Profanity in modern fiction

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L1th3rl+and
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Profanity in modern fiction

Post by L1th3rl+and »

I'm curious to hear the views of authors in the use of profanity. I write crime fiction / thriller / mystery genre books, often with characters for whom such language would be part of everyday speech. I also use it for humorous purposes in the (first person) narrative. I try to keep it to a minimum and edit quite ruthlessly but, nonetheless, it is a presence. The problem is, of course, that one persons 'excessive' use is another person's 'moderate' use. The question is, therefore, "Is a book made worse or better by the use of profanity?" A second, inevitable, question is whether there is a heavy price to pay in terms of readership by its inclusion.
Thoughts and comments much appreciated.
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CheyHutchison
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Post by CheyHutchison »

I personally prefer to read books with a little profanity. Not excessive, but it is a great vehicle for a joke or humorous line. I try to write books that I, or people who I talk to about books, would like to read so i do use profanity here and there.

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L1th3rl+and
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Post by L1th3rl+and »

Yes, @CheyHutchison I agree. It can be an extremely effective vehicle for humour.
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Kris5911
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Post by Kris5911 »

Profanity has its place, but beware of over use. The reader won't think much of a character (or a writer) whose speech has a curse in every other sentence. The precious character and plot come off as shallow when profanity is used to address surroundings and people or to define speech and personalities.

I prefer less profanity or none at all if possible, but I find that if profanity is expressed when needed and not merely thrown around in lazy speech or writing, an audience like-minded as I are willing to tolerate the profanity for a great story.

Does it make a story worse or better? Profanity was generally used to emphasize someone's anger and frustration, but since people started using it to replace nouns and adjectives, it's my opinion that the story is made worse by an over abundance of swear words.

Proportion is key.

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vermontelf
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Post by vermontelf »

Dialog tends to seem more realistic to me with the inclusion of swearing, when appropriate. When the dialog is kept PG or G, it often seems stilted. Context though is certainly important to this concept. A preschool teacher isn't swearing in class, but venting to their coworkers they may be quite...colorful.

However, figuring out the grey area between realistic and too much is quite blurry and difficult. If I examine my own speech, I have so many levels of filters, it would only make sense that my characters do as well. But certainly some readers would be put off by more than a phrase or two. It's a hard call whether you gain more readers for the lifelike characters or lose readers for the offensive language. Considering my audience would have to guide me, but there is no hard and fast answer.

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Post by anitamills293 »

I'd like to reaf books with a little profanity.

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sevencrows
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Post by sevencrows »

I think profanity serves its purpose, though it's like every other turn of phrase--it really takes me out of the book if it's not used effectively.

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Alyssa
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Post by Alyssa »

I don’t mind profanity at all, most people I know do add what we refer to as “sentence enhancers”. Although it is strange when a character randomly starts cussing halfway through a book. Personally, profanity isn’t a game changer.

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Drakka Reader
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Post by Drakka Reader »

I say that profanity can be used effectively, both for humor and to get across a character's personality well. Like the above, I think profanity can easily be funny if used well.

On the other hand, making a respectable character curse all the time is going to undermine attempts to make them respectable. If someone curses all the time, one would think they are easily angered or not thoughtful enough to come up with a way to describe something without a curse. So if you mean to make a character flawed in this manner, it might be an easy way to show this, but use profanity in moderation otherwise.

Hope this helped!

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Post by adamgreenrock »

It really depends on how you use it. Sometimes, profanity makes a character's pain more emotional or builds up to their moments. It is not a necessity, but when you use it right, it works.

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