Writing bad language makes me uneasy, but stepping out of our comfort zone is part of the journey. I've learned that I shouldn't write what I would say, but what my character would say. And my character would use *gasp* bad words. I had to erase myself from the picture, leaving only my character and his salty language.
Once I let go of the goodie goodie, I had fun with it. After all, isn't that part of the fun of being a writer? We experience a different life within the pages. We can write about the dark and evil, even if we're good people. It's fun.
Agent Vickie Motter wrote a great post about Language. She reminds us that "Language has a lot to do with voice. What is it about your characters (in whatever world they are in -- this world, a Dystopian world, another world, etc), and how they talk that make them unique?"
While cussing isn't unique, and I wouldn't use bad words unless they were necessary, that type of language is part of my character. So this church lady used some bad words. Sorry, Mom!
Do you sometimes insert your own language in lieu of your character's? Did your critique partners catch you in the act?
Ah, good post Julie. My most recent WIP (which you probably remember for this reason) has a lot of "language" in it, but it's in no way gratuitous. It's the way these guys would be talking in their situation, I think. So, I think you're smart to take a good look at your WIP and decide whether or not your characters would be using words like "shoot" or "darn" or if, indeed, they would be speaking more harshly. Either way, if it's realistic then I say go for it:)ReplyDelete
Heh, I'm the opposite, I swear all the time in real life but I try not to online. In fiction I don't find it hard though since I'm writing about kids and it would feel wrong to put anything but mild swearwords into their mouths.ReplyDelete
I have to admit it's awfully fun forcing the badgirl out of you. :D Yes, when it's called for, you can't censor. :D I mean, you know, if it's a PB that's different, but older YA... GO FOR IT!ReplyDelete
I let my characters speak. I listened once to an angel who used groovy terms like muchacho and chico and bucko.ReplyDelete
One guy had an English accent that I represented most horribly, and one of my current characters is a foul-mouthed East Texas police officer.
I cuss, but not all my characters cuss. The character opposite the police officer is probably more like yourself, a non-cussing female, though not someone who is offended by cussing. She just doesn't use it herself.
Let the voices in your head speak!
I will add: If you want an example of letting the characters speak, read and study Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys. He captured the Caribbean dialect without using nuisance tags and strange spellings. He did it with language and construct alone, without fancy phonetic misspellings, and he let the characters speak!
I try not to. I don't cuss either, but I do allow my character's to use harsher language, while choosing ways to say it stronger without necessarily throwing in a lot of curse words. I truly believe the action or what is "unsaid" can be more effective than the actual profanity.ReplyDelete
I don't like to use foul language either. When writing my first book, I had to decide how to handle it, because fighter pilots do cuss, and since it was science fiction, I had the option of making up words. I selected one word to fit all, damn. I had one person mention it should've been stronger, but I wanted my book clean enough for everyone to read.ReplyDelete
Great post! I'm not a cusser. Fortunately, I write in the 1860’s so it’s not like my characters have to drop f-bombs all the time to make it real.ReplyDelete
I do have some of my male characters using the "um, something else" word. There are a bunch of words that equal that “d” word which were considered cussing in that time period…even “darn” raised eyebrows in certain circles.
I just never have them use the one directed at God.
CUSSER??? Did I use that word? Is that even a word?? lol...well, what I meant is that I don't cuss...lolReplyDelete
Oh, I am so like that! Unless I get really mad...then you know it because her comes a *Bleepity Bleep*. LOLReplyDelete
I don't really cuss either...I'll drop an H or a D every now and then. But, it's really hard to make my characters say worse.ReplyDelete
In my WIP, the setting makes it possible that I don't HAVE to use any cuss words. It's nice!
i don't really swear/cuss much either, but my characters do, on occasion, drop a mild curse every now and again. But I only do it when it feels appropriate ;)ReplyDelete
Sure, I use cuss words in writing if it fits the character, but I've realized that, unless you're writing soldiers in war or some other situation where cussing is part of the group culture, a little can go a long way...I have one cussing YA protag who only uses a few words here and there, but I have her use them in casual/calm situations to show that she's a cusser w/o banging the reader over the head with it all the time.ReplyDelete
I do avoid the ultra soft words like darn and heck...people in real life do say these things, but it never seems realistic in fiction. Plus, there are so many great phrases out there that don't have cuss words in them. It's fun to pick some that fit the temperament of the character.
Sorry I'm going on and on...I wanted to correct myself..."darn" and "heck" can work in fiction, like for prudish or elderly characters...something like that.ReplyDelete
Yep I've definitely been guilty of inserting my own language. It especially hard not to do in a historical I'm discovering! But I feel the same way you do about cussing, and I think it is best when used sparingly in a novel. You're right though, we must stay true to our character!ReplyDelete
I think we all do it. Somehow though, I hold back because I keep thinking about who might read my work. Unfortunately, some people who aren't writers will never understand the difference between writer and character's voice. :DReplyDelete
Very interesting. What is 'voice' if it is not ourselves? Our way of talking.ReplyDelete
My characters cuss if the need arises. I don't want readers to do a double-take for language that sounds out of character for the scene.ReplyDelete
On the other hand, I do not cuss on my blog or any other public forum. I think I can make my point without the rouge.
On occasion I use swear words in my writing. I worked in a culture of bad language for more than half my life, but I've always been able to turn off the potty mouth around family and in public. With writing less is best, but if it suits the character and situation we shouldn't shy away from it.ReplyDelete
I'm not a cusser either. :) I had one cuss word in my book, but took it out. Sometimes I use "He cursed under his breath," or "He swore." I try not to bring swearing into my manuscripts, but if they have to be there, they have to be there I guess. :)ReplyDelete
Oh yes, I do this! I rarely swear in real life - like a handful of times a *year*. :) And in my first draft, I tried to avoid it. My critique partner called me out on it, and she was right.ReplyDelete
Now I have to be careful not to let my characters swear *too* much because then it starts to look like a crutch. :)
It's a tricky line because my story opens with an antagonist and he swears more than my main characters, so I'm afraid that people will think the whole book is full of that much profanity. But it's just him. *sigh*
I've never used swearing in my writing just because "that's what my character would say." I kind of look at swearing as telling, not showing. I try to rework the scene to portray whatever emotion I'm trying to evoke without words, without the swearing. Maybe there will come a time... and I'm thinking of a future scene that has me worried... when nothing else will work. And if so, then it will be all the more powerful because I've used it so sparsely.ReplyDelete
I let my writing take me away with it. My character develops there own sense of self and I am amazed sometimes by what the say. My first book contained a lot of things I find myself saying and that is one reason it's shelved. LolReplyDelete
Yeah, I'm not a cusser either and wasn't even in high school. So I struggle with using the words that fit the character - it just feels uncomfortable. Recently, I tried to get over the discomfort and use the words I thought my MC would use, and now my CPs are uncomfortable! LOL!ReplyDelete
Lol, sorry, but I just laughed with this post. I mean, I totally picture you *trying* to insert a cuss word in your ms! LOL.ReplyDelete
And of course, I do! I'm guilty! :P
I like being able to be someone else when I write. I can step into their shoes and say whatever I want. Not always good, but very liberating sometimes. :)ReplyDelete
Good post, Julie, and I do know exactly what you mean. I rarely ever cuss, unless I feel it's entirely necessary. You do have a point, though. When we are writing, we have to let go of who WE are and let our characters be their own person. (If I worded that right lol). Fortunately not too many of my characters would curse, but when there are those characters who do something entirely different than what we would be comfortable with... The best thing you can do, Julie, is forget how you would feel in the situation. Step into your character's shoes, walk around for a bit, and if you find out that you and your character aren't similar in every aspect that's completely normal.ReplyDelete
Best of luck to you with your writing:)
What a great post; great question! I too am uncomfortable swearing in books (in real life, I do swear, but I am very conscious of when and who with). But I agree that there is a need for language to sound like real speaking, and I rarely meet people who don't swear, so I'm with you--this is an area that I step outside my comfort level with!ReplyDelete
I was very reticent at first to drop bombs, and then I talked to my teenagers. They laughed at me and assured me even the nice kids cuss sometimes. I try to only use it in a situation with heightened emotions so it is effective when the bomb is dropped on the page.ReplyDelete
My thing with cuss words is the same in my personal life as it is in writing... words have power, and the more you use a word, the less (shock value) effect is has... So I try and save cuss words for when I really mean it or when my characters really mean it... that said, some characters never cuss, and some cuss all the time... I still try and tone down whenever possible, so I can save it for a time in the book when the effect of the word is more profound.ReplyDelete
I'm taking the coward's way out - for my steampunk I'm creating new cuss words for the characters. It's fun :)ReplyDelete
I'm with you. I don't like swearing so I'm like you. I do have damn in my current story. I think it's also cuts down certain markets for your book with too much swearing. Libraries and schools will stay away. So it's a touch choice. Depends on who you are writing for.ReplyDelete
YES, YES, and YES!!! I somtimes have to give it a second thought because I'm not a swearer and expecially don't want to project that onto my characters although they might just do that...it's a quandry at times!ReplyDelete
As a writer, you have to let your characters be true to themselves.ReplyDelete
Someone in my critique group caught me on a section of my WIP that wasn't even dialogue, but written from my protagonist's POV. I'd used wording that wouldn't have been in her vocabulary and it just seemed unauthentic.
I realized recently that I was inserting more "proper" dialog than either my characters or I would say. I have no idea where it came from either. I think, in the back of my mind was all the fanciness of all of the classic novels that I love so much, and it manifested in my novel. ...But now it's changed and it's so much better. Yay! Good luck and have fun with the dialog!ReplyDelete
<3 Gina Blechman
I've totally done this. In writing my first draft I was afraid of being to honest about my characters and who they really are. I know I need to get over it though. Easier said than done.ReplyDelete
It's so important to step back and separate ourselves from our characters. I had the same issue myself, with language. Sometimes, our characters will do and say things that will leave us appalled, but it's their story, we're just the ones who write it.ReplyDelete
Great post, Julie! I wish I had never heard any of these words. I'm afraid that they come all too easy for me, not for fun, but when frustrated. If there was something I could change, that would be it! Lord knows, He and I are still working on this...ReplyDelete
In any event, my first drafts of my novel were full of F-bombs. Okay, perhaps "full" isn't the right word, but there were several. Eventually, I came to a place where I decided to remove them and to shoot for a more PG-13 rating. No one, being chased by a killer, is going to say "shoot!" and "darn it!". Yet, the characters don't have to talk like Joe Pesci, either.
Eventually, we get desensitized to the words, don't we? How powerful is it, in a film like "The Princess Bride", a film with virtually no swearing, when swearing suddenly occurs?
"My name is Indigo Montoya. You killed my father, you son-of-a-[censored]! Prepare to die!"
I wish I had your problem Julie, as I have a potty mouth.ReplyDelete
However, I tend not to let that travel over to my writing, so I also have crit partners pointing out that maybe "stronger" words may be needed for certain situations.
I don't usually curse either by my main character uses swear words a couple of time when she gets really stressed. It fits her character so I'm fine with it. I think you have to do whatever is necessary to make your characters sound authentic, based on who they are.ReplyDelete
With me the upbringing is in the way sometimes :) my characters struggle to release themselves from my strong morals :)ReplyDelete
Great post! One of my characters uses weird Shakespearean insults instead of swears and I love writing her dialog!ReplyDelete
Oh how I loved Dana Carvey as the Church Lady! In my PBs, I have to remind myself not to express things the way an adult would, but to keep the voice childlike and whimsical.ReplyDelete
I'm really adamant about not using swear words. So yeah, I make some up, or else have the character swear "off screen."ReplyDelete
Something like: She swore, and slammed the book onto the table. "I can't believe you just said that, Jake."
On thinking back, I think I've let my not using swear words affect my characters as well....hmm...interesting!ReplyDelete
Sometimes, I tend to talk via my characters, substitute my thoughts with theirs. But after my first editor caught me on that, I have stopped or consciously avoid it. I avoid using swear words in my books.ReplyDelete
Working on my first novel, I'm approaching this for the first time, especially since one of my characters swears a lot. This is proving to be a challenge since I've had some teens in my church ask about how my novel is going and that they'd like to read it. The way I've decided to handle it is to let 'em fly during the first draft, then edit out as much as possible in subsequent drafts. I also just ran a post on this last week on my blog Sleeping With My SilverwareReplyDelete
This has been on my mind lately. Usually I write MG and I'm fine, but right now I'm collaborating on a YA, and my character's a soldier... his language would not fit into my MG works! I'm definitely recalibrating what I'm prepared to write.ReplyDelete
I think sometimes having characters *not* swear can feel as inorganic as having them swear too much. I'm tinking particularly of one YA author who uses some pretty extreme minced oaths. It just started to feel silly to me - almost like an agenda. While writing dialogue isn't supposed to be an exact transcription of conversation, when it hides from the cadence and vocabulary of ordinary speech, it feels just as awkward to me.ReplyDelete
I don't use curse words but I try to show their emotions in other ways and hopefully it worked!!ReplyDelete
I don't swear in real life either. And I'd rather call someone "not smart" than, well, other words you could use. This wasn't an issue when writing MG, but my current manuscript (YA) and one character in particular calls for a little salty language. It's hard for me to type, but sometimes necessary in making the voice authentic.ReplyDelete
I use swear words that feel right to my characters. I don't even have to think about it. The correct words simply pour onto the page. My problem is that my character's voice keeps slipping into my own dialogue. My kids crack up everytime I do it. :PReplyDelete
Yes, yes, yes, Julie, that's exactly the conclusion I came to. It's still tough and I use them sparingly, but I realized I HAD to use them. Especially this one character would seem weird without the occasional cuss word.ReplyDelete
Great post, Julie! And thanks for stopping by today. Good luck in the contest. :-)ReplyDelete
Awesome post, Julie. I deliberate over whether to curse or not in my manuscript -- and have decided to leave it up to the characters' voices. :)ReplyDelete
This post was great! Actually, you made me laugh. I suffer from the same issues, my fingers hover over the keys fighting against my brain. I'll remember your point: let the characters talk. I'll keep out of it :)ReplyDelete
Banned complain !! Complaining only causes life and mind become more severe. Enjoy the rhythm of the problems faced. No matter ga life, not a problem not learn, so enjoy it :)ReplyDelete
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