Saturday, April 21, 2012

S is for Swearing

Swearing. More specifically, swearing in YA, or even MG. Do you do it?

I don't curse in real life, as in, AT ALL. Never. But in my books and short stories, it has become this evolving thing where at first I avoided writing characters or situations that would warrant swear words. Then I'd write characters who'd say cleaned up versions of curse words, and my CP's would say, um, I don't think that character would say that. I'd sigh and say, you're right, and put in the proper curse.

But now, I don't seem to have a problem putting curse words in my stuff where I think it's needed. What's up with that? Have I slowly been spiraling down to a sublevel of evil? Have I run out of more creative ways for my character's to express themselves?

I've yet to use the harshest of swearing in my stuff, and I know I will never use the Lord's name in vain. How do you feel about swearing in YA novels? There are times when it feels so shocking I am jolted out of the story. BUT, there are also times where a replacement word is used, and I KNOW that character would have said something else, and it makes me stop in the story as well. So...I don't know. What do you think?


Tonja Drecker said...

My parents managed to ground 'don't ever use bad words' into my head - nope, I don't use those words - ever.

And I won't use them in my stories. Maybe that's old fashioned, but I can only write what I am... no matter what anyone else thinks.

Suzi said...

I'll try keep this clean. :)

I don't swear out loud. (Sometimes in my head though). Neither do most people in my life. I am okay with swearing in books, but when the time is right--it annoys me when I see it too often.

Unfortunately, the s-word is becomming more main stream along with the b-word and it seems easier to use. I'd definitely watch my use of the f-word and use it more for exclamation.

F said...

I think this is a tough one. I myself swear (sometimes a little too much...) but I find it so much harder to include swearing in my novels. Like you said, there's just something so jarring about a written swear word. There's a difference between saying it yourself and having your character say it, when in all honesty, there shouldn't be. When a swear word is the right term, I do put it in. But I would say I'm more reluctant to put swearing in my written work than I or my characters would be in real life. Great post, Ilima!

Michelle D. Argyle said...

I think you have to remain faithful to the story and to your characters, but also to yourself. When my novel, Monarch, was about to come out, my publisher asked me if I wanted to change the two "f" words that were in there. It's an adult thriller, and those words seriously just belonged there. However, after much deliberation and talking with my publisher, I decided to take them out for the final version (they are in the ARCs). One of my reasons wasn't because I really had an issue of my characters using those words (they are far from religious and caring about what comes out of their mouths in terms of swearing), but I knew there would be issues of how I would be received as a person and writer here in the community where I live.

In the end, honestly, it made no change to the story's quality and worth to take them out. I haven't missed them at all, and nobody has ever complained that "they aren't there." I simply took them out, didn't replace them with anything else, and the character's dialogue still came across as strong, and the intended meanings made complete sense with how I described actions and had set up the characters.

The Breakaway has some swearing in it, but nothing very strong. I'm perfectly comfortable with the dialogue I have chosen for that book, and I think that's the point - YOU have to be comfortable with it first and foremost since your name will be on it forever. :)

G.M. said...

My novels have no swearing and I don't like to read about it. While I realize that swearing is part of life, I get the feeling that authors put swearing in theri YA novls to be cool with the readers, or to add some shock value (did she really write these words in her novel?). The characters can say everything that they want to say without swearing. But that's just my point of view. As the author, ilima, you should write as you please and let the editor/publisher make the final decision. Now, does Nine swear when her spaceship crushes? ..:)

jaybird said...

I have prayed to stop cussing for years, but then something will piss me off, and then... ugh. I hate myself for using the words, but somehow they just keep flying out of my mouth.

I don't ever use OMG, JC, GDI or anything that takes the Lord's name in vain. It is not easy for me to include cusses in my work, because I don't want to encourage any kids to pick up my awful habits. So it is always under great consideration I include a cuss. But I don't throw them in there flippantly. And never in any MG. I only include them in my Upper YA stuff or Urban fantasy.

Tobi Summers said...

I suppose it depends on the characters you're writing. Teenagers swear. I swore as a teenager (still do), almost all my friends swore, and most of the people I was around swore. Some of my characters swear (though I'll often write "ZJ swore," instead of actually writing the word she used... kind of like J.K. Rowling did with Ron). Just because they *can* say what they want to without swearing doesn't mean they will. But some of them don't swear too. It just depends on their voice.

As a reader, I don't really notice when are there no swears vs. some, but I definitely notice if there are watered-down curses. That's usually more jarring to me than the worse words.

ilima said...

T. Drecker-Don't care what others think. Only write what you are. GOOD FOR YOU! That is admirable indeed.

Suzi-Thanks for keeping it clean in your comment! :) I've yet to use the s-word, b-word, or f-word. I wonder if I will one day.

Fiona-I totally see putting swearing in a book fewer times than what a person would really does stand out in print.

Michelle-Yes. Finding that balance between being true to your characters and true to yourself. It is a talented writer that can portray that strong emotion without the curse.

Giora-I'm pleasantly surprised to see so many commenters taking the conservative side of this topic. There are a lot of great people out there.

Jaybird-Haha. I'll say a prayer for you, too. Ugh, I know what you mean about influencing kids. I should include a disclaimer at the beginning of the book for parents: this novel includes swearing, tattoos, drinking, sex, etc. Fair warning.

Tobi-I agree about being true to the character, and that's why I used to avoid writing characters that would warrant swear words. And I totally agree about noticing the water-down curses more.

T. Powell Coltrin said...

I wish I could, but I can't--yet. I wonder, if the story were engaging enough, would it matter if they were omitted.

It's difficult for me to use language that isn't normal for me.

Great post.


Cassie Mae said...

I think you wrote exactly what I'm thinking about this too. I haven't used the foulest of words or the Lord's name either, and the first two books I wrote didn't use them at all. Then I typed one and suddenly they all became easier.

I feel like such a bad person! AGH!

Taryn said...

I don't swear in real life, but B2B has a very crass narrator who would be a completely different person without her vocabulary.

Today's teen culture is inundated with these words. Honestly, YA has to be very very very very cleverly done to avoid them, and usually if I see a YA contemp w/o swearing, it's very obvious and unbelievable.

Kathryn Purdie said...

I spent a solid hour today trying to invent a medieval curse word for one of my brasher characters in a very heated moment. The current invented swear word I had read very MG in my YA novel, so I had to do better. Turns out, all medieval swearing is really just blasphemy. I didn't want that, so I finally made up another swear word. It's not a modern curse word, but it reads pretty harsh on the page. I cringed after reading it, but I knew it needed to be there. :-p

A. K. Fotinos-Hoyer said...

I don't use swearing in my writing. I might use made up words in my fantasy writing, but only if it adds to the world-building.

Sara Hill said...

I don't have a problem with "some" curse words, but others I would only use if the character would be totally unbelieveable if I didn't use it.

Sara Hill said...

Ilima, I couldn't figure out how to contact you any other way, so I'm leaving you this comment. I've tagged you in the Lucky Seven meme in my T post (for tomorrow, Monday). Don't feel obligated, but I'd love for you to participate. Rules will be on my blog post:

Sylvia Ney said...

I avoid swearing in MG and if I use it in YA, I keep it to only one or two times.

New follower here. I’m enjoying reading my fellow “A to Z”ers. I look forward to visiting again.


Angela Cothran said...

I can't believe you are so evil! I feel tainted just talking to you. Just kidding :)

I will sometimes us "farmer swear words" like DAMN and HELL. Then my 12 year old read my MS and was SOOOO disappointed in me that I took them out.

I HATE the f-word in YA books. I understand that teens say it, but it really ruins books for me.

Britney Gulbrandsen said...

This is tough, because sometimes the real word is needed.

That being said, like you, I don't swear. EVER. And I don't personally believe in swearing. So I can't justify putting swear words in my work when I don't believe in using them. It strays from my personal morals and beliefs.

Britney Gulbrandsen said...

P.S. -- I just noticed you have the WIFYR button on your blog for this June's conference. Does this mean you are going?

If so, we'll have to meet there. I'm going too. So excited for it!

ilima said...

Teresa-It is first. At least for me.

Cassie-We can be evil together!

Taryn-I can totally see that with contemporary.

Katie-ooh. what is it?

A.K.-I have one made up curse in my dystopian, but I use other mild ones too.

Sara-Thanks for the tag. I can't wait to read your lines tomorrow.

Sylvia-Welcome. I'll go check out your blog right now. :)

Angie-Yeah. I won't let my kids read my stuff for that very reason.

Britney-Yes, I'm going. I'm in Ann Dee's boot camp class. Are you taking a morning class or just the afternoon sessions? That would be fun to meet you!