paranomalcy has a bleep machine.

For the rest of us, we have to figure out how to walk that fine line. I haven't used the F word, but I've got a few other minor ones. I try to be true to my characters without offending readers. Ain't easy.

lbdiamond said...

Yup, I use cuss words...if it fits, use it. ;)

Tara said...

I mostly stay away from cursing in narrative (unless it's maybe a deep internal), but in dialogue you have to stay true to character.

I write adult, but would think that doubly true for YA - you don't see a lot of 17 yo boys running around saying things like "Oh swizzle sticks, that chick makes me mad." Well, I hope not, cause that wouldn't have been a 17 yo I'd have wanted to date back in the day. Yanno, the dinosaur era.

Munk said...

If it fits the character... the character must wear it.

Talli Roland said...

I think a reasonable amount is fine. Like Munk says, if it fits the character...

Vicki Rocho said...

an alphabetized list of swear words? Ohhh, the kid in me just has to click over and SEE that! ...but probably not at work, eh?

Stina Lindenblatt said...

There's quite a bit of cursing in my WIP (YA). But it's authentic to who the characters are.

I can see a girl coming up with an alternate/made up word, but not a guy. Make sense though in fantasy or SF when it doesn't take place in our world.

Bossy Betty said...

If it's the the character of the character then I am all for using the read thing.

Olga said...

I myself don't like swearing. Especially when it's repeated. I think it's a sign of a limited vocabulary. From time to time, though, you find a person whose style of swearing sound quite acceptable and juicy. I guess it's a matter of skill and attitude.

notesfromnadir said...

Wow, that's a very comprehensive website! I've learned quite a few new words! :)

I believe in minimal cursing. However, when I wrote those 2 books starring a narcissist, I had to go all out w/ the bad language due to the character[s]. I was glad to return to non-cursing in my next book & see that trend continuing!

Rachna Chhabria said...

I avoid using cuss words, as I write Middle Grade Fiction. Don't want the parents and teachers to ban my books. But I would definitely thrown in few cuss words when I write a novel.

nutschell said...

hmm...can't really curse in my middle grade novels. But i will definitely make use of em if the character calls for it in my YA.
nutschell
www.thewritingnut.com

Matthew MacNish said...

I far prefer honesty whenever possible. Kids swear in real life, so they should swear in books. Unless the character wouldn't do that. I only like slang in place of foul language if it is done exceptionally well, like in Ship Breaker.

Matthew MacNish said...

Oh, and that list you linked to was pretty funny, but this one is even better:

http://www.milkinfirst.com/dictionary/profanisaurus.htm

Krispy said...

I think it's so hard to make fake swearwords work. You get more leeway when there's a speculative element (e.g. new fantasy world, far in the future, etc.), but it still has to sound natural.

I'm fine with swear words as long as it's true to the character and story. There's this one fantasy book I quite enjoyed (adult, not YA) where one of the POV characters drops F-bombs like no one's business, but I don't think I ever felt it was gratuitous. It was simply part of his voice / background. You don't really have this leeway in YA, but I appreciate a well-placed curse-word. :)

Or you could always go the way of TV, though I always found it funny that Jack Bauer on 24 could only ever say "damn it!" when many of the situations were f-bomb worthy.

Lindsay said...

I go for the real swear words. I think in certain worlds there is a leeway (like Sci-fi).
I also only include swearwords if they are natural for the character/story. I wouldn't feel comfortable enought just to throw it in to be controversial. :)

Janna Qualman said...

I agree with what most have said above. The real thing can bring truth to a character and the moment.

Solvang Sherrie said...

Why am I surprised that there's a dictionary of curse words? You can find everything on the internet!

I write middle grade so the worst I use is hell or crap :)

Sierra Gardner said...

I think opinions will vary from person to person, but it is important to be aware of how content can limit an audience. I personally don't like swearing so I usually put down a book after I see a few swear words. I also don't recommend those books and I don't keep them hanging around on my bookshelf.

Holly Ruggiero said...

Cussing is a part of the world we live in, so I don’t mind a spattering of it here and there. I tend not to enjoy books with a lot of swearing. It gets boring. –Unless it is character specific, which then I understand.

Jennifer Hillier said...

I think I used some version of the f-word alone over 100 times in my current book, so obviously I'm okay with cussing. I write adult thrillers, and most of the cussing is in dialogue, because it's how a lot of the characters speak. I mean, it seems silly to describe murder and dismemberment and then hold back on the swearing, you know?

Emily Rose said...

I am usually not to offended by cussing, because I know that by picking up a YA book, there is going to be some adult content.
Good luck with your writing!

Tracey Neithercott said...

I don't mind it, but it pulls me out of the story when it's used nonstop. I start to feel like the author threw it in there for shock value.

I know there are kids that use the F word in every sentence. But there are also those who say "um" 200 times a day. I try to cut those thinks out of the dialog unless they're necessary.

Of course, in stressful situations characters can get away with more cussing. Interestingly, there wasn't any (or if I'm remember wrong, very little) swearing in The Hunger Games despite the fact that the characters had a really good reason to. And I didn't really notice it was missing.

M Pax said...

Depends on what I'm writing. I use cussing in my novels, but haven't in short stories.

kelworthfiles said...

I tend to avoid swearing in my stories, unless it seems 'fake' to avoid them, in which case I'll throw in one of the old stand-bys. I'll use 'scrubbed alternatives' if the character seems like the kind of person who'd actually say such things, which rather a lot of the people in my stories are.

I'm starting up a 'Critiquing Crusaders' program, where participants in the Second Crusade can find other writers to exchange critiques with or form critiquing circles. If you're interested, come by The Kelworth Files to check it out!

Connie said...

I've used swear words in both my adult and YA novels. But I try to keep it to a minimum--I don't want the words to draw attention to themselves.

The Red Angel said...

I personally am not that fussed about curse words. I put swears in my writing, but when they actually should be used. I think it's silly if swears are just added in for no point whatsoever--or are simply there to exist--but in many scenes swear words can convey a lot of emotion and personality from characters.

~TRA

http://xtheredangelx.blogspot.com

Sarah said...

To me, it's just important to get the voice right. I have characters who curse and those who don't, and some who only curse under certain circumstances or in certain company. I don't go for gratuitous, but sometimes I actually think it sounds forced if a character doesn't curse. I guess I just play it by ear and don't worry to much about it after that.

Lisa Potts said...

If you've ever been around a group of teenagers, you're going to hear cussing. Why shouldn't it be in YA novels?

Medeia Sharif said...

Two of my wips don't have any cursing at all. I feel that it doesn't match the MC or the theme.

My other wip, on the other hand, has plenty of it because it fits.

I don't mind reading it.

Jonene Ficklin said...

Less is definitely more. When there's too much cussing, it becomes annoying, just like any other repeated word, and it loses its power. It's sure a fine line. Thank heavens for critique groups and beta readers! Best of luck!

Ghenet Myrthil said...

I wouldn't overdo it but I think it's fine, as long as it makes sense for the character or situation. Cursing just for the sake of cursing isn't good. I have a few curses in my contemporary YA WIP.

Chris Phillips said...

I think there are tiers to curse words. Ass and damn are on the more acceptable end, shit and biotch are in the middle and the Fbomb is at the less acceptable end. I'd limit the Fbomb, just because I'd compare it to movie ratings. You only get like 1 to 3 in a pg13 and it's generally avoided.

Anime said...

AWARD! :D ~~>> http://animesmusings.blogspot.com/

vbtremper said...

I don't mind reading swear words in YA when they're natural, but I have a hard time using them. They tend not to fit so well with most of my characters. Then there's Giselle...she has a potty mouth and it works for her!

Great post, Lydia!

-Vicki

Susan Fields said...

I really tried to write my current ms with no cussing, but I ended up putting some in. One of the POV characters is a teenage boy, and I just didn't think he sounded believable using substitutions. I limited it as much as possible, though. I have picked up some YA books and been instantly turned off by the excessive swearing, but the two that I'm thinking of, I perservered through, and ended up loving them. Still, I'd rather do without it than with it, though.

BECKY said...

I don't mind cussing in books, as long as it's not every other word!

Her highness, Samantha Vérant said...

There's a lot of @$$ on that list. Didn't know you could make so many words from one little word. As long as swearing isn't gratuitous, I'm fine with it. And I don't like when every other word is the f-bomb. (And on that I have one in my wip...)

SugarScribes said...

I don't mind if it is not overdone. I much prefer the real words to fluffy swear words if the character is going to cuss.

Of course it all depends on your reading audience & the type of book you are writitng.

 
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