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UF BOOK CHAT > To Swear or Not To Swear. You Decide . . .

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message 1: by Lilo (last edited Apr 21, 2015 07:03PM) (new)

Lilo Abernathy (lilo_abernathy) | 10 comments Take the poll!

SWEAR WORDS IN URBAN FANTASY / PARANORMAL ROMANCE BOOKS?
I just checked my reviews today and saw a new one came in addressing swear words. The reader writes,

"I like that you told a great story and you didn't have to use curse words. Thank you for that."

This isn't the first time I've received this comment and I love that readers are communicating their thoughts on this. However, this wasn't really a goal of mine when I wrote the book. I'm not pro or con swear words. I'm fine with them when they fit the story . . . (Click here for the poll and the combined results: http://bit.ly/1J5imrp)


message 2: by Yzabel (new)

Yzabel Ginsberg (yzabelginsberg) | 28 comments I'm mostly indifferent. However, considering how often people swear in daily life (in my personal experience), I tend to find NO swearing at all (all the more in UF and other "dangerous situations") somewhat... artificial. (Not saying *your* writing is artificial, of course; just in general.)

After all, people say "shit" when they bump their pinky toe against the coffee table; so I'll definitely expect a "shit" or "fuck" as well from the protagonist faced with supernatural danger.


message 3: by Lilo (last edited Apr 21, 2015 02:35PM) (new)

Lilo Abernathy (lilo_abernathy) | 10 comments Yzabel wrote: "I'm mostly indifferent. However, considering how often people swear in daily life (in my personal experience), I tend to find NO swearing at all (all the more in UF and other "dangerous situations"..."

The funny thing is Yzabel that my book does contain swear words. They are simply more rare and softer curses. I think that some people only have an issue with the harder ones, so they see my book as being 'clean'.


message 4: by Yzabel (new)

Yzabel Ginsberg (yzabelginsberg) | 28 comments Ah, possibly, yes. Besides, we can also create swear words (like 'frack', or 'frell'), so it helps. ;-)


message 5: by Louise (new)

Louise | 8 comments For me it's a matter of degree. If the swearing is constant and often, it's a turn off. It says to me the author can't come up with anything else if they resort to swearing all the time.

An occasional swear word has more impact. As an example of this, I have a colleague who can't get through a sentence without a "fuck" or "fucking", and frequently more than one. It's excessive, and people take no notice of her. On the other hand, I very rarely swear, and when something does happen and one slips out, everyone stops and realizes things have gotten bad because I swore. Me swearing has far more impact than my colleague doing it.


message 6: by M.A. (new)

M.A. Brotherton (mabrotherton) | 20 comments When I read, I don't really notice swearing unless the story has been 100% pg up until they drop an F-bomb. That's usually what annoys me the most. There are times when I'm thinking, "I could give this to my niece," and then one random use of the f-word 85% of the way through the story makes me reconsider.

As a writer, I tend to use the amount of swearing as a maturity/confidence indicator for the character. The more mature or confident a character is, the less likely they are to drop an f-bomb.

But I understand where you're coming from. I spent a lot of time thinking about whether or not to put swearing in my book for the same reason as above. I can't really let my niece read my protagonist drop the f-word into almost every line of dialog, but I also don't think it would be realistic for the character without it.

As for Yzabel's point, I absolutely loathe "clean" swearing. If you feel like the sentence deserves foul language, use foul language. Implied swearing is annoying. The exception to this is in situations where the swearing is world/culture-dependent and treated exactly the way we treat similar expressions. Brandon Sanderson (epic fantasy writer) is really good at that, and, Jim Butcher does a pretty good job of it in the Dresden files which mixes things like "Empty night!" right along side more traditional cussing.


Erin *Proud Book Hoarder* (erinpaperbackstash) I don't mind swearing unless it feels forced or trashy. I think the Kara Gillian series overdid it in some of the earlier books but that's calmed down some with the later books. I'm not the only reviewer who noticed the issue.

M.A., good point on filtered swearing - unless it's part of the character and a quirk of them, like an amusing elderly aunt or something. As long as it stays realistic.


message 8: by Mark (new)

Mark Henwick | 21 comments I agree with realistic situations & appropriate for the character etc. etc.

I'm interested in exploring the issue about being suitable for children. Say for argument's sake a child is 8. Is that child interested/mature enough to read an adult book (adult in the general sense, not as a euphemism for erotica) in which it is realistic to expect people to swear? If the child is sixteen, do we think they don't know these words?

Are these things self-limiting to an extent?


message 9: by M.A. (new)

M.A. Brotherton (mabrotherton) | 20 comments Mark,

I think it becomes an issue of the parent's choosing. Honestly, I think if someone is 16, they're probably going to read whatever they want, regardless, but if someone is 8, it is probably going to be vetted by their parents.

I don't believe in broad spectrum censorship, but I think if a work is classified as YA (12-14 year-olds) the writer should consider the general preferences of institutions such as school libraries.

I don't neccissarily agree that a 13-year-old can't read the f-word, or that it is even innappropriate for the age group. (Lord knows I swore enough at 13) But, I do think there are best practicies.

On the otherhand, it really isn't going to effect me as a reader one way or the other. Realism for the characters and internal consistency are the important parts.


Brittain *Needs a Nap and a Drink* (bwilliams2013) | 27 comments I prefer just using natural speech patterns and not trying to sugar coat anything. One of my pet peeves is when you are reading a bad boy character and he lets out something like "Son of a biscuit!" It doesn't fit and it makes me roll my eyes.

When I was 16, I cussed like a sailor and many other teenagers do. I think it makes it more realistic and honest. Alternative swear words can be excessively cheesy but if they are used by a younger character, they can work.

It definitely depends on the age of the characters and readers but I have never minded the appropriate use of curses.


message 11: by Mark (new)

Mark Henwick | 21 comments Absolutely agree that books for 12-14 year-olds shouldn't contain the worst swear words. And also that 'son of a biscuit' isn't going to cut any ice. Hats off to writers for youngsters who can make their villains believably bad without resorting to realistic adult language.


message 12: by Julia (new)

Julia | 615 comments I read a lot historical fiction and fantasy and science fiction. If the teen swears, like we do it may be contemporary fiction. Invented language, or elevated language, sets a setting or characters apart.

In the historical novel I am reading now Epitaph Epitaph by Mary Doria Russell by Mary Doria Russell I am reading Dr. John Holliday speaks several languages and his word choice is very different from his friend Wyatt Earp, who was illiterate.


message 13: by Richard (new)

Richard Murray | 13 comments I've read some books where the characters swear almost constantly. Those are the books I put down straight away.

I've nothing against swearing in books, but it has to be at appropriate moments. I mean, if a vampire pops up and tears out your friends throat.. yeah, that's a good time to let rip with a few choice curse words. If the characters are just chatting... leave them out of it.


message 14: by Yolanda (new)

Yolanda Ramos (yramosseventhsentinel) | 27 comments I dont mind swearing. Most of us do. But when the f-word is in almost every sentence it turns me off. M.A. Agree with what you said, swearing dependent on world/culture.


message 15: by K.D. (new)

K.D. McQuain (kd_mcquain) | 37 comments Adult stories use adult language. If you're not targeting a younger audience, then write what fits the story.


message 16: by R.L. (new)

R.L. Giddings | 8 comments I agree that swearing when it fits is ok. I find that swearing tends to alienate me from a character unless I really believe in their motivation and emotional response so it has to be used consciously for specific effect.


message 17: by Candace (new)

Candace Blevins (candaceblevins) | 8 comments Depends on the character. Some of my characters swear a lot, others don't.

One of my characters won't even use minced oaths (darn, sheesh, dadgumit, etc), while my bikers tend to cuss a blue streak.


message 18: by L.D. (new)

L.D. Rose (ldrose) | 14 comments As long as it's in moderation. People swear all the time, so I think it tends to make the characters and situations more realistic.

My two cents. ;)


message 19: by John (new)

John Pirillo (johnpirillo) | 60 comments I still find it difficult to swear in my writing, though lately it's been getting easier.

As L.D. said, in moderation. Being a past teacher and listening to kids using the "F" bomb and excrement word with just about every sentence makes those words a bit annoying to me.

I do use them when exceedingly angry or hurt. Appropriate use in a story is fine.

But that's me; someone else may be able to make it work; I just probably wouldn't find myself wanting to read their work.


message 20: by Rosemary (new)

Rosemary Johns | 4 comments I write for adults - so I know this is different than being a YA author - but swearing or not has to be entirely dependent on the voice of the character. And the voice of the book itself. So sometimes it would feel more forced to include them, than not. And yet other times it's almost like a beautiful tapestry to include them - especially historical words or when a certain character relies on them like a crutch, so they become part of who they are...

In my Rebel Vampires series, which has a British vampire at its heart and has a language, which is a mix of Victorian slang and 1960s - his swearing (although admittedly softer than some words) is central to the voice of the book - and the character.

From a British standpoint - think of Trainspotting.

I only don't like it when the writer doesn't know WHY they're using it...


message 21: by Deborah (new)

Deborah Martin (djmartin) | 2 comments As most everyone has said, it's context-dependent - and reader-dependent, too.

My characters swear when I would in a given situation. (Although I won't curse when around children - the worst my grandkids have heard is "dangit".) Although I don't write YA, my editor let her 13 year old daughter read my first book - the daughter was mature enough to know the words and the context. Other 13-year-olds? Maybe, maybe not.


message 22: by BR (new)

BR Kingsolver (brkingsolver) | 36 comments I swear, and write characters who are adults who swear, have sex, etc. However, when I pick up a story where the cursing seems gratuitous, I notice and it infringes on my enjoyment. Do I like to spend time with someone who curses in every sentence? No. Why would I want to spend time with fictitious person who does that?

That said, if I read a military fiction book set in Europe during WWII and none of the soldiers cursed, I would find that rather odd.


message 23: by C. (last edited Oct 05, 2016 07:06AM) (new)

C. | 5 comments I am 65,and I never liked profanity. Even as a teen, back in the 60's we didn't use the filthy talk that is so disgustingly prevalent today! I avoid books, authors and films, too, that use more than occasional "mild" cursing, and anything but closed bedroom door.

My father was career Air Force, and I married a GI, and neither of them habitually cursed, neither did the other Airmen we knew. In fact my husband detested the Vietnam War movies that came out because of the filthy language, and he was a Vietnam Vet!
We enjoyed the older WWII war films that didn't have that filth, and had characters more like the people we knew in real life.


message 24: by B.L. (new)

B.L. Teschner | 5 comments I don't mind reading the occasional swear word but I prefer it when books aren't riddled with them. It gets distracting, for me at least, and then eventually I just keep seeing that darn word jumping off the page, haha! I'd say using them like you would use salt in a dish is a good tactic. Too much salt can spoil a meal but a little dash can add a better flavor


message 25: by C. (last edited Oct 10, 2016 10:29PM) (new)

C. | 5 comments B.L. wrote: "I don't mind reading the occasional swear word but I prefer it when books aren't riddled with them. It gets distracting, for me at least, and then eventually I just keep seeing that darn word jumpi..."

Great way to put it, B.L. totally agree! :D


message 26: by Cathy (new)

Cathy (khiatons-cathy) | 4 comments I prefer to avoid profanity in books when I can, but there's sometimes when it'd be unrealistic to leave it out. Yet I would find it repulsive to read about some character, no matter, how realistic, who does nothing but swear.


message 27: by Carolyn F. (new)

Carolyn F. | 182 comments Profanity in books doesn't really bother me. I have a mother in her 70s that uses the F word as a noun, verb, adjective, etc.

But I cannot stand racist language at all even though I was a child in the 60s and 70s when it was prevalent. I will throw a book away that uses the N-word or homosexual slurs, really anything like that. I don't like that in movies and I don't like it in books.


message 28: by K.R. (new)

K.R. (krwillis) | 7 comments I think some cursing is okay, as long as it isn't constant, but I must say I absolutely hate the 'f' word. If I see it too many times in a book I'm reading, it's a real turn off for me.


message 29: by Jeana (new)

Jeana Budnick | 15 comments i think it depends on the character, much like real people. It's all about personality. If you have a character that is meant to be seen as "good" who never does anything wrong, is kind and respectful suddenly say something like "shit" or "fuck" the impact can be really forceful. But at the same time, that same character saying those words for a small reason would just ruin the reader's image of the character. I've read books where one character cusses much more than another. He not saying "effing this" and "effing that" all the time, but you certainly don't bat an eye when he does cuss. Then, other the other hand, when that character's brother suddenly starts swearing you know that he's flipped his lid and is having a mental break down.
So, I guess what I'm saying is that it's all about the atmosphere, and feel of the book and how the writer incorporates the personality of the characters. Some writers may be personally against swearing and therefore never have anything swearing in their books. Perhaps other swear like sailors and so their characters do the same. Or maybe it's the opposite.
I don't know. I think I've started to ramble, so I will sum up by saying that if it feels right, do it.


message 30: by Allison (new)

Allison Hurd I am in the "if it sounds real, do it" camp. I like my characters to feel like people I'd meet if I ever got to their world and time period. I can tolerate the "cheats" that Austin mentioned, but I think I notice them as much as, if not more than, the actual curse, unless, again, it makes total sense. Someone who'd drop an F bomb casually, confronted with their grandmother at a holiday dinner may switch to "freak" instead. But outside of explanations like that, it tends to sound cartoonish to me. "That's a freakin' vampire! What the shi-tzu! Where's my darn stake?"

I can hear the Scooby gang gathering in the background :-)


message 31: by Allison (new)

Allison Hurd Austin wrote: "Love your comment, Allison! I take your point about the 'cartoonish' sound of the substitutes - and you had me laughing aloud, too, with the 'Scooby gang' comment.

I guess it depends on the tone o..."


Totally agreed that there's room for all kinds! And I hope you didn't think I was picking on you--that certainly wasn't my intent. I think most authors do a good job picking a voice that works for them and their characters, and as long as they keep that in mind there aren't too many jarring moments in dialogue.


message 32: by Allison (last edited Jan 06, 2017 01:07PM) (new)

Allison Hurd Ha! And my mom always says that swearing will get me nowhere! That is very kind of you to say, Austin. Not to derail this conversation, but I think that character names must undergo a similar "boom" to children's names. It seems Lia is popular in the later half of the twenty-teens! But that both names sound familiar to you is a coincidence indeed! I have added one of your books to my list as well and good luck to you!

Err...more in line with this thread, do expect language I would not say in front of my grandmother unless of course half of the things that happened in the book were happening while she was with me, and then I hope she'd be focusing more on those things than on how I was coping with them.


message 33: by Chris (new)

Chris Johnson (chris-johnson) | 8 comments I'm neither here or there with swearing. But I do have exceptions if it is gratuitous, adding nothing to the story.


message 34: by C.S. (new)

C.S. S Bernhardt (goodreadscomkoddabear1) | 4 comments I don't have anything against a few swear words. That is pretty much excepted in life. But I started to read a book the other night where every other word was the f-word. It took me three times of picking the book up and trying to read farther, but by the last one I said heck with it. There are to many good books out there to waist my time on something like this.


message 35: by BR (new)

BR Kingsolver (brkingsolver) | 36 comments Like a lot of other things, overuse of profanity gets old. I'm reading a UF book now where all of the characters, and especially the MC have chronic potty mouth, and you notice it. I wouldn't take her to a dog fight for fear she'd embarrass me.

In my own recent release, the F word is used once or twice. It's there for emphasis and it fits the situation. The MC is more likely to use the word 'screw', along with damn and hell, but it's not every other word. When a character can't ask someone to pass the butter without four or five curse words, you wonder what the author was thinking.


message 36: by C.S. (new)

C.S. S Bernhardt (goodreadscomkoddabear1) | 4 comments So true. It's like a comedian can say an F word or a swear word one time and it's funny. He says it every other word and it is no longer funny. The same goes with a writer. You can make your character terrible, dislikeable and disgusting without using these types of words endlessly


message 37: by H.C. (new)

H.C. Cavall (hccavall) | 17 comments F*** yeah, I put swear words in my book! :D

People swear in real life. The F-bomb is dropped pretty casually with me and people I know, so I just kind of shrug and go about my business when I see it. I'm even trying to branch out and had a protagonist swear in Greek once.

It's one thing to avoid them if you're writing, say, Victorian steampunk fantasy where colorful language would be completely out of place during that time period. However, if you're going to write a modern UF novel for adults about adults, things are going to get a little blue if you want to sound realistic.

Besides, most of the UF bad-ass style characters I like wouldn't be the same if they couldn't snarl swear words whenever the situation calls for it. As long as it's not forced to be "edgy" or whatever, it's fine.


message 38: by Cherie (new)

Cherie | 4 comments C.S. wrote: "So true. It's like a comedian can say an F word or a swear word one time and it's funny. He says it every other word and it is no longer funny. The same goes with a writer. You can make your charac..."

Yes exactly this - I have no problem with swearing in and of itself - but I find anyone real or fictional who incessantly peppers their sentences with profanity foolish by first impression. And the more 'intentional' that peppering seems the more I just think, wow, you're really working hard to put up that image, and failing miserably . . .


message 39: by C. (last edited Jul 14, 2017 03:35AM) (new)

C. | 5 comments I stop reading any book that has pervasive profanity, especially the disgusting "F" bomb, crude sexual talk, or religious swears.

My family and friends do not continually curse, and in my 66 years I chose friends who didn't either.

So I am certainly as careful in my choice of entertainment!

Mild swears such as the s or d, hell,words don't bother me.....if not pervasive.


message 40: by Mary C (new)

Mary C (marymaryalwayscontrary) | 45 comments Like others said: context is key. If I were reading a violent action scene and the characters are tossing out "darn it" and "oh fudge" that would just not be realistic.

Most people swear at least once at some point in their lives and a believable UF with someone battling vicious werewolves, vampires, demons etc..., someone at some point is going to swear. It would just be human nature.

Even my 72 year old mother who used to smack us for swearing, drops the occasions f-bomb or something similar. Sometimes it's just what the situation needs.

Anyway, I would expect to find at least a couple of swear words in a UF written for an adult audience. But I wouldn't want them on every page.


Brittain *Needs a Nap and a Drink* (bwilliams2013) | 27 comments I'm going to amend my previous statement.

As a 25 year old with friends who are similar in age, we swear constantly. I keep it out of professional conversations but outside of that, it's pretty pervasive. There are many times when "proper" words are just not enough to describe a person or a situation.

Example: A woman yelled at me at work the other day (yay food service) and called me stupid and incompetent. After she left, my friend who had handled the woman after I walked away said "Yeah, I'm sorry that woman was such a c--- to you."

Also, why are we censoring ourselves in this thread? Fuck that.


message 42: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Blackstream (jenniferblackstream) | 12 comments My opinion here fluctuates. On the one hand, as a reader (listener, I prefer audiobooks for Urban Fantasy) swearing can jerk me out of the story. But usually, this is when I don't think the swear was necessary. And by necessary, I guess what I mean is, I want a little less realism in the book where swearing is concerned. Yes, casual swearing abounds in real life, but when I'm listening to a book, I want the cursing saved for a situation (or a character) that necessitates it.


message 43: by Chris (new)

Chris Johnson (chris-johnson) | 8 comments Hi, Jennifer. Can you give us an example illustrating that necessity?


message 44: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Blackstream (jenniferblackstream) | 12 comments Chris,

Again, I have to preface by saying I swear a lot in life, and I get that others do too, it's just a little jarring to have someone swearing at me through headphones.

All right, so if a cop is standing around a bloody crime scene and he swears, that's fine. Stubbing toe, also fine. One or two expletives in the middle of an emotional or sudden-pain scene blends right in. But when they swear as casually as I do in real life (i.e. Lot's of "What the f*" and "F* that" and "What's up B*ches") then I'd rather hear it without.

I would never fault an author for including swearing if the author feels that's what's true to the character, and thus, to them it is a necessity. And I would never leave a bad review for it, since I do think that is completely a personal preference. There are some situations where leaving out the swearing would sound very wrong. Before I started actually listening to audiobooks, I never would have thought this would bother me. But too much swearing, or a swear word dropped into a casual sentence that would have held the same impact without it...it makes me flinch.

Now that I've had to type it all out, I feel silly. But I'll let the answer stand since I started it. Sigh.


message 45: by Chris (new)

Chris Johnson (chris-johnson) | 8 comments Not need to feel silly. It's all good!

Thanks for your candid response. :)


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