How much cursing can I get away with?

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How much cursing can I get away with?

Postby sierramcconnell » 31 Mar 2011, 09:42

My second novel in the Chasing series deals with considerably darker themes. My characters are older, they have scars from the first war and have lost people. Carmine has turned into a slight womanizing alcoholic considering he lost his best friend and has no one to keep him in line. He's still an impressive inventor, but he has a thing for the sauce and for sleeping around. It gets him into trouble.

As such, I also have demons because the veil is weakening due to certain events involving his son. I have one such demon I've been working with, who has a mouth on her, and unfortunately I ran into a problem with her this morning when writing, when she tried to refer to a village in the mountains as an 'utter shithole'.

Uhm. Well, I'm not exactly comfortable with that. So I made her call it 'a hole in the ground'. But...she is a demon. She would probably not care what the hell she called it. I curse. Demons would probably curse worse.

I wouldn't go so far as every fifth word. But here and there, perhaps. I just don't want to shell shock anyone when suddenly, in a novel with Christian themes, there's damn, shit, and Hell everywhere. Though obviously Hell is a place mostly. ;3

So...how much cursing can I get away with, without alienating the readers? O_O

I mean, I'm uncomfortable with writing it, so I'm fairly certain they'd be uncomfortable reading it.

And no, I'm not going to start an arguement on 'I'm doing it this way or the highway', I'm genuinely concerned. [wink wink nudge to certain people] XD
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Re: How much cursing can I get away with?

Postby Mike R » 31 Mar 2011, 09:59

I'd put enough in to make the readers a little uncomfortable. Even if your audience is opposed to cursing, they have heard it. They probably consider people who curse bad in some way. So if the character is bad, cursing will reinforce that.

Unfortunately, I don't know how much is too much. I have a lot of cursing in one of my novels but that's the character I built and it's needed. I did it to show him as stupid and unrefined; someone you can't take out in polite company. But, my intended audience will tolerate it, I hope.

Not much help, I know. Sprinkle some in and see what people think.
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Re: How much cursing can I get away with?

Postby Leila » 31 Mar 2011, 10:42

Good question.

I'm sure I'll get shot down in flames for saying this but hey, what's a forum without a wide range of opinions right? (Gulp) I really don't think much is needed. I think this is one of those areas which has lighter and darker shades, and a number of factors come into play about how deeply intrinsic to conveying the character to readers it really is to include cursing. For example, Raymond Chandler often had shady characters, cynical police officers, tired private detectives etc and yet he never relied on cursing as a big part of conveying the essence or nature of his characters to readers. He did it through their actions, the shortness of their replies in witty conversational exchanges, the expressions they wore on their faces or their unwillingness to cooperate (any many other ways). He did occasionally include curses, but they were not relied upon.

I probably seem old fashioned, and if so, I'll own it. I don't find it appealing to see a lot of cursing in a story. If the tone of the scene is well established, whatever tension required is built and the characters well developed, a little (light) cursing can add to the drama, heavy cursing can feel like a hiccup, a stumble of sorts, to me. But that's just me.
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Re: How much cursing can I get away with?

Postby sierramcconnell » 31 Mar 2011, 11:04

Mike R - She does curse a little, as in, she refers to her son as a 'damned brat', but I don't want it to be extreme.

Leila - Her actions definately show it. She's not human, but glamours her form to be anything they wish to get into their lives, eat their energy, and make them ill with diseases. It's one of those demon things that runs in her 'family'. She hates people and hates having to act as one of them to get their energy. And she shows that in her character. That's why I think I hate to make her curse just to show it.
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Re: How much cursing can I get away with?

Postby Sommer Leigh » 31 Mar 2011, 11:10

Here's my favorite saying! "It depends."

Personally, I don't like a lot of swearing in my text. I swear like a sailor in real life, but for some reason it is usually very jarring when I'm reading.

Except! If the story calls for it. If it fits the character and the dialogue. Basically, if it fits the story, I'm good. Also if it fits the scene. There is nothing I cringe at more than an intense scene where the characters are caught in exclamation, and instead of swearing (like people would do) they say the "polite" swear words like "Heck! Darn! Gosh darn!"

I think it has to fit. I think it has to flow and make sense. I do not like swearing for swearing sake to sound "edgy" but I like it if the dialogue is contemporary and suitable. I don't like avoiding it when it makes sense. Readers don't need to be coddled.

That's just my two cents.
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Re: How much cursing can I get away with?

Postby Leila » 31 Mar 2011, 11:24

sierramcconnell wrote:Leila - Her actions definately show it. She's not human, but glamours her form to be anything they wish to get into their lives, eat their energy, and make them ill with diseases. It's one of those demon things that runs in her 'family'. She hates people and hates having to act as one of them to get their energy. And she shows that in her character. That's why I think I hate to make her curse just to show it.


It actually sounds like you already have quite a good handle on it in terms of fit within your story. Without knowing more about your story, it sounds like a little cursing would fit within the context of your story. If her nature, her vulnerabilities, her personality traits and tics are evident through how you have built her character, that's nine tenths of the challenge!
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Re: How much cursing can I get away with?

Postby Leila » 31 Mar 2011, 11:30

Sommer Leigh wrote:There is nothing I cringe at more than an intense scene where the characters are caught in exclamation, and instead of swearing (like people would do) they say the "polite" swear words like "Heck! Darn! Gosh darn!"


That is so darn true! Oh heck. Whoops. No seriously, that is such a great point. In this day and age of political correctness, one can become too concerned with the possibility of causing offense of any kind and sweeten up or water down dialogue to that end. As long as it's truly necessary or really feels authentic for your character fit, it will all come together in the end.
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Re: How much cursing can I get away with?

Postby sierramcconnell » 31 Mar 2011, 13:36

Leila wrote:Without knowing more about your story, it sounds like a little cursing would fit within the context of your story.


Definately no gosh darn hecks in there. XD I think even the little godling-in-training, Thirty-six, gets a damn in or two. But he'll be promptly spanked for it. XD

Basically, the gist of the story is that there's a great war (always a great war, sigh XD) coming because Carmine went and had a child with a demon woman. Said child ran from Hell, found his way into Heaven (plot device, tee hee) and made a bet with the Lord. The Lord accepted and agreed to become human, but the stipulation was that He had to become as human as Adam and Eve. It was a trick that made Him lose all his memory and sense, and now He's lost and without a clue as to how to care for Himself.

Everyone is out to either kill Him, or get the child. Because in controlling either, they can nullify the bet or take over Heaven. They don't know that there's other powers working behind the scenes, puppeting the child to do their bidding with the promise that his mother will be protected and he cannot see her unless he does a good job.

It's a mess, because angels and demons are fighting; but there are good ones and bad ones on either side. All because someone couldn't keep it in their pants. [wags finger at Carmine]

(Actually, it's because the behind the scenes people did some naughty things, too, but we'll save that for later. XD)

So, yeah...violence and fighting and me basically kicking God out of Heaven on a bet with a demon.

I'll be lynched. XD
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Re: How much cursing can I get away with?

Postby Collectonian » 31 Mar 2011, 14:36

Your story sounds awesome! We can get lynched together LOL One of my WIPs, Fall From Grace, features one of the original, and highest, archangels having a love affair with the oldest son of Satan :-D In said novel, several angels discuss what "really" happened versus what was written. Yeah, not likely to win me brownie points, but it works :-)

For the original question, I think it would be fine to have her curse some, particular as she is a demon. It would almost be expected, even in a novel with Christian themes.
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Re: How much cursing can I get away with?

Postby sierramcconnell » 31 Mar 2011, 14:48

Collectonian wrote:Your story sounds awesome! We can get lynched together LOL One of my WIPs, Fall From Grace, features one of the original, and highest, archangels having a love affair with the oldest son of Satan :-D In said novel, several angels discuss what "really" happened versus what was written. Yeah, not likely to win me brownie points, but it works :-)

For the original question, I think it would be fine to have her curse some, particular as she is a demon. It would almost be expected, even in a novel with Christian themes.


LOL. I was actually joking about it this morning, on how one of my angels (Serenius) smacked Carmine in the mouth for almost saying the GD word in the first book. (At least, I remember it was Carmine. XD) And I thought it would be funny, Serenius, ninja-angel, flying out of nowhere to smack Tourii in the mouth as she started to curse! XD

Of course, Serenius isn't quite an angel anymore in this one. He sort of...took a demotion to be with his brother. And he's sort of possibly not a he, either. XD Oh, the things I put my characters through...
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Re: How much cursing can I get away with?

Postby Falls Apart » 31 Mar 2011, 20:29

Personally, I don't have a problem with swearing. My (YA) book has multiple curse words, although nothing worse than f***. Maybe I'll need to edit it out, but honestly, I just do whatever feels natural for the dialogue, and not just with bad guys. My characters are teenagers, and teenagers swear. I'm in high school, and I know how people talk. Some swear, some don't. My one exception is that I don't put in any disrespectful variation of God's name. Which is somewhat ironic, considering that, to keep from gosh-darning the dialogue to heck, I've needed to put in more swears. Honestly, I think it depends on the principles of the author, and what you think the character would say.
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Re: How much cursing can I get away with?

Postby Margo » 01 Apr 2011, 09:00

I think it depends on your target audience and the words you choose. An adult genre audience will accept words I don't think you can use in middle grade or YA or inspirational Christian fiction. If you happen to be writing for an audience that won't like it, I'd suggest omiting the cursing in favor of an action that illustrates the feeling instead. Few genres can support the gosh darns or the made up (*cough*fantasy*cough*) swear words.
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Re: How much cursing can I get away with?

Postby sierramcconnell » 01 Apr 2011, 09:12

Well, since I'm trying to cater to a YA audience (I assume, since many say that's what I am) it won't be too severe. And I decided in rereading that it sounds better without the cursing. She's much too soft, even for a demon, to say it after all.

She doesn't kill her victims, she covers them up so they don't get cold (they're paralyzed in sleep), and she makes sure to leave them where they'll be found quickly enough.

She blames it on her past lover, that it's his fault she feels, but I think she actually does have some heart after all. XD Just a teency one. XD
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