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David Poellot
01-18-2011, 06:51 AM
Firstly, I apologize if I offend anyone here. I have a question about cursing in a Christian novel. This is the opening scene, and for the MC it is his ordinary world, every night out in a bar. Of everything I've written in this work and everything I've planned out, this would be the only cursing, but it happens right at the beginning. I'm trying to set the scene as the world he is used to and the type of people he surrounds himself with. I think the cursing is needed in this scene.

Please let me know how this strikes you and if I need to remove the cursing, because this is intended for a Christian fiction audience.



“Give me the keys, Steve!”
“Screw you, Terri!”
“Give me the keys, goddammit!” she screamed, as she grabbed his arm.

Dancre
01-18-2011, 07:31 AM
David, please know I say this allllll in love, ok?? So please don't get mad, ok?? I have your best interests in heart.

First of all, let me say, there are two schools to using cursing. You have to decide on which side of the fence to stand.

I say, get rid of the whooollleee thing. Sorry, buddy. :)

Lots and lots of professional writers and publishers say cursing is lazy writing including Stephen King. It's the same thing as using dialogue tags such as he screamed, shouted, begged, etc. It's all telling and it's easy. And telling isn't good unless the character is going from point A to point B.

In the below paragraph, the main theme is Terri wants the keys and Steve won't give them to her. Instead of using cursing to show Terri is angry, use her body language. How does her face look? Is it red? Is she clenching her teeth? Is she ready to cry? Did she smack him? What? and why does she want the keys so badly? Because Steve is just plain stupid and she wants to go home? Right now, the paragraph seems amaturish, (I'm sorry!!) Now you want to clean it up. Make it shine.

now there's a new theory going around the christian writing realm that cursing is 'real' life. But unfortuately, real life is incredibly boring which is why we read books and watch endless hours of TV. We basically hate life b/c it's so boring. Cursing isn't 'real life', it's boring, dull, cliched and in some circles/publishers/agents/writers amaturish and lazy. In fact, even some secular publishers won't accept cursings b/c it's so amaturish. So I suggest instead of using easy cursing to 'show' Terri is mad, take the long and hard road of fine writing. Use narrative to show Terri being mad. You'll go farthur, be published faster and taken seriously.

If you want to use cursing, then you have to know how to use it. Don't toss it against the wall and hope it sticks. Have you ever read SILENCE OF THE LAMBS? Hannible Lector doesn't use any curse words except for one, placed in a perfect place where Lector is talking to Clarice, getting deep into her mind. He drops the F bomb on her asking if her foster father F-ed her. It was like a slap in the face and a prologue to the next book. it was perfect. I have more on my blog http://kimkouski.com/writing-the-bad-guy Harris who wrote the book used cursing by other characters and it seemed plain cheap. Lector shined b/c Harris gave him the most thought. So in the same way, use the same most thought for Terri and Steve.

Also I will tell you, christian publishers won't take your manuscript if you have cursing b/c the majority of audience doesn't like it and most secular ones won't take it b/c it's lazy writing. So drop it, and take the harder road. :)

And please, David, don't believe the idea of other prof writers use cursing. Well, they are established and they can stand on the roof and cluck like a chicken and everyone will think they are geniuses.

Let the fights begin as they always do when this subject comes up. :)


Firstly, I apologize if I offend anyone here. I have a question about cursing in a Christian novel. This is the opening scene, and for the MC it is his ordinary world, every night out in a bar. Of everything I've written in this work and everything I've planned out, this would be the only cursing, but it happens right at the beginning. I'm trying to set the scene as the world he is used to and the type of people he surrounds himself with. I think the cursing is needed in this scene.

“Give me the keys, Steve!”
“Screw you, Terri!”
“Give me the keys, goddammit!” she screamed, as she grabbed his arm.

Please let me know how this strikes you and if I need to remove the cursing, because this is intended for a Christian fiction audience.

David Poellot
01-18-2011, 09:02 AM
Also I will tell you, christian publishers won't take your manuscript if you have cursing b/c the majority of audience doesn't like it and most secular ones won't take it b/c it's lazy writing. So drop it, and take the harder road. :)


I appreciate all of the comments, but this is what I really need to hear (publishers won't take it). I can use expressions. I was just trying to show that part of where Steve came from was a very rude and low place, where that kind of talk and behavior is perfectly acceptable. Still to this point, no other words have shown up other than those two in the first three sentences, and yes, I'm including "screw" as a type of curse word. We all know what word he would have said in a Stephen King book, although King has a great way of expressing that rather than saying it. Still, he likes to drop certain bombs in his novels.

Again, thank you for your comments. I wanted to ask the question early in writing this novel, as I set up scenes and such.

L.Jones
01-18-2011, 04:40 PM
Yep - they aren't going to tolerate cursing. I've heard that some have allowed some of the mild cursing to slip in but writer's tend to agree that a mild curse where something stronger belongs is much worse than no curse at all.

I just wanted to add that in this forum you shouldn't worry too much about offending people - it's one of the most honest, accepting places where most people understand that as writers we have to be direct, ask pointed questions, rant, be truthful and sometimes say things that people won't all agree with or appreciate and that's okay.

annie
http://anniejonesjoywritingthroughlife.blogspot.com/
http://dearhelenhartman.blogspot.com/

WalkingContradiction
01-18-2011, 04:59 PM
Sorry but under 'very rude and low place' I imagine something much worse than what you wrote. The opening actually seems somewhat awkward to me because the cursing isn't strong enough. At least say 'fucking keys'. Though given the advice you got above, it's probably best you drop it altogether (for the publishers) and try to show the 'very rude and low place' somehow else, i.e. violence, drug overuse, women getting treated very badly etc.. Though that's all pretty hard to do without cursing actually.

By the way, did you know that a study has shown that cursing releases physical pain? There's a good reason people curse when they say hit their toe somewhere. Just saying.

Brutal Mustang
01-18-2011, 05:12 PM
I've heard that some have allowed some of the mild cursing to slip in but writer's tend to agree that a mild curse where something stronger belongs is much worse than no curse at all.

Ain't that the truth. Every time I'm reading sci fi and encounter substitutions for the F-word (like 'flank', or 'frack', et cetera) I find myself snorting, and thinking, Ooh, you're so bad!

Selah March
01-18-2011, 06:10 PM
Lots and lots of professional writers and publishers say cursing is lazy writing including Stephen King.

Stephen King's books, short stories, and novellas are full of foul language of all kinds. What he said in On Writing was that foul language for the sake of foul language is lazy writing, but to avoid swearing when it's appropriate to the character because you fear the reaction of your audience is to write untruthfully, and you might as well spend your energy elsewhere -- like painting houses, for example.

As to the rest of your post, I don't believe we can have much of a debate because our opinions on the subject are so diametrically opposed, and I'm not interested in trying to change your mind. Undoubtedly, the average Christian publisher is going to have stringent guidelines regarding language, and I have nothing to say about that.

But for the record (and as a Christian), I don't hate real life. I don't find it boring or dull. That's not why I read, and that's not why I write. I think to write characters truthfully is to write them with all their faults -- including the use of foul language -- and to tell the truth is the highest calling of any artist, Christian or otherwise.

Gravity
01-18-2011, 07:15 PM
^^^^ THIS

Somebody much wiser than me once said, "write the story the story demands."

Period.

citymouse
01-18-2011, 09:10 PM
There is a distinct difference between "cursing" and "cussing" which many people do not make.

Cussing is foul language and we all know what that is.

Cursing, however, is a very serious thing. When you curse your are literally calling upon unearthly powers (heavenly or otherwise) to either witness, or to act in your favor against another person. Damn you, Damn you to hell, or God damn you, are examples of a person cursing another person and calling upon God to damn that person to hell. This is serious stuff. You really, really need a good reason to do this. Even then it's dicey.

Swearing, is also serious. Phrases like, By all that's holy... As God is my witness, even God forbid are examples. Invoking the Trinity, or the Holy Family, to either witness your words or actions is also serious and should be deeply considered.

There are examples of "righteous" cursing. In the prayer to the Archangel Michael Catholics pray, ...and do Thou, Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God cast into hell Satan, and all the evil spirits, who wander through the world seeking the ruin of souls. This too is serious stuff.

I remember Sister Mary Frivolous giving me what for, for saying Hell on the school playground. I explained to her that Hell isn't profanity, it's geography. She was not amused. :)

Whether you use cussing, swearing, or cursing in your work is up to you, but ponder long and hard on what you're trying to convey. Use the tailor's rule. Measure twice, and cut once. Good Luck!
C

Dancre
01-19-2011, 05:06 AM
Like Battlestar Galatica? Flack this and Flack that. LOL!!!


Ain't that the truth. Every time I'm reading sci fi and encounter substitutions for the F-word (like 'flank', or 'frack', et cetera) I find myself snorting, and thinking, Ooh, you're so bad!

Brutal Mustang
01-19-2011, 05:32 AM
Like Battlestar Galatica? Flack this and Flack that. LOL!!!

Yep.

One technique I use when trying to keep a story clean for a broad audience while staying true to characters who would cuss is to have them be interrupted. Like this.

"I'm going to shoot the mother--!"

"It's cool, shorty. He didn't mean nothin'."

Obviously, you can't overuse this technique. But it does come in handy once in awhile.

David Poellot
01-19-2011, 05:03 PM
Thanks for the comments, everyone! The main one that I wanted to know is whether Christian publishers will accept it. Hearing from you all that they won't is what I really wanted to know. I'm positive I can make the scene colorful enough without the language. And, while I know one bad word is the same as another bad word in God's eyes, I was trying to use as few as possible and as tame as possible. I really didn't want to go down the f word route, although it would have painted that world well, being a commonly used word.

Gravity
01-19-2011, 07:22 PM
David, you have to factor in what the CBA audience will stand. Their demographic (and this isn't meant to be a slam, but it's useful to know) is white, conservative, middle-aged women, generally with HS diplomas, and with a love of romance fiction.

These women prefer safe, non-offensive stories with a strong love element--hence the CBA practically inventing the Amish romance genre for them--and they are well within their rights to do so. If what you're writing doesn't fit within those parameters, you're going to have a very tough time trying to make a go of Christian writing (I know; I tried it for ten years, and now with my latest stuff I'm heading to the general market side of the aisle).

Does that help?

richcapo
01-19-2011, 11:42 PM
If you want to use cursing, then you have to know how to use it. Don't toss it against the wall and hope it sticks. Have you ever read SILENCE OF THE LAMBS? Hannible Lector doesn't use any curse words except for one, ...On the flip side, though, you have movies like Kids and Spinal Tap, shows like The Office (UK), etc., all of which feature boatloads of cursing, and they're better off for it, in my opinion, as people DO curse, especially when having fun or being grim, so the inclusion of swears captures the reality that those movies/films strive for. If they left out the cursing, they'd be hurt, I think. It wouldn't work out well for them. I can't imagine Taxi Driver without Travis Bickle's irredeemably foul mouth.

I have to disagree with you that cursing is necessarily easy, especially when it's used frequently in a story, and that's because it's very difficult, in my opinion, to write copious amounts of obscene language without your story coming off as lowbrow, even when the story calls for it. It's just like T&A -- very hard to fill your work with nudity and still have it considered literary.

_Richard

CACTUSWENDY
01-20-2011, 12:21 AM
Since nothing about me is virgin I would not have a problem with it. I don't care to read a lot of F's but other cussing ....is life. You might want to drop a line to a couple of agents/publishers and get it from them. IMHO

Dancre
01-20-2011, 06:47 AM
That's why you really have to know how to use it. Too many folks just toss in F-you everywhere b/c it's 'real' life. I would say, if you want to use cursings, which you can, then read how the pros do it and learn from them.

And what I meant by easy is that it's easier to have an F- you contest, then to show the two characters angry at each other. It takes time and effort to show, then it does to have the cursings contest. And as you said, too much spoils the pot.



I have to disagree with you that cursing is necessarily easy, especially when it's used frequently in a story, and that's because it's very difficult, in my opinion, to write copious amounts of obscene language without your story coming off as lowbrow, even when the story calls for it. It's just like T&A -- very hard to fill your work with nudity and still have it considered literary.

_Richard

Dancre
01-20-2011, 06:49 AM
LOL!! Poor John. According to the publishers, his made for men books couldn't market to women.


David, you have to factor in what the CBA audience will stand. Their demographic (and this isn't meant to be a slam, but it's useful to know) is white, conservative, middle-aged women, generally with HS diplomas, and with a love of romance fiction.

These women prefer safe, non-offensive stories with a strong love element--hence the CBA practically inventing the Amish romance genre for them--and they are well within their rights to do so. If what you're writing doesn't fit within those parameters, you're going to have a very tough time trying to make a go of Christian writing (I know; I tried it for ten years, and now with my latest stuff I'm heading to the general market side of the aisle).

Does that help?

David Poellot
01-20-2011, 08:52 AM
Thanks again. As I think someone mentioned above, this turned into most likely a replayed discussion of cursing/cussing/swearing in novels. I am writing this book with the intention of marketing it to the Christian fiction audience.

I will never be brave enough to say that I would compare it to The Shack, but I'm trying to write to that same audience. If I was just writing to the mainstream audience, then I think I would fill the first chapter with a very rude, inconsiderate scene where many types of words flew around. But, since I am targeting the Christian fiction audience, I agree that it would be best to color in the scene, rather than add a few choice words.

Gravity
01-20-2011, 09:07 AM
LOL!! Poor John. According to the publishers, his made for men books couldn't market to women.

Yeah, I'm finally heading to the dark side. :D

No, seriously, I think it was C.S. Lewis who made the distinction between "Christian writer" and "a writer who's Christian." The first is writing to a Christian audience, and the second--like Lewis--is writing for the world. Took me ten years to figure out I'd been in the wrong camp! :)

BruceJ
01-20-2011, 03:54 PM
David, please know I say this allllll in love, ok?? So please don't get mad, ok?? I have your best interests in heart.

First of all, let me say, there are two schools to using cursing. You have to decide on which side of the fence to stand.

I say, get rid of the whooollleee thing. Sorry, buddy. :)

Lots and lots of professional writers and publishers say cursing is lazy writing including Stephen King. It's the same thing as using dialogue tags such as he screamed, shouted, begged, etc. It's all telling and it's easy. And telling isn't good unless the character is going from point A to point B.

In the below paragraph, the main theme is Terri wants the keys and Steve won't give them to her. Instead of using cursing to show Terri is angry, use her body language. How does her face look? Is it red? Is she clenching her teeth? Is she ready to cry? Did she smack him? What? and why does she want the keys so badly? Because Steve is just plain stupid and she wants to go home? Right now, the paragraph seems amaturish, (I'm sorry!!) Now you want to clean it up. Make it shine.

now there's a new theory going around the christian writing realm that cursing is 'real' life. But unfortuately, real life is incredibly boring which is why we read books and watch endless hours of TV. We basically hate life b/c it's so boring. Cursing isn't 'real life', it's boring, dull, cliched and in some circles/publishers/agents/writers amaturish and lazy. In fact, even some secular publishers won't accept cursings b/c it's so amaturish. So I suggest instead of using easy cursing to 'show' Terri is mad, take the long and hard road of fine writing. Use narrative to show Terri being mad. You'll go farthur, be published faster and taken seriously.

If you want to use cursing, then you have to know how to use it. Don't toss it against the wall and hope it sticks. Have you ever read SILENCE OF THE LAMBS? Hannible Lector doesn't use any curse words except for one, placed in a perfect place where Lector is talking to Clarice, getting deep into her mind. He drops the F bomb on her asking if her foster father F-ed her. It was like a slap in the face and a prologue to the next book. it was perfect. I have more on my blog http://kimkouski.com/writing-the-bad-guy Harris who wrote the book used cursing by other characters and it seemed plain cheap. Lector shined b/c Harris gave him the most thought. So in the same way, use the same most thought for Terri and Steve.

Also I will tell you, christian publishers won't take your manuscript if you have cursing b/c the majority of audience doesn't like it and most secular ones won't take it b/c it's lazy writing. So drop it, and take the harder road. :)

And please, David, don't believe the idea of other prof writers use cursing. Well, they are established and they can stand on the roof and cluck like a chicken and everyone will think they are geniuses.

Let the fights begin as they always do when this subject comes up. :)

What an incredibly perfect response. Well written, Dancre. Thank you.

There is a wide variance of opinion on this topic, of course, as in most others with writing. Including cursing/cussing/swearing as part of "real life" is largely anecdotal, in that it depends a lot on where you spend life. Oddly, I've worked in a military environment since 1971 and will still get up and walk out of a movie that can't seem--or simply doesn't want--to leverage the non-expletive part of the English (or other) language. That's just me. I hear it most days at work (so why spend good money to read/hear more of it?), but almost never where I choose to spend life outside work. Which environment is "real life"?

I understand that, from a practical writing standpoint, the "real life" is the scenario the writer is dealing with. That drives the style of narrative and dialog. But I still argue that you don't need to drop the F-word to deliver angst any more than you need to describe the size and color of the chunks to deliver the point that someone has just vomited.

It is indeed also up to the publisher, as noted above. My own publisher's guidelines caution manuscript submitters to avoid, Gritty, offensive language; slang; euphemisms for “swear words” (unless an integral part of a non-Christian character’s development and even then sparingly used). Because every reader has a different “grid” in which he/she responds to such words, [we strive] to keep a broad readership. The editor's red pen will hold court here. I don't intend to take the time and effort to set a tone in my own writing that I'm pretty sure will be vetoed by my editor. Call me lazy.

I respect all the above posts/opinions. This is just another one.

David Poellot
01-20-2011, 05:01 PM
But I still argue that you don't need to drop the F-word to deliver angst any more than you need to describe the size and color of the chunks to deliver the point that someone has just vomited.


I like that analogy.

Deb Kinnard
01-21-2011, 05:36 AM
John said it best -- it's all market. If you're serious about the C-fic market (I will not use CBA as a euphemism for the entire Christian fic market anymore, having seen the True Light), you'll have to walk a line between reflecting life as it is "out there" and the sanitized version we're asked to present in our books.

I've been told my medieval characters can't drink ale or wine. Rubbish.

John's probably been told to take the helicopters out and put in a nice rose garden instead. Rubbish. And this is one woman who loves his books, so go figure.

This is the dark side of C-fic. The good news is that as you go along on this writing roller coaster, it gets easier to walk that line as you're writing. You can show your medievals sipping a good merlot, and do it in a way that the market won't (hopefully) spew you out of its mouth.

My take.

georgeknoechel
01-21-2011, 01:29 PM
Frank Perretti does the following:

She shouted, "you mother #%*&#."

BruceJ
01-21-2011, 08:42 PM
I've been told my medieval characters can't drink ale or wine. Rubbish.

Amen on the rubbish! I have wine throughout "A Prophet's Tale" and the MC in Katia, much to her delight, discovers Trockenbeerenauslese, a sweet German dessert wine. She takes two sips and sets the glass aside to get back to work. I don't glorify drinking, and I'll never show drunkenness in a good light, but it's there.


She shouted, "you mother #%*&#."

Bless Frank Perretti, all the respect in the world to him, but I would think I dropped into a comic book if I encountered this in a novel. Nothing against comic books, mind you, just sayin'... :)

Fairies wear bOOts:)
01-21-2011, 08:42 PM
Take it out? It's hard because no one here can see the rest of your manuscript. Ultimately do what you want.

BruceJ
01-22-2011, 12:36 AM
What a great handle, Fairies. There's gotta be a story behind this...:)

Gravity
01-22-2011, 01:05 AM
It's a song title from the first Black Sabbath album ... yeah, I owned it! :D

Dancre
01-22-2011, 08:00 AM
Thanks, Bruce. The $50 is in the mail. LOL!!!! :)

David, the thing is Christian writing has certain guidelines and one is the publishers don't want cursings. There's wonderful ways to get around it, so I wouldn't worry about it. Just give glory to God and you'll be fine. One thing I've learned is if I tell Him, I won't do this or that b/c it won't give Him glory, then He always gives me wisdom on how to get around it. His way always seems cooler then what others want me to do.


What an incredibly perfect response. Well written, Dancre. Thank you.

There is a wide variance of opinion on this topic, of course, as in most others with writing. Including cursing/cussing/swearing as part of "real life" is largely anecdotal, in that it depends a lot on where you spend life. Oddly, I've worked in a military environment since 1971 and will still get up and walk out of a movie that can't seem--or simply doesn't want--to leverage the non-expletive part of the English (or other) language. That's just me. I hear it most days at work (so why spend good money to read/hear more of it?), but almost never where I choose to spend life outside work. Which environment is "real life"?

I understand that, from a practical writing standpoint, the "real life" is the scenario the writer is dealing with. That drives the style of narrative and dialog. But I still argue that you don't need to drop the F-word to deliver angst any more than you need to describe the size and color of the chunks to deliver the point that someone has just vomited.

It is indeed also up to the publisher, as noted above. My own publisher's guidelines caution manuscript submitters to avoid, Gritty, offensive language; slang; euphemisms for “swear words” (unless an integral part of a non-Christian character’s development and even then sparingly used). Because every reader has a different “grid” in which he/she responds to such words, [we strive] to keep a broad readership. The editor's red pen will hold court here. I don't intend to take the time and effort to set a tone in my own writing that I'm pretty sure will be vetoed by my editor. Call me lazy.

I respect all the above posts/opinions. This is just another one.

georgeknoechel
01-22-2011, 07:12 PM
Bless Frank Perretti, all the respect in the world to him, but I would think I dropped into a comic book if I encountered this in a novel. Nothing against comic books, mind you, just sayin'... :)


Totally agree but it seems to HAVE worked for him.

BruceJ
01-24-2011, 09:03 PM
Totally agree but it seems to HAVE worked for him.

Good point, George. Was this in one of his later books, or his earlier work? I didn't remember seeing it in the four of his I read. If it's a later work, stands to reason that you can get pretty risky once you've established yourself.

georgeknoechel
01-25-2011, 12:21 AM
Good point, George. Was this in one of his later books, or his earlier work? I didn't remember seeing it in the four of his I read. If it's a later work, stands to reason that you can get pretty risky once you've established yourself.


It has been a long time since I read his stuff but I'll check into it and get back with you on that one.

Carradee
01-31-2011, 08:05 PM
OP, my problem with your example is the "***dammit" is technically blasphemy, misusing God's name. I don't like things like the f-word, but I'd far rather read that than something violating "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain".

That's one of the reasons I like Patricia Briggs as an author. No blasphemy. I don't believe Orson Scott Card includes it, either, but both authors use some strong language. I haven't read any reviewers complaining about their lack of blasphemy.

But they are also tactful of when they use that harsh language. It isn't the first method they rely on to convey an emotion or even a character. In her Mercedes Thompson series, Patricia Briggs has a character named Ben who's a foul-mouthed misogynist. You remember him as a character who's constantly using crass language, even before crass language actually appears on the page.

I find that more effective than a page full of the first words the author could think of to potentially convey what s/he wanted.

David Poellot
02-01-2011, 05:34 AM
Not to worry, Carradee. I changed it a while ago. I'm going with no foul language at all. Thanks for you comments, though.

jdmccay
03-09-2011, 07:14 AM
Ya know, I'm glad I found this thread. I've struggled with this as well. Although, working with my new YA I haven't had as much trouble.

Thanks to the OP for posting the initial question.

Lavern08
03-09-2011, 06:45 PM
Not to worry, Carradee. I changed it a while ago. I'm going with no foul language at all. Thanks for you comments, though.


PTL - :)

rwam
04-05-2011, 08:55 PM
My two cents (since I'm struggling with sorta the same problem):

1) If I'm pitching it as Christian fiction, maybe I change that whole scene JUST TO GET PAST THE QUERY PROCESS. If you feel strongly about using the salty language, address it after you've signed the agent :)

2) I wouldn't avoid cursing merely because it's "real life". Using contractions in our speech is 'real life' and 'boring', too, but that doesn't mean you should avoid contractions in character dialogue.

Good topic....thanks

Gravity
04-05-2011, 09:10 PM
My two cents (since I'm struggling with sorta the same problem):

1) If I'm pitching it as Christian fiction, maybe I change that whole scene JUST TO GET PAST THE QUERY PROCESS. If you feel strongly about using the salty language, address it after you've signed the agent :)

I hope you're kidding, because if you're not, that's a solid-gold way of torpedoing your career. Over the years I've known my share of agents and editors (after-hours, as it were, when they didn't have to produce a "nice" face for the public), and take it as gospel: they see this kind of stuff all the time, and it drives 'em bats. If they sign you, they want YOU, and YOUR voice, and not a chimera.

jdmccay
04-06-2011, 06:49 PM
I've read this post several times now, and I love this post. I think it's my favorite post on this site so far.

It's a fantastic and accurate explaination for each of the words.




There is a distinct difference between "cursing" and "cussing" which many people do not make.

Cussing is foul language and we all know what that is.

Cursing, however, is a very serious thing. When you curse your are literally calling upon unearthly powers (heavenly or otherwise) to either witness, or to act in your favor against another person. Damn you, Damn you to hell, or God damn you, are examples of a person cursing another person and calling upon God to damn that person to hell. This is serious stuff. You really, really need a good reason to do this. Even then it's dicey.

Swearing, is also serious. Phrases like, By all that's holy... As God is my witness, even God forbid are examples. Invoking the Trinity, or the Holy Family, to either witness your words or actions is also serious and should be deeply considered.

There are examples of "righteous" cursing. In the prayer to the Archangel Michael Catholics pray, ...and do Thou, Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God cast into hell Satan, and all the evil spirits, who wander through the world seeking the ruin of souls. This too is serious stuff.

I remember Sister Mary Frivolous giving me what for, for saying Hell on the school playground. I explained to her that Hell isn't profanity, it's geography. She was not amused. :)

Whether you use cussing, swearing, or cursing in your work is up to you, but ponder long and hard on what you're trying to convey. Use the tailor's rule. Measure twice, and cut once. Good Luck!
C

rwam
04-07-2011, 09:39 PM
I hope you're kidding, because if you're not, that's a solid-gold way of torpedoing your career. Over the years I've known my share of agents and editors (after-hours, as it were, when they didn't have to produce a "nice" face for the public), and take it as gospel: they see this kind of stuff all the time, and it drives 'em bats. If they sign you, they want YOU, and YOUR voice, and not a chimera.

Hmmm....I'm not following your logic. All I'm suggesting is if you really really really do think the character should be cursing, what's the harm about bringing it up in the editing process? Assuming you're dealing with a REASONABLE agent or editor, I suspect that agent/editor will kindly explain why it's not acceptable and not a good idea....if the agent/editor torpedoes your career for asking that question, then the relationship was probably on shaky ground in the first place.

Gravity
04-07-2011, 10:23 PM
Simple. You're hooking them in on a false premise. I'll use my own Joe Box and Mac Ryan MC's as examples. My JB stories were written for a Christian audience, and I knew going in what the limits regarding language and theme were. Three novels with a nice-sized CBA publisher ensued.

Now things have changed, and Mac Ryan is a different kettle of fish. Since I'm no longer writing for a strictly Christian audience, that means for ME (and not speaking for anyone else), I now have more latitude not only thematically, but also in how the characters speak and interact. A good example of a Christian who's doing this successfully would be Dean Koontz.

In any case, my favorite mantra comes into play: write the story the story demands.

There are many parts to that statement, one of them being never shading anything with an editor (or agent, for that matter), but being totally transparent from the jump.

rwam
04-07-2011, 11:02 PM
Simple. You're hooking them in on a false premise. I'll use my own Joe Box and Mac Ryan MC's as examples. My JB stories were written for a Christian audience, and I knew going in what the limits regarding language and theme were. Three novels with a nice-sized CBA publisher ensued.

Now things have changed, and Mac Ryan is a different kettle of fish. Since I'm no longer writing for a strictly Christian audience, that means for ME (and not speaking for anyone else), I now have more latitude not only thematically, but also in how the characters speak and interact. A good example of a Christian who's doing this successfully would be Dean Koontz.

In any case, my favorite mantra comes into play: write the story the story demands.

There are many parts to that statement, one of them being never shading anything with an editor (or agent, for that matter), but being totally transparent from the jump.


Okay, now I follow. I suspect you may be looking at it in a little different light than me, but yes, I agree. My intention was not to come across as telling the OP to deceive in order get past the query process. The premise of the post seemed to be he/she suspected the cussing was not getting him/her past the query letter - I really wasn't suggesting they assume a false identity, abandon their voice or purposely mislead anyone, because it seemed to me the issue was only a few sentences that needed reworked.....not the entire book.

Gravity
04-08-2011, 12:08 AM
Ah, okay, now I think we're both on the same page! IMO, if the OP plans to submit strictly to Christian agents or houses, the most prudent thing for him will be to dump any swearing completely, from both his sample chapters and the finished MS.

One area that gets especially dicey in the CBA is the widely varying definition of "swearing." House A may allow him to put in an occasional "crap" or some such, while House B would make him take out even such words as "darn." Worse, sometimes they list their taboos in their submission pages, but many times they don't, and the poor writer doesn't find out until later why he was rejected ... if then. It can be a minefield, and if one plans to write for the CBA, it's best to err on the side of caution.

eustacegirl
04-08-2011, 11:48 PM
I do not like cursing in Christian FIction. Instead of cursing, say "so and so cursed". The closest I get is "Freaking" and "Sucks."

Mpride
04-13-2011, 02:45 AM
WOW! I guess I never even thought about foul language in christian literature. This is a little frustrating because we're trying to tell the story of salvation and no one is born a saint... When I read what you wrote above, I was thinking to myself-- hmmm... that isn't a curse word. Now that I've read everyone's thoughts on this, I am very concerned about my work because I consider it christian literature, but the protagonist struggles with angry outbursts that require similar language used in your original post... hmmmm.. interesting...

Selah March
04-13-2011, 03:03 AM
The best spiritual fiction I know deals with overcoming faults and weaknesses in ourselves, rather than just external challenges. Plus, perfect characters are boring, whatever genre you're writing in.

eustacegirl
04-27-2011, 08:42 PM
My problem is if "Crap" is considered a bad word. I mean really? There are much worse words out there! The character is human. We all make mistakes. When a bad word comes through your mind it isnt "Crap" it's "scary curse words"

Calla Lily
04-27-2011, 09:16 PM
I've been chastised by Christians for using the expression "Oh my gosh."

If you're aiming at a particular CBA house, then follow their guidelines.

citymouse
04-27-2011, 11:02 PM
Crap (excrement in US patois) is cussing. It's foul language, but it isn't cursing, or swearing. Do Christians use foul language? You bet. Is it nice? No. Is it sinful? IMO, no. Sin is a willful separation from God's will. Now if God appears to your character and says there'll be no more cussing, and your character intentionally disobeys, then that's a whole different ball of wax.




My problem is if "Crap" is considered a bad word. I mean really? There are much worse words out there! The character is human. We all make mistakes. When a bad word comes through your mind it isnt "Crap" it's "scary curse words"

ElisabethF
05-02-2011, 04:44 PM
I started to write a long reply to this thread, and partway through realized I was writing a blog post I'd meant to do on this subject for a long time. So with your permission I'll just link to the post:

The Language Choice (http://thesecondsentence.blogspot.com/2011/05/language-choice.html)

Deb Kinnard
05-03-2011, 07:22 PM
Your question is a good one. For every publisher out there in our market, there's probably a (published or secret) list of no-no words. What passes muster with one will get you an auto-no with another. As John says, write the story the story demands, but bear in mind that many, many permutations of what's acceptable exist "out there."

I was once told (by an agent, not the one with whom I work now) that I could not show a character saying "drat" or "blasted" because these were euphemisms for truly foul language, and the C-fic market would not accept them. Now, I heard these words from Gram, who led me to Christ and would never have dreamed of uttering words offensive to Him. It was this agent's take also that I could never sell a book set in the medieval era, since the characters would of necessity be Catholic, and (per her) it's an open question whether Catholics can ever be saved.

(these are not my views, I'm quoting.)

So walk on the mild side, present your work 110% transparently as to what it is, and when your work finds favor in the publisher's eyes, you'll know you set no foot off the straight path.

My take.

zegota
05-04-2011, 12:06 AM
I've read this post several times now, and I love this post. I think it's my favorite post on this site so far.

It's a fantastic and accurate explaination for each of the words.

Uh, I don't really think it's all that accurate at all. Is there a source for the difference between "cuss" and "curse?" "Cuss" is just a slang word for "curse," that, for most people, means exactly the same thing (and 'cuss' isn't even really used by anyone, at least in my neck of the woods, outside of playgrounds).

Better definitions would be curses, blasphemy, and profanity.

PeteDutcher
05-05-2011, 07:44 AM
David, please know I say this allllll in love, ok?? So please don't get mad, ok?? I have your best interests in heart.

First of all, let me say, there are two schools to using cursing. You have to decide on which side of the fence to stand.

I say, get rid of the whooollleee thing. Sorry, buddy. :)

Lots and lots of professional writers and publishers say cursing is lazy writing including Stephen King. It's the same thing as using dialogue tags such as he screamed, shouted, begged, etc. It's all telling and it's easy. And telling isn't good unless the character is going from point A to point B.

In the below paragraph, the main theme is Terri wants the keys and Steve won't give them to her. Instead of using cursing to show Terri is angry, use her body language. How does her face look? Is it red? Is she clenching her teeth? Is she ready to cry? Did she smack him? What? and why does she want the keys so badly? Because Steve is just plain stupid and she wants to go home? Right now, the paragraph seems amaturish, (I'm sorry!!) Now you want to clean it up. Make it shine.

now there's a new theory going around the christian writing realm that cursing is 'real' life. But unfortuately, real life is incredibly boring which is why we read books and watch endless hours of TV. We basically hate life b/c it's so boring. Cursing isn't 'real life', it's boring, dull, cliched and in some circles/publishers/agents/writers amaturish and lazy. In fact, even some secular publishers won't accept cursings b/c it's so amaturish. So I suggest instead of using easy cursing to 'show' Terri is mad, take the long and hard road of fine writing. Use narrative to show Terri being mad. You'll go farthur, be published faster and taken seriously.

If you want to use cursing, then you have to know how to use it. Don't toss it against the wall and hope it sticks. Have you ever read SILENCE OF THE LAMBS? Hannible Lector doesn't use any curse words except for one, placed in a perfect place where Lector is talking to Clarice, getting deep into her mind. He drops the F bomb on her asking if her foster father F-ed her. It was like a slap in the face and a prologue to the next book. it was perfect. I have more on my blog http://kimkouski.com/writing-the-bad-guy Harris who wrote the book used cursing by other characters and it seemed plain cheap. Lector shined b/c Harris gave him the most thought. So in the same way, use the same most thought for Terri and Steve.

Also I will tell you, christian publishers won't take your manuscript if you have cursing b/c the majority of audience doesn't like it and most secular ones won't take it b/c it's lazy writing. So drop it, and take the harder road. :)

And please, David, don't believe the idea of other prof writers use cursing. Well, they are established and they can stand on the roof and cluck like a chicken and everyone will think they are geniuses.

Let the fights begin as they always do when this subject comes up. :)

This is all good advice. Very good advice. The Christian Market is sometimes tough to write for...where other genres might take certain liberties, we are by nature limited.

Besides...because of our limitations, we have to find ways around cursing, such as in the ways Dancre described above. It forces us to improve our skills, and give us an advantage in the long run.

And the last thing you want is for your book to be placed in Christian book stores and then lambasted for compromising the faith. Not only would it ruin the sales for that book, but it would instantly brand you as someone those readers will not try again...even on different, future books.

jdmccay
05-07-2011, 04:38 AM
Well, that's fine. I do.


Uh, I don't really think it's all that accurate at all. Is there a source for the difference between "cuss" and "curse?" "Cuss" is just a slang word for "curse," that, for most people, means exactly the same thing (and 'cuss' isn't even really used by anyone, at least in my neck of the woods, outside of playgrounds).

Better definitions would be curses, blasphemy, and profanity.

L.C. Blackwell
05-08-2011, 12:20 PM
Do Christians use foul language? You bet. Is it nice? No. Is it sinful? IMO, no. Sin is a willful separation from God's will. Now if God appears to your character and says there'll be no more cussing, and your character intentionally disobeys, then that's a whole different ball of wax.

Not to derail, or anything, but since you brought this up....

I think it's probably worth noting that when Peter denied Christ, the best way he could find to do it was by using foul language.

I came to the difficult decision some time ago not to use profanity--even moderate profanity--in my books, and I don't write for the CBA market. Without going into all the reasons for this, I will say it's been educational. I never realized how lazy I was as a writer, both in dialogue and character development! :)

P.S. For "cussing" a more precise term would perhaps be vulgarity.

citymouse
05-08-2011, 03:32 PM
L.C., I don't use bad language in my books either. My M/C is flawed enough without making him shallow too. :)
As for Saint Peter, I think it's interesting that the man to whom the gift of revelation (Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.)was bestowed in the first instance, should find himself fleeing from God, and his destiny in the second (I know not the man.). But Peter's seeming act of cowardice can be seen as symbolic of man's history of running from God. As St. Augustine of Hippo laments, Too late have I loved Thee.

K.Stephens
03-06-2015, 07:28 AM
Sorry to resurrect an old thread, but I've just received my first One Star review because of 'Bad Language'. She (or he) didn't like my use of profanity in my Christian Romance novel. I wouldn't have even considered the words 'crap', or 'hell' to be swearing, but apparently some people do.
So here's my question - I want to write about imperfect human beings coming to find forgiveness and love despite their less than perfect past's. Some of them swear (if you consider crap and damn swear words) BEFORE they come to know Christ, but not after 9even that is a far stretch for most of us who consider ourselves Christians, lol).
I don't particularly want to 'water-down' my characters as I want to be able to show God's grace and love regardless...so would my best option be to publish under a different category than Christian, and then put in the description that it contains a Christian message? I'm just worried then that more non-Christians might read it and, whilst hopefully some might enjoy the message, others will hate it simply because it does contain a spiritual element.
I know I should 'write the story the story demands', but now I'm having difficulty categorising my audience :S
TIA

Gravity
03-06-2015, 08:03 AM
K, after three commercially published CBA novels, I finally realized that market wasn't for me (truth to tell, it never was). A few years ago I jumped ship to the general market, and have never looked back.

K.Stephens
03-06-2015, 08:41 AM
I jumped ship to the general market, and have never looked back.

Thank you!!!

So, do you think it's a good idea to put something in the description about your book having spiritual/Christian content?

It's difficult because I *want* to write for the Christian market, but I don't want to limited in my writing, or confined by "rules", or told what I can--or cannot--write. :/

Deb Kinnard
03-06-2015, 06:34 PM
My characters in my indie novels are somewhat Christian, but they've either lost their way or are re-finding it. Some of them don't think cursing is a sin so they do it and don't feel it impacts their faith one iota. Are they wrong? I don't know which sins are "wrongest" in God's sight, so my characters do their own things. I'm like "meh" because I feel there are worse sins than letting an occasional "crap" or "hell" out of the piehole.

I don't market my stuff to Christians anymore. That's a conscious choice I made. I've been dumped on major-ways by Christian authors and even by a Christian publisher. Not that that couldn't happen out in the mainstream market, but I simply find the attitudes too much to take, and so (somewhat like John, though different path) I'm out.

As an illustration, I was once told by someone I trusted that if a Christian reader buys a book and it "offends" them (and this could be in very many ways, from having a Catholic character to overenthusiastic kissing), they take it back to the bookstore and complain, and return the title for a refund.

"Since this is true," I replied, "how frequently does this happen? What are the approximate numbers of books returned this way?"

The other person hemmed and hawed, and I realized she had no numbers. None at all. In fact, she had no concrete proof that this EVER happened.

To my mind, it's an urban legend meant to scare Christian authors into writing pablum that can offend no one, no how, not never.

This isn't what I want to write. So I'm out.

I didn't intend to go on this long. But IMO you should take the way you want to write and see where it will fit in the plethora of markets there are. You should not pick a market and try to write to it. Particularly in Christian markets, you're asking for a non-starter of a career if you set out to offend nobody. There is ALWAYS someone to get offended.

Lavern08
03-06-2015, 08:59 PM
...There is ALWAYS someone to get offended.

^ Indeed. ;)

While I don't find crap, damn or hell offensive, the F-bomb, the S-word that means excrement, and the GD-word are highly offensive to me. :Shrug:

Gravity
03-06-2015, 10:07 PM
Thank you!!!

So, do you think it's a good idea to put something in the description about your book having spiritual/Christian content?

It's difficult because I *want* to write for the Christian market, but I don't want to limited in my writing, or confined by "rules", or told what I can--or cannot--write. :/

I don't know the answer to that, K. My new series features an MC with a strong moral center but is still battling some inner turmoil. The best example if you're looking to infuse subtle Christian themes into your stories is Dean Koontz. He's a strong Christian--and most of his readers know it--but he doesn't put *warning, Christian content* anywhere on the cover copy of his works. As examples, check out two of his strongest Christian-themed novels, One Door Away From Heaven, and From the Corner of His Eye to see what I mean. It's there--man, is it--but it's not overpowering.

K.Stephens
03-07-2015, 07:23 AM
Thanks everyone :)

I am going to continue writing what I want to write, if people don't like it, they're welcome to write their own stories, hehe.

I can often find a Christian message in most books/films even if they aren't Christian (hope, forgiveness, love etc.) except for maybe 50 shades...lol

So glad that I'm not the only Author (If I can even call myself that!) who is a Christian and struggles with these issues :)