Is there a synonym for f**k?

The writing process, writing advice, and updates on your work in progress
Post Reply
User avatar
AnimaDictio
Posts: 158
Joined: June 10th, 2010, 1:07 am
Contact:

Is there a synonym for f**k?

Post by AnimaDictio » July 20th, 2011, 12:07 pm

I don't want to put words in my novel that would embarrass my grandmother. I have read that expletives are a sign of a poor imagination, which gives me courage that I can be direct and evocative without using profanity. However, at the moment, my imagination (or my confidence) seems to fail me. Does this paragraph have the same drama without the profanity?

Novel excerpt with f**k!
That had been the night Barlaam wrote the poem and had cursed Neal’s high octane smile and promised himself that if he ever got a real chance, he would take Rebekah. But that was just the stuff of teenagers. Surely, it’s too late now. Neal and Rebekah have been married too long. She’ll never get over him. He should just let it go. Yes, he would move on. Other fish in the sea and all that jazz. There’s no point in embarrassing himself. Barlaam dropped the poem, turned over in bed and closed his eyes. He struggled for about twelve seconds.

You know what? Fukk it. He grabbed his phone and dialed her number. She answered on the first ring.

He blurted, “I love you more than Neal ever did. I’m sure of it. And you deserve better than him. I just thought you should know.”
Novel excerpt without it
That had been the night Barlaam wrote the poem and had cursed Neal’s high octane smile and promised himself that if he ever got a real chance, he would take Rebekah. But that was just the stuff of teenagers. Surely, it’s too late now. Neal and Rebekah have been married too long. She’ll never get over him. He should just let it go. Yes, he would move on. Other fish in the sea and all that jazz. There’s no point in embarrassing himself. Barlaam dropped the poem, turned over in bed and closed his eyes. He struggled for about twelve seconds. Then he grabbed his phone and dialed her number. She answered on the first ring.

He blurted, “I love you more than Neal ever did. I’m sure of it. And you deserve better than him. I just thought you should know.”
Is there a synonym or an alternative phrase I can use there?

User avatar
Sanderling
Posts: 187
Joined: July 3rd, 2011, 4:47 pm
Location: Ontario, Canada
Contact:

Re: Is there a synonym for f**k?

Post by Sanderling » July 20th, 2011, 12:32 pm

In this situation you could probably get away with, "You know what? Screw it."

But I think the excerpt works just as well without it. I think it depends on how the narrator's voice reads through the rest of the novel. If it feels natural and flows with the voice, use it; if it feels slightly awkward and out of place, don't.
My blog / Twitter
.
"Because if you have at least a modicum of talent and if you live by these six rules, you will make it."
--Robert J. Sawyer, speaking here of Heinlein's Rules.

gemini
Posts: 1
Joined: June 8th, 2011, 2:29 pm
Contact:

Re: Is there a synonym for f**k?

Post by gemini » July 20th, 2011, 12:35 pm

"Screw it?"

There is a passage in Stephen King's book "On Writing" where he discusses being self conscious about what certain relatives may think of your writing. Yes, profanity can show lack of creativity, but keep in mind you are writing from your character's perspective -- this is not *you*.

I hope this helps!

User avatar
taylormillgirl
Posts: 138
Joined: December 28th, 2009, 9:02 am
Contact:

Re: Is there a synonym for f**k?

Post by taylormillgirl » July 20th, 2011, 12:54 pm

My advice is to cut your grandfather out of the equation and ask yourself WWMCD? (What Would Main Character Do?) If your narrator is an f-bomb lover, then bombs away, baby!

My mom HATES the big GD, and she'd asked me to remove it from one of my stories. But in my romance, the hero loves to say goddamn. I can't help it; he's just rude like that, so I went ahead and let him speak freely. I'll apologize to Mom when the book's released. ;)
Author of hot & humorous romances, debut novel coming in 2012 from Sourcebooks!
http://macybeckett.com/

User avatar
Sanderling
Posts: 187
Joined: July 3rd, 2011, 4:47 pm
Location: Ontario, Canada
Contact:

Re: Is there a synonym for f**k?

Post by Sanderling » July 20th, 2011, 1:37 pm

I agree with gemini and Macy. Unless you're targeting your book to middle-graders, ultimately it comes down to what your character and/or narrator would say. We all know people swear in certain situations; some more than others. And if we're a bit uncomfortable to see it there, that's perhaps good - that's the whole point of swearing, is it not? (Except by certain types of people for whom swearing has become habitual, and then it's just more reflective of their character.) In my story a couple of my characters swear, which really caught my beta reader and friend off guard because I /never/ swear in real life. But the scenes were ones of high emotion and energy, and the characters the gritty sort, and the dialogue lost its oomph with the swearing cut out, especially because there was virtually no swearing elsewhere in the story.
My blog / Twitter
.
"Because if you have at least a modicum of talent and if you live by these six rules, you will make it."
--Robert J. Sawyer, speaking here of Heinlein's Rules.

User avatar
polymath
Posts: 1821
Joined: December 8th, 2009, 11:22 am
Location: Babel
Contact:

Re: Is there a synonym for f**k?

Post by polymath » July 20th, 2011, 2:59 pm

I see voice as being on point here. Does the voice of the viewpoint character stand out from the narrator's? Does the F-word speak from the character's voice? It could, though the context is a bit on the unsettled side in my opinion. Back and forth between the narrator's and the viewpoint character's perspectives and thus voices and not quite settling on a singular narrative point of view. The narrator's perspective opens narrative distance and the viewpoint character's perspective struggles to close narrative distance, the technique is not quite as effective as might be best.

Many synonyms for the F-word say the same thing context-wise, Sanderling and gemini's suggested "screw it," to heck with it, or to hell with it. Or in a similar vein, different approach; in for a penny, in for a pound, it's hammer time, it's crunch time, knuckle up, soldier up, man up, damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead. Expletives are interjections, are exclamations, somewhat sensical discourse markers that go to voice when artful, the emotional attitude aspect of voice.

Get creative, try something age and identity and attitude appropriate to the character and the audience that's fresh and vigorous and artful and visceral. What the goldarned motherloving smegma. Get at it.
Spread the love of written word.

User avatar
AnimaDictio
Posts: 158
Joined: June 10th, 2010, 1:07 am
Contact:

Re: Is there a synonym for f**k?

Post by AnimaDictio » July 21st, 2011, 5:45 pm

I apologize for taking a couple days to respond. I've been a bit overwhelmed with work lately.

@Sandering, @Gemini. I think "screw it" is about as mild as I can get without losing too much effect. To be clear, I feel it still loses something.

@taylormillgirl, @Sanderling. I said "my grandmother," but I was just using her as a proxy. The truth is that my story is somewhat inspirational. It's not the typical Christian fiction stuff but I'm hoping that the less staid Christians -- the ones who like adventure fantasy -- will find it inspiring.

@polymath. Those are some great suggestions. I thought I was writing totally in the character's voice. Perhaps I failed and inserted too much of myself in there? The first chapter is in Neal's voice and from his perspective. The second chapter is in Barlaam's voice and from his perspective. It rotates like that through most of the novel save for a few chapters that are from the perspective of a couple other characters/narrators. This is my first draft so ...

Thanks for your words, guys. I appreciate it.

User avatar
polymath
Posts: 1821
Joined: December 8th, 2009, 11:22 am
Location: Babel
Contact:

Re: Is there a synonym for f**k?

Post by polymath » July 21st, 2011, 7:14 pm

AnimaDictio wrote:I thought I was writing totally in the character's voice. Perhaps I failed and inserted too much of myself in there?
I'm inclined to say yes, inserted too much of yourself in there, but not failed. The voice is close to Barlaam, but it closes and opens narrative distance haphazardly, in my opinion.

The first sentence's power to close distance comes from the volitional thought verbs "cursed" and "promised." The past perfect tense though weakens the sentence's impact. "That had been." "High octane" is brilliant, a perfect adjective for a charming but fake smile, though I'd like to have an unequivocal sense that Barlaam thinks so, thus showing his jealousy loudly and clearly.

After a fair closing narrative distance opening sentence, getting into Barlaam's thoughts--introspection--the following two sentences open narrative distance. "But that was just the stuff of teenagers. Surely, it’s too late now." "But that was" there feels to me like a narrator's explanation. Same with "surely." Formality of diction I think is the issue there. //Just the fluff of puppy love crushes. Too late now. Too late from the beginning.//***

These couple sentences don't feel like they restore close distance, keep it open: "Neal and Rebekah have been married too long. She’ll never get over him." The issue there I think is the formality of syntax and past perfect tense. //Rebekah was too long married to Neal. She'd not get over Neal.//

"He should just let it go. Yes, he would move on." Again, formality of diction and syntax, plus "it" has an everyday conversational quality that demotes Rebekah in animacy, makes her into a thing when she's the person of his desire. And a change of thought--a new thesis sentence? Perhaps a new paragraph is indicated. //He would leave her be, yes, move on.//

"Other fish in the sea and all that jazz." Mixed metaphors and both cliché, in my opinion, which opens narrative distance. And again, demotes Rebekah's animacy from comparing her to a fish. I'd feel closer to Barlaam if the subtext of his subconscious desire for Rebekah was contradicted by his conscious, volitional thoughts logically attempting to put Rebekah behind him. In other words, by demoting her in animacy he's already detaching from her, a fait accompli, when that's the opposite of his subconscious purpose.

"There’s no point in embarrassing himself." "No point," formal diction. An opportunity missed for characterizing Barlaam by his diction, I feel. And it opens narrative distance, in my opinion.

"Barlaam dropped the poem, turned over in bed and closed his eyes." That sentence moves outside of Barlaam to a narrator's reported summarization of his actions. Opens narrative distance wide open. Closing narrative distance would mean directly reporting his sensations of dropping the poem, turning over in bed, and closing his eyes. There syntax formality is another issue I see. The poem is a better subject of the first clause. //The poem slipped from his hand. Facing the wall, he wrestled with sheets wound around him.//

"He struggled for about twelve seconds." That one relaxes syntax formality and causes a subject wound from intransitive verb "struggled," which requires an object or at least an implied one. "About" and "twelve seconds" feel out of harmony from the rough estimate and precise quantity. //He struggled to close his eyes for all of about twelve seconds.//

*** Just suggestions to illustrate, not impose my creative vision or voice, though from my voice and projections of the intents of the excerpt to show Barlaam struggling with the horns of a dilemma.
//The night Barlaam wrote the poem he cursed Neal’s high octane gas bag smile and promised if he ever got a real chance he would take Rebekah. Just the fluff of puppy love crushes. Too late now. Too late from the beginning. Rebekah was too long married to Neal. She'd not get over Neal.

He would leave her be, yes, move on. Always another goddess waiting in the wings and all that. No sense embarrassing himself for nothing.

The poem slipped from his hand. Facing the wall, he wrestled with sheets wound around him. He struggled to close his eyes for all of about twelve seconds.//
Spread the love of written word.

User avatar
AnimaDictio
Posts: 158
Joined: June 10th, 2010, 1:07 am
Contact:

Re: Is there a synonym for f**k?

Post by AnimaDictio » July 21st, 2011, 10:27 pm

I like some of this. I'll apply it throughout the novel. Thanks so much for taking the time polymath.

User avatar
polymath
Posts: 1821
Joined: December 8th, 2009, 11:22 am
Location: Babel
Contact:

Re: Is there a synonym for f**k?

Post by polymath » July 21st, 2011, 11:07 pm

You're welcome, AnimaDicto. Best wishes for successful outcomes.
Spread the love of written word.

User avatar
maybegenius
Posts: 349
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 4:49 pm
Location: Northern California
Contact:

Re: Is there a synonym for f**k?

Post by maybegenius » July 22nd, 2011, 2:37 pm

I've never been a big fan of the implication that certain words dictate a "lack of imagination." I don't find it to be accurate. I've read many books that use profanity to great effect. It's not about the specific word used, it's about the context in which it's being used.

As several others in this thread have already mentioned, it's about the most realistic vocabulary for your character. It would come across as jarring and unrealistic to have a hardened police chief say something like, "Oh, fudge." Is the word in your characters vocabulary? Then use it.

There is always the option of going with, "He swore."
aka S.E. Sinkhorn, or Steph

My Blog | My Twitter | YA!Flash Tumblr

Represented by Michelle Andelman of Regal Literary

JohnDurvin
Posts: 160
Joined: January 11th, 2011, 3:56 pm
Location: Atlanta, Jawjuh
Contact:

Re: Is there a synonym for f**k?

Post by JohnDurvin » July 31st, 2011, 10:08 pm

In this particular instance, I would personally have used 'forget it' if I was avoiding the f-bomb. More broadly, though, generations of people around the world have been coming up with euphemisms for obscenities--I personally enjoy some of the hybrid euphemism/dysphemisms I've been hearing lately, like "God blast it!" and "goshdammit"--and fiction encourages people to do so even more. Here's a partial list of what others have done: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/M ... lEuphemism
Everybody loves using things as other things, right? Check out my blog at the Cromulent Bricoleur and see one hipster's approach to recycling, upcycling, and alterna-cycling (which is a word I just made up).

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest