Sweary Bits – Should or Shouldn’t Writers Give a Fu*k?
People use foul language every day without a second thought but in mainstream modern crime fiction there is often very little bad language and what there is tends to be there to create effect. A character who uses “Oh no”, “Oh dear” or other such tame expressions can convey the increased seriousness of a situation by saying “Oh fuck”.
Expletives have their place in literature as they have their place in everyday dialogue. Soldiers, emergency forces and certain professions are rife with foul language and a true depiction of characters in this environment would have to include the sweary bits.
I have in the past criticised an author for his heavy dialogue and had to tone my own down. This is not because I am a shrinking violet. Quite the opposite in fact, I can swear with the best of them. (Especially once beer has been sampled)
However when writing as with life there are time we all choose to swear or not swear.
Hit your thumb with a hammer, stubbed your toe or caught your beloved in the wrong bed? Fine swear all you want.
Lunch with the in-laws, job interviews and first dates are times when you wouldn’t choose to swear in real life so characters shouldn’t swear unless you are making a fool of them.
I try to find the balance in my writing as to where profanity is relevant, character driven and is not there purely for shock value.
One area I do like to use great big sweary words is when I have a lengthy piece of dialogue and I want to use the minimum amount of dialogue tags. Having a curser and a polite character gives a great voice to each character and defines their speech patterns to create their identity. Hell you can even have the characters ask the question “Do you have to swear so much?” to spice things up
One thing I do draw the line at though is the use of the C word although I have noticed it is becoming increasingly used both in crime fiction and TV shows.
Having read many mainstream and successful authors, one thing I have noticed is that very few of the really big sellers litter their books with Fucks, Bastards or Bloody’s.
Please feel free to comment on your own boundaries and thoughts on the topic of swearing in books.
Morgen: I totally agree. There’s nothing more unnatural that a villain saying ‘Oh darn it’… unless he or she is really posh and born in the 1920s. 🙂 Thank you, Graham.
Graham Smith is married with a young son. A time served joiner he has built bridges, houses, dug drains and slated roofs to make ends meet. For the last eleven years he has been manager of a busy hotel and wedding venue near Gretna Green, Scotland.
An avid fan of crime fiction since being given one of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books at the age of eight, he has also been a regular reviewer and interviewer for the well respected review site Crimesquad.com for over three years.
He has three collections of short stories available as Kindle downloads and has featured in anthologies such as True Brit Grit and Action: Pulse Pounding Tales as well as appearing on several popular ezines.
You can find Graham via…
- Twitter – @GrahamSmith1972
- Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/Grahamsmithauthor
- Blog – http://grahamsmithwriter.blogspot.com
- Amazon Author Pages – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Graham-Smith/e/B006FTIBBU and http://www.amazon.com/Graham-Smith/e/B006FTIBBU
- Goodreads – http://www.goodreads.com/grahamsmith
And his books via…
- Gutshots: Ten Blows to the Abdomen – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gutshots-Ten-Blows-Abdomen-ebook/dp/B0089YIOJS and http://www.amazon.com/Gutshots-Ten-Blows-Abdomen-ebook/dp/B0089YIOJS
- Harry Charters Chronicles – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Harry-Charters-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B007712QB6 and http://www.amazon.com/Harry-Charters-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B007712QB6
- Eleven The Hardest Way – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Eleven-The-Hardest-Way-ebook/dp/B00771BMJ8 and http://www.amazon.com/Eleven-The-Hardest-Way-ebook/dp/B00771BMJ8
- Off the Record 2: At the Movies – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Off-Record-Movies-Charity-Anthology/dp/1291093672
- True Brit Grit – http://www.amazon.co.uk/True-Brit-Grit-Anthology-ebook/dp/B007Y0FBNU
- Action: Pulse Pounding Tales – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Action-Pulse-Pounding-Tales-ebook/dp/B008082QP6
- Flashy Shorts – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Flashy-Shorts-ebook/dp/B008QQM4IQ
Graham is also running ‘Crime and Publishment’, a fantastic weekend of crime writing courses (I can say that because I was at the first one last March). 2014’s author tutors are Chris Ewan, Zoe Sharp and Michael Malone. Darren Laws of Caffeine Nights will be teaching attendees how to pitch to a publisher and will also be accepting pitches. More information on Crime and Publishment can be found at http://www.crimeandpublishment.co.uk and https://www.facebook.com/CrimePublishment.
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Morgen’s Online Non-Fiction Writing Group
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