Oh, for *&$%@!

I’m waiting for the day when an editor gives me notes, and amongst them will be, “Could you tone down the swearing?”

I have a foul mouth. I know it. Working for the man means it’s stifled a little, but you’re still likely to find me cursing a blue streak in my cubicle after dealing with a particularly frustrating phone call. Or when technology craps out on me once again. Or really, any time. I don’t need an excuse. I’m just careful to do it much more quietly these days.

Curse words are a part of my lexicon. They have been for some time. And if you think I drop f bombs like nobody’s business, wait until you hear my friends. I have one who is a devout Christian, but she’s scared to go to church anymore for fear she won’t be able to say more than three words without cursing. The BF often comes home muttering “Fucking traffic”. My college roommate swore like a trucker. Another friend uses “fuckin'” as an adjective on a regular basis.

If I’d been alive in the ’50’s, this would have been me.

My point is, cussing is as natural to me (and my friends) as any other common word. They pop up in our conversations and have since we stopped thinking of them as words to be whispered behind our hands. These words have lost their impact and their nastiness, to an extent, and they often find their way into my stories. A lot. My female characters curse loudly and often, to the point where sometimes I wonder if that aforementioned editor will find it detrimental. Unfeminine. Crass.

Well, shit.

I like pink. And shiny things. I love shoes and count shopping as one of my favorite activities. I squeal over small furry animals and have been accused of babying my cat. I prefer skirts in warm weather and love high heels. Trust me, I’m girly. Plenty girly. What comes out of my mouth doesn’t make me any less so.

But…does it make me come off as less intelligent? Does it make people think my vocabulary is stunted?

There was a discussion in a writer’s group I belong to on Facebook, on the placement of curse words and their appropriateness in writing. One member pointed out that vulgarity is appropriate as it relates to the character, voice, or situation, and should never be gratuitous. And I think that’s the point to remember when dropping a “fuck” or a “shit” in the middle of a sentence. Would your character say it, oh so casually? Is he or she in a situation where words just…fail? What about if your character never swears and suddenly lets loose a torrent of nasty words? My female characters tend to be strong and a bit mouthy, unafraid to call someone on their shit. You bet there’s going to be some blue words littering the pages.

Do your characters swear a blue streak? How about in real life?

4 thoughts on “Oh, for *&$%@!

  1. I to have been known to drop an F-bomb or two, and so do some of my characters. Kat uses them as punctuation marks. Molly never goes beyond a highly exasperated Shit!, but her (terminally elegant) best friend Sam drops the occasional eff-word, mainly for comic effect. Using profanity (or not) depends on the character’s voice, and I’ve never found your characters to exceed what was realistic for them, if you know what I mean.
    That said, I’m pretty sure my mother didn’t finish Forever & Ever, Amen, because in her mind it was riddled with profanity.
    Seriously. I used the word Fuck 18 times in a 65k word story. That was 18 times too many, I guess.
    It all depends on whether you care if your mother (or those who think like her) will read your stuff, I guess.

    1. Who said fuck 18 times in that story? The kids?

      I think of all my characters, Audrey swore the most, with Sara hot on her heels. My mother HAS read one of my stories, and there was nary a comment on Frankie’s use of the word shit.

  2. The characters in one of my books do cuss, but only during or after a violent situation. I on the other hand, cuss for the love of cussing. It’s cathartic. Better to let it out than to have a heart attack.

    1. Ha! Yes, exactly! I’m actually in the middle of a novella where the heroine doesn’t curse nearly as much as my other heroines have…and it’s sort of driving me nuts.

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