Is it okay to use profanity in YA or MG novels?

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LaylaF
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Is it okay to use profanity in YA or MG novels?

Post by LaylaF » October 1st, 2010, 11:39 am

Hi Nathan...

When writing a YA or an MG novel how appropriate/acceptable is it to use profanity, especially in dialogue? And is using it alot, okay or should it be kept to a minimum? I know that good writing should not have to rely on profanity, but in this case it's part of the vernacular of the particular characters...i.e. a granny who is tough as nails and swears right and left. And several teenage kids who do likewise.

I'm talking about words like: shit, damn, for Christ's sake, f***ing (using the stars or not?), son-of-a-bitch etc.

I would appreciate any thoughts you have on this subject.

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: Is it okay to use profanity in YA or MG novels?

Post by Nathan Bransford » October 1st, 2010, 5:21 pm

LaylaF wrote:Hi Nathan...

When writing a YA or an MG novel how appropriate/acceptable is it to use profanity, especially in dialogue? And is using it alot, okay or should it be kept to a minimum? I know that good writing should not have to rely on profanity, but in this case it's part of the vernacular of the particular characters...i.e. a granny who is tough as nails and swears right and left. And several teenage kids who do likewise.

I'm talking about words like: shit, damn, for Christ's sake, f***ing (using the stars or not?), son-of-a-bitch etc.

I would appreciate any thoughts you have on this subject.
The very very rough rule of thumb is that cursing is usually okay to a point for YA, and usually not okay for MG. But really it's more about what's true to the story. It's all case by case, and depends a lot on what type of world it is. In a very realistic upper-YA world cursing may add to the authenticity, in a fantastic middle grade world it may sound totally gratuitous.

Also, there is a long tradition of skirting this problem by inventing swear words for characters that gets all the benefits of cursing without the actual cursing while adding to the texture of the world - LEVIATHAN by Scott Westerfield being a great recent example.

LaylaF
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Re: Is it okay to use profanity in YA or MG novels?

Post by LaylaF » October 1st, 2010, 7:47 pm

Thanks so much Nathan...good food for thought. My WIP is in a contemporary setting, but will have aspects of the extraordinary in it; and for now is aimed at YA. I'm not sure how I will resolve this yet as it is in the very early stages, but your advice has been very helpful. Your forums are a great resource!! Thanks again for your time and thoughts... :]

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J. T. SHEA
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Re: Is it okay to use profanity in YA or MG novels?

Post by J. T. SHEA » October 1st, 2010, 8:50 pm

LEVIATHAN is great! And it's fairly obvious what Westerfeld's made-up swear words mean. Clart, diddies, bum-rag, barking spiders...all spoken by the heroine, incidentally, though she IS pretending to be a boy.

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Re: Is it okay to use profanity in YA or MG novels?

Post by LaylaF » October 8th, 2010, 3:39 pm

Thanks J.T...you're right, well done in LEVIATHAN.

Just as an update, I have decided not to use real profanity in my YA novel...it just didn't feel right. And, now since I've taken it out, it seems much lighter and more apropo for the age group.

Thanks for your comments. Greatly appreciated.

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Re: Is it okay to use profanity in YA or MG novels?

Post by LaylaF » October 18th, 2010, 6:10 pm

I just posted, on the Excerpts Feedback Forum, my first Chapter of my YA, WIP that was the subject of my question. It's titled Samantha Stokes and the Fantastical Journey. I'd love any and all comments! Thanks!

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wordranger
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Re: Is it okay to use profanity in YA or MG novels?

Post by wordranger » October 29th, 2010, 10:12 pm

I don't use profanity. I make words up (in Sci-Fi)
I am just sure to keep using the same words over and over again in the same way.
I make sure not to use the word I am replacing for "Oh, SH*T" with the same word I use to replace "F*CK You"
It has the same power, and I think it works really well. If I were writing on this planet, though, I'd need to rethink that.
Words are your friend.
Don't be afraid to lose yourself in them.

Jennifer Eaton, WordRanger
My Novelette LAST WINTER RED will be published by J. Taylor Publishing in December, 2012

Take a Step into My World and Learn From My Mistakes http://www.jennifermeaton.com/

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