Other Cool Blogs: Magical Words – I Swear

From the Internet Hive Mind (Galaxy Quest)


To swear or not to swear, that is the question. Whether to be G, PG, or R in the character language? Does profanity show emotion or is it a crutch? Is non-vulgar wording part of your writer’s voice, the genre expectations, or taking being politically correct so far your novel becomes a vanilla paste?

Maggie Stiefvater faced this issue when writing tween and YA books. Meeting genre expectations gave her insight to how she was using profanity. She contributed a Magical Words article on 7/31/2009 on the topic:

I found it interesting that over time her method became write the drafts with the f-bomb, and the remove them during the edit stage after establishing the emotional scaffolding needed to support the scene. Basically for her, the f-bombs allowed the initial ideas to flow to the paper, but once the world became completely realized, they could be removed.

Other authors, in the comments section, give suggestions of how to curse without writing out the curses. Let the readers fill in the blanks: “I think the sergeant managed to hit every curse word in the alphabet after witnessing results of privates being unsupervised for the exercise.”

Genre expectation drives some of the profanity expectations. Ms. Stiefvater wrote for a younger crowd. Other genres have other requirements. Sweet romances lack “heat” words, but eroticas use “dirty” language. Urban fantasies of the “male” variety drop f-bombs as fast as bullet casings, while high fantasies often have to twist things so the curses match the worldbuilding.

To swear or not to swear, that is the question. With this regard, and lost in the name of writing, be all my sins remembered.