Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Profane Game

It's hard to miss. Profanity is everywhere: books, movies, music. Once what was unacceptable to say has now become the norm, for better or worse. Admittedly, it doesn't effect what I buy as a consumer, I think I just tune it out. Some of my favorites are loaded with profanity. Even the classics like Of Mice or Men have it.

Yet, as a writer, I hestiate to use it (and there are a couple of terms I simply refuse to write, regardless). What about you? Do you agree with the "stay true to your character" argument made in favor of profanity? Or, do you try not to use it at all?


M.V.Freeman said...

I think that is a personal choice. I have profanity in my books--because my characters (especially my current hero) are rough and violent--because they've had to be.

That said, I use it judiciously when emotions are high and it gives the scene a vicious twist. To use it on every single page--nope.

Every writer has that line they won't cross and its different for us all. For me in profanity there are one or two words that better be used very, very, carfully because it elicits such a violent reaction. I bet you know what it is too....(I'm not even giving you a

Kat Jones said...

I agree Mary, we all have a line we won't cross. I have used some sparingly, but always question whether it is appropriate under the circumstances. I want to make sure it isn't something forced, but truly fits the scene.

Louisa Cornell said...

Really great and thought-provoking question, Kat !

I have the added twist of coming up with profanity that is Regency era appropriate.

I actually had a contest judge who suggested I take out the hero's use of the word "Christ!" because she felt some readers might be offended by it. I am sure Regency gentlemen used it (not in the presence of ladies or good company, but when a group of men get together or if a man is alone and is suddenly set upon by a 17 foot snake!) I took it out, but I have often wondered if I should.

Having had to deal with a customer last week who proceeded to "go off" on me using the F-bomb and the B word every other breath, my appetite for swear words in what I read is somewhat blunted. Too much like my real life, especially as at work I have to stand there and take it and even smile!

However, Regency swear words have the advantage of being quite creative AND as I don't hear them in my every day life they bother me less !!

Lisa D. said...

Hemingway once told a publisher, when they tried to censor The Sun Also Rises, that emasculation is a small thing. He felt that not being able to use the words he thought were necessary for his works was a way to weaken his work. Now, Hem was kind of obsessed with being a big, bad man,(ok, so "kind of" is an understatement) but I think he has a point. I think that when it comes to those four letter words, you have to first be true to your own voice--what you would say, what you wouldn't. You also have to be true to the character's voice. There are certain characters that demand strong language, and others that don't.

Lexi said...

Kat, you know how I've struggled with this very issue in my own writing. Part of me, that small town girl who thinks of her mother, her aunt, and the school librarian, shudders at the thought of using bad words.

But the writer in me wants to do what's right for the story and for my characters.

So, when I set out to write a love scene between my hero and heroine from HIS POV, I had to wrestle with what word to use. My hero is a medieval type guy. After much heartburn, I realized he would not know or use some of the more modern terms for the . . . uh . . . male appendage and so I used the word I thought was historically accurate.

My fingers shook as I typed that word on the keyboard, but I did it. And then I had to have a big glass of wine.


Cari Hislop said...

The F word is an ugly hate-filled word, but if it's used as an occasional swear word I can ignore it. When it's used frequently it's unlikely I'll finish the book. I tend to find it's frequent use a sign of bad writing.

Having grown up with with parents who swore like sailors (my dad was a sailor) an experience in my early twenties prompted me to remove swear words from my daily vocabulary. It's weird, now when I hear people swearing I find it makes them sound like they have a low IQ.

As I write Regencies my characters tend to have quite a lot of great oaths and insults to choose from some of my favorites: 'a plague on...!' 'The Devil take it!' or 'The Devil...' French insults were big. 'Comment diable!' loosely, "What the devil!' is one I found in an early Georgian romance. One of my favorite real Georgian insults is 'Crackfart!' but I've only used it between teenage brothers.

Carla Swafford said...

So far there's only one word (compound word) I won't use. I just can't. My fingers won't even type it. But all the others are set free and used (hopefully) only when it's appropriate and mostly by the male in the story. Maybe that's the southern lady in me.

Good post. I don't think anyone has talked about that before here.