Swear words: yay or nay?

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When I was revising my novel, I realized that I used a few swear words. Okay, a fair lot. They come mostly from my male characters, when they’re furious or anxious.

But what’s funny, is that in real life, I hate swearing. I tell my children off should they drop the F bomb by mistake or say any other rude word. It doesn’t happen often, since they know my view on this. My six-year-old even remarks on people who swear, whether on telly or in the street “they said a naughty word, Mummy”.

I don’t swear myself (or I have to be in a really, really bad mood, and  even then I feel bad after I said it.)
So why do I use those words so readily in my writing?

I have pondered about that for a while. And the only thing that came to mind, was how in putting myself in the shoes of a character, I see them talk this way. Not all my characters swear. Some would be mortified to, like the real me.
But the ones who do use offensive language, are the ones who let their emotions fly right in your face. The ones who can’t care less what people think of them, or the ones who lose it and let the words come out without restriction.

I remember the first time I read JR Ward, and her Black Dagger Brotherhood series. I don’t know if the curses are still rife since I gave up on the series after Lover at Last, but I was shocked at the amount of bad language at first. Then of course, I fell into the world of those larger than life vampires, and suddenly those profanities melted and mixed in with the overall atmosphere. They still appeared on the page, but they didn’t jump at me anymore.

It helps that my target audience is adults. If I was writing YA, I would draw back on those words, not because the characters wouldn’t fit the profile of someone not using them (teenagers not swearing? Riiiight), but because I’d rather not bombard a twelve year old with curses. Call this the motherly instinct in me.

And what about the characters’private parts? To me, one of the most difficult choice to make. What do you call those things, without falling into the overly vulgar, sickly sweet or childishly funny trap?!
I’ve noticed I use more offensive terms for men’s anatomy than I do women. But I have yet to find words that don’t sound too clinical, graphic or unsexy, to use outside of a sex scene. A happy medium of sort, when I want to show that the..*cough*…womb raider…is happy to see the heroine for the first time, for example. Know what I mean? I can’t always use “himself”, “between her legs”. Sometimes, I need a specific word to vary my sentences, and nothing like Veinous Maximus or Tampon Tunnel (ewwww!).

What do you think of swear words in novels?

 

 

 

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12 thoughts on “Swear words: yay or nay?

      1. Omg..I laughed really hard when I read that. I totally get your dilemma, I just can’t help you with that one. But your examples are hilarious so thanks for that 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Heh, I don’t think I have to answer this. In my household, swear words signal that a noun is coming, and most of my characters swear. I think? I’m not even sure. In one book, a beta reacted, and I counted 145 variations of fuck. :-/

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  2. I usually don’t really care either way, like you said it matters if it fits that character. I do think their use of language tells you something about the character. I am currently reading a paranormal romance where the female is always very polite and uses neat language so when she does use a swear word the male immediately reacts to that and makes a comment about it as it says something about the situation that she choose to use a word like that. So I think it is a device authors can use to give a feel of the character. I usually don’t really consciously notice the amount of swear words as usually it fits the book or the character.
    And word that authors use for private parts, yes it’s important to pick the right ones else it can really get me out of the scene. Or make is sound funny or awkward instead of having the right tone for the scene.

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    1. I think if a reader notices the swear words, it means there are too many unnecessary ones. But if they blend in the story, then I don’t see the problem.
      As for the private parts dilemma, it made me think about how sex scenes are always romantic or sexy. Why not funny for once, I would read that lol.

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  3. This got me curious about my use of the word ‘fuck’ in my stories, particularly since I curse in real life enough to make a sailor go “whoa”, and I’m actually surprised. I figured I’d have over 100 instances in all of them, but they actually average around 30-40 per book, except Fallen Hearts, which has 83 (I think Stephan was just too angry at his lot in life lol!). Still, I know for a fact that The Final Calling will blow that record out of the water; to Isaac, the f-word isn’t a word, it’s a comma.
    In any case, I personally don’t mind reading stories that are profane (which is probably stating the obvious since I’m a potty mouth), but it’s hard to give a consensus overall. Some readers truly appreciate a story without any swearing, and some think it’s weird because plenty of people use graphic language in day to day life without thinking about it, so it’s more realistic. Guess it all depends on the readers values at the end of the day, and what an author’s fan base might come to expect. 🙂

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