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.
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.
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?