I’d appreciate your opinions concerning ‘blue language’ in novels. In the final edit of my forthcoming novel, Black Karma, I notice that my main character has a very ‘blue’ exchange using the ‘F’ word when he’s mistakenly taken down by the FBI. I notice that several sites want to know about a novel’s use of profanity. As a former Marine, I know and sometimes use blue language. When really pissed, so does my main character. What are your views? How do your own readers feel about it?
Like so many other commenters, I believe a character's personality should remain intact and true to form. That needn't be a stumbling block for an author, however, especially if he/she feels strongly about using profanity in the story.
There are many ways to indicate what is being said without actually stating the obvious or offending readers. So much can be left to the imagination as (sadly) even a child in kindergarten is familiar with the 'F' word.
Ultimately, I believe it's up to the author to decide what will and what will not be printed. It's their name that will appear on the cover. Just as it's their story. Their world. Their rules.
I am all for profanity and use it all the time in my writing and try to be colorful with it. For two reasons.
1) I write YA.
2) I'm from Jersey, the city, and that's how we friggin talk. It's how I talk in real life. It's all part of my voice in the fiction.
What do my readers think?
One reader of my many reviews said that it turned them off and my mom tells me to "Cut that shit out. It makes you sound like a effing ignorant c@ck knocker."
Yes, we do talk that way, don't we?
The other day I downloaded my first novel Pagan Moon on to my recently acquired Kindle. I'd never read it on the device. Boy, is the dialogue gritty, but to me its sounds true to life. The print version has been out for some years and the Kindle version for about 6 months. I haven't had one complaint about the dialogue and most of my readers and reviewers have been female. Maybe I haven't penetrated the market enough to elicit some complaints.
Thanks for everyone's comments.
The Johnny Dangerously screenwriters did it like this for Roman Moroni's testimony: "You lousy cork-soakers. You have violated my farging rights. Dis somanumbatching country was founded so that the liberties of common patriotic citizens like me could not be taken away by a bunch of fargin iceholes... like yourselves."
That's hilarious, :)
My novels are about a biker gang and as the stories are dialogue driven, there's a lot of swearing, including the F-word. I've grown up exposed to cultures where such language is common and I generally don't even notice swearing in social conversations. That being said, swearing, especially the F-word, seems much more stark on a written page. Although I worried about that because the BackTracker novels are marketed as Young Adult, I somehow just could not get my bikers to say 'gosh darn' instead. I did clean up the language somewhat when I did a word count on the f-word and it came in over 100, but it and other profanities still litter the novels. Despite my worries, absolutely nobody has mentioned a thing about the swearing either to me personally or in online reviews. I even read a piece from THE TRAZ that contained the F*** during a school author presentation to at-risk kids. The students giggled and looked down but I kept going. Perhaps what softens it for my readers is that I've included swearing in my Teaching/Discussion Guide in the bike of the book. I explore why people swear (intimidation, fear, cultural norm, to belong) and the effect swearing has others (Has anyone's swearing ever frightened you?). Although it's realistic that my bikers swear, it is also realistic that they go to the bathroom--and I don't include THAT in my stories, so I don't argue to vehemently with those who believe a good writer can work without obscenities.
Obscene language is class-related, age-related, macho-related, and a badge of brotherhood. The military, and hence all males who have served, tend to be comfortable with the f-word etc., especially when with each other. As for use of such language, I tell my grandchildren you have to know your company. Different rules for different situations. Strangely, their parents, well used to such words, are horrified at their use in front of delicate young ears. People turn into hypocrites when it suits them.
For books then, we let out characters speak the way they would speak in real life.
I appreciate your thoughts. Toward the climax of my novel, my protagonist did go to the john
(#1), but it did seem logical and humanly "in character."
Ha ha! I didn't mean characters couldn't or shouldn't do that. It was just something I picked out of the air to illustrate my point that authors get to choose which aspects of their characters and their lives to include. If we don't like their swearing, we can ignore it. I believe, however, that if characters such as serial killers, fraud artists, and nasty politicians get to have their stories told, people who swear ought to be able to share their lives and hearts and souls with us, too.We can learn something from them. Their tales are legitimate.
Didn't mean to be 'in you face' about that. Just thought it was ironic that you mentioned it and I caught my character in the act.
No worries. It made me laugh and reminded me that I, too, mention #1. In FATAL ERROR, while relating how my young heroine lapsed into a stupor for several days after the gang murder, her biker body guard says, "I don't think she even got up to take a piss."