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Thread: Swearing

  1. #1
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Swearing

    I've been writing a battle scene for hours now, and though there aren't any swears anywhere in my novel, I stumbled upon a part in which I'm thinking of actually putting one. So now I'm here wondering would people mind if there are no swears in the almost dark fantasy/military fantasy type of novel.. and if they wouldn't, would they mind if they suddenly found one in the middle of the book, given how no part before had any swears in it? Also if someone would mind I'd love to hear why

  2. #2
    Have pen, will travel Cindyt's Avatar
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    I think one swear word would be more powerful than a string of them throughout.
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    nutruring tomorrows criminals today PorterStarrByrd's Avatar
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    Yeah, Cindy is right. If it really needs to be in there go with it but make it fit and make it a little classier than an F-bomb. Never heard of anybody putting a book down due to lack of profanity though a profanity laden one cuts down by your potential readers for that book and subsequent ones.
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  4. #4
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    I think a good example of your situation would be in Harry Potter! J.K. Rowling uses minor British swearing. "Bloody hell" is about as bad as it gets, until one battle scene when a frumpy witch mama yells, "NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH!" I would say I'm pretty conservative, and it didn't offend me at all.

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    practical experience, FTW PyriteFool's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kylie Chanae View Post
    I think a good example of your situation would be in Harry Potter! J.K. Rowling uses minor British swearing. "Bloody hell" is about as bad as it gets, until one battle scene when a frumpy witch mama yells, "NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH!" I would say I'm pretty conservative, and it didn't offend me at all.
    I laughed so hard at that scene. Seriously speaks to how effective it was that I still remember that moment years after reading it. Precision swearing is a great tool. And I think it makes perfect sense in a fight scene. Emotions are (hopefully) high, so I'd totally buy anyone letting some swears fly. Lack of profanity is also not something I'd imagine bothering readers. I'd be surprised if they even noticed.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kylie Chanae View Post
    I think a good example of your situation would be in Harry Potter! J.K. Rowling uses minor British swearing. "Bloody hell" is about as bad as it gets, until one battle scene when a frumpy witch mama yells, "NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH!" I would say I'm pretty conservative, and it didn't offend me at all.
    Agreed. She also had "he swore" or similar in a few places where it was unrealistic that the character wouldn't swear, but didn't want to have the actual word(s) because her target audience are kids/teens. That's another way to handle it if you don't want swearing in your book and you also know the character's not the type to limit their language to "oh flippin' heck!"
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    volitare nequeo AW Moderator veinglory's Avatar
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    I don't think of occasional obscenities as an issue in violent fantasy. People who are extremey fundamentalist or can't take mildly nasty things are not likely to be reading a book of that type.
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  8. #8
    Swooping is bad. mpack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Toothpick View Post
    I've been writing a battle scene for hours now, and though there aren't any swears anywhere in my novel, I stumbled upon a part in which I'm thinking of actually putting one. So now I'm here wondering would people mind if there are no swears in the almost dark fantasy/military fantasy type of novel.. and if they wouldn't, would they mind if they suddenly found one in the middle of the book, given how no part before had any swears in it? Also if someone would mind I'd love to hear why
    In a dark-toned, military fantasy, I would think swearing would have its place. I find it difficult to imagine a battlefield devoid of oaths to the god(s) or profane observations on the obscenity of their situation. It depends on character, though. A curse from Frodo Baggins would seem as odd as an extended soliloquy devoid of the saltiest of language from Sandor Clegane.

    And yes, I have read books where the lack of scene- and character- appropriate language yanked me out of the flow of the story. These were books where it was clear the author was dancing around a few choice words in places where a f-bomb or a divine oath would have been have been most appropriate. I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say "i mind" or not one way or the other, but context-appropriate swearing is one shade in the toolkit. I don't see any point in neglecting it.

  9. #9
    practical experience, FTW indianroads's Avatar
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    People swear - especially in stressful situations. How much and what their favored phrases are depends on how you've developed your character.

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    I don't know how it is now in the politically correct military where everyone is afraid to say boo because it might offend someone, but in 21+ years in the Navy, in the 60's, 70's and 80's it seems that about every third word was a curse word, with the F bomb being the most common. no one seemed to get uptight, because everyone else was giving as good as they were getting. a lot of good adjectives start with the letter F.

  11. #11
    Not as sweet as you think Aggy B.'s Avatar
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    If there is no swearing at all and then suddenly one scene with one word I would probably have to stop and think about it. I know very very very few people who don't use some sort of profanity/obscenity/vulgarity or euphamisms for the "actual swear words" on a fairly regular basis. (FREX: The sister of a friend in college used the word "ace" instead of "ass" all the time, even though she got almost mortally offended when my friend actually said "ass" once.)

    So, to me, no swearing/euphamisms is not particularly realistic and I would probably notice it in a book that was otherwise dark/gritty or had numerous serious themes. However, that doesn't mean you have to drop f-bombs all over the place either. Fantasy cultures could easily have words that were offensive to them, but not as off-putting to us. (There used to be a kids show that had all these little plant people in it. When they would get upset they would say "rotten raspberries", which always kind of surprised me. In our world that would be kind of like swearing on your friends decaying corpse. But it was also "cute" so it didn't produce the same reaction as something equally horrendous in human terms.)
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  12. #12
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    Thanks everyone! Funny, awesome and helpful as usual ^_^

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kylie Chanae View Post
    I think a good example of your situation would be in Harry Potter! J.K. Rowling uses minor British swearing. "Bloody hell" is about as bad as it gets, until one battle scene when a frumpy witch mama yells, "NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH!" I would say I'm pretty conservative, and it didn't offend me at all.
    This is a great example of how powerful the use of such a word can be by a character who usually doesn't swear.

    Only you can decide what sort of tone you're shooting for with your book, but unless you're writing for a specific demographic (MG or younger demographic, Christian/inspirational, sweet romance etc.), swears are hardly unusual or shocking in fantasy novels. Neither is the absence of strong swears, or even swears at all.There are some fantasy writers who don't have much, if any, swearing (Brandon Sanderson), or ones who have incorporated "made up" swears that lack the bite of real world swears for some readers and are preferable to others, and there are others who have quite a lot (Abercrombie, GRRM). Some are in between. I fdon't think I've seen F bombs in Robin Hobb's books, or even "shit," but I'm pretty sure there are some "damns" and milder swears.

    Of course, who swears, how often, and in what circumstances will vary, just as in real life.

    Some readers have strong opinions. There are some for whom even a single "Oh, God" is a deal breaker and others for whom the absence of any swearing feels too precious or prissy to be authentic. Nonetheless, fantasy novels that fit along the entire spectrum continue to be published. For me, it's really a matter of the voice and tone of the story. If I notice, "Hey, there's a lot of gratuitous swearing in this novel. Everyone swears like salty the sailor in this world," or, "These characters seem unrealistically stilted or prissy. Soldiers who talk like visiting diplomats having tea with the First Lady on the White House Lawn?" then the author probably isn't doing a great job with the words matching the overall tone.
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  14. #14
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    It's not a deal-breaker for me. With that said, the language used throughout the story sets the tone. You might want to have a few subtle approximations to some profanity beforehand, just to prep the reader and the terrain. If everyone talks like Ned Flanders, and all of a sudden you let Joe Pesci loose in the middle of it, it might get strange (and possibly very violent ). I'd dip my toes before diving.

  15. #15
    Three of a perfect pair. AW Moderator amergina's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by braveboy View Post
    I don't know how it is now in the politically correct military where everyone is afraid to say boo because it might offend someone, but in 21+ years in the Navy, in the 60's, 70's and 80's it seems that about every third word was a curse word, with the F bomb being the most common. no one seemed to get uptight, because everyone else was giving as good as they were getting. a lot of good adjectives start with the letter F.
    People in the military still curse.

    As an aside, what do you mean by "politically correct"?

    I'm curious, because people who use the term often mean "Waaaa! I get called out when I'm spouting off racist, sexist, and queer-phobic stuff and I wanna be an asshole without being called out!"
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  16. #16
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    Serve a hitch, then talk

  17. #17
    Ideas bounce around in my head Jason's Avatar
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    Swearing is very prevalent in the military still, as well as with former military personnel.

    I have also noticed that people in IT, telephony, and technical fields curse with wild abandon.

    So, to sum up, I am around swearing all the time (and am probably jus as guilty of it when some $%^ing idgit gets a wild hair up their $%^& and decides they know how to self-provision a SIP phone but end up bringing down the entire net comms screeching to a halt because their one IP has been sending SPAM invite requests out and blacklisted the entire customer range of IP addresses)...

    Sorry, cursing digression there, but yes, cursing happens still and with regularity across many professions
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    Quote Originally Posted by amergina View Post
    People in the military still curse.

    As an aside, what do you mean by "politically correct"?

    I'm curious, because people who use the term often mean "Waaaa! I get called out when I'm spouting off racist, sexist, and queer-phobic stuff and I wanna be an asshole without being called out!"
    Agree, but this is pretty much a direct quote from my drill sergeant to the all-male recruits:

    "Get a fucking move on, you twats, or are you going to go home tonight to your wives, girlfriends, boyfriends, husbands, partners or significant others and tell them you're late because you're all lazy fucking cunts."

    Because you can still swear extensively while being welcoming of all lifestyles.
    Last edited by MisterFrancis; 10-22-2017 at 09:40 PM.

  19. #19
    practical experience, FTW MisterFrancis's Avatar
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    Although, thinking about it, would you describe the C's and T's as being fundamentally misogynistic?

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    Quote Originally Posted by PorterStarrByrd View Post
    Never heard of anybody putting a book down due to lack of profanity
    I have, if I read a book with lines like, "You're dead meat, _____" (there is such a book, and the narrative goes on to explain that the last word was an obscenity).

    Or if characters are modern hard-bitten types who say things like, "You blithering idiot!" or "Tarnation! That's napalm!" And yes, someone once posted on a thread about swear words to suggest we use words like this.
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    Super Procrastinator Kallithrix's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kylie Chanae View Post
    I think a good example of your situation would be in Harry Potter! J.K. Rowling uses minor British swearing. "Bloody hell" is about as bad as it gets, until one battle scene when a frumpy witch mama yells, "NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH!" I would say I'm pretty conservative, and it didn't offend me at all.
    This is an interesting one. To me, having Ron constantly use the swear word 'bloody' was pretty shocking for a pre-teen. In my white, middle class, conservative upbringing, that word was NOT tolerated in any way shape or form, at least until I was old enough for my parents to be thankful that it was no worse So I did flinch a bit every time I came across it in the book. It was jarring, common, coarse, and not something I would want MY ten year old to be reading (if I had one).

    On the other hand... the word 'bitch' does not even register as a swear word. It's not a nice term, and growing up I would certainly have been told off for using it, but it somehow just doesn't strike me as so vulgar. It didn't even make me blink to see it in HP - maybe because of the context in which it was said, or because it was said by an adult.

    Anyway, I was far less shocked by that than I was by all Ron's swearing.

    /end digression

    To answer your question, I don't think it's necessarily bad to use swear words very sparsely in your novel, or even only once. The trick is to know the impact that will have, and turn it to your advantage.
    Last edited by Kallithrix; 10-23-2017 at 01:36 AM.
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  22. #22
    practical experience, FTW indianroads's Avatar
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    I don't write for the YA or children's markets, so I don't give this subject much thought. I try to be true to the characters I've created; if they are the sort of person who swears a lot, they do - otherwise they don't.

  23. #23
    practical experience, FTW indianroads's Avatar
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    I've been writing a battle scene for hours now, and though there aren't any swears anywhere in my novel, I stumbled upon a part in which I'm thinking of actually putting one.
    I've actually had people shoot at me, and I can tell you that if I were to write down what I was thinking as that happened, it would be a LONG string of 'f-bombs'.

  24. #24
    Super Procrastinator Kallithrix's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by indianroads View Post
    I don't write for the YA or children's markets, so I don't give this subject much thought. I try to be true to the characters I've created; if they are the sort of person who swears a lot, they do - otherwise they don't.
    Same here - I don't write YA either. I just found Ron's coarse language quite surprising. If he was my kid, he'd get such a spanking... lol

    Several of my characters are very potty mouthed, and one of my favourite things about writing them is coming up with new slang and obscenities. So, my Egyptian harem girls exclaim oaths like 'Hathor's holy tits!' of 'Nut's cosmic cunt!' - it's fun to make up colourful blasphemy

    My MC is of better breeding, and very rarely swears - except when he's been in the company of his brother in law, who is also of earthier stock, and a little coarse mannered. After a few scenes in his company, my MC is effing and jeffing without even knowing it, tee hee
    "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."






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    Quote Originally Posted by braveboy View Post
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