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Monday, June 1, 2009

Pondering Profanity

I've never been big on profanity, but back in the day, I wouldn't say my language was squeaky clean. Somewhere along the way, though, I stopped swearing.  Not sure whether it was graduating law school, or getting married, or pondering kids or having them, but I just stopped.

These days I am busy doing one last edit of my forthcoming novel BLACKBERRY GIRL and I am pleased to say that I still love the story and hope and pray you will too. But upon rereading my manuscript, I was struck by the existence of profanity in its pages. Hmmm.

Now the use of profanity in my book is quite sparing and very intentional.  The protagonist is an introspective and lost soul, treading that poetic bridge from childhood to adulthood and every now and then when life gets up in her face, she lets one fly.  So the periodic use of profanity is part of who she is at that point in time.  So, it makes sense to keep those F-bombs in there, right? Right?

This strikes me as a genuine dilemma.  As a person, as a mom, I am for the most part anti-profanity. But as a writer, as a conveyer of authentic stories, I believe that there are times when profanity is appropriate, important even.  And yet, my writing, however fictional, is ultimately a reflection of who I am. 

What the Fudgsicle am I supposed to do?  :)


  1. Go with your gut on this one. In my experience, growing up, I really never used profanity until I started working at 24. I embraced the "f bomb" much as I adopted a lisp and rolling "rrr"s my junior year in Spain. I wanted to fit in and seem "authentic" when working on street crime cases with police detectives. For a while, I was as salty as a sailor, but as I grew more confident and comfortable as an attorney, I slipped back to my clean speaking ways. For me anyway, my forray into salty talk was as much about developing my own character and figuring out how to be a "grown up" as anything else. Ultimately, it was something I tried on and it wasn't really me. But if you feel it "is" your character, then stick with it. Last I heard, "BlackBerry Girl" isn't on my rising third grader's reading list, it is for adults after all who live in the "f'in" real world!

  2. I went with the f-word in my first novel when it was in keeping with the character and situation. Just one character used it more than once; another used it once as a way of showing she was feeling reckless and wild because it was very out of character for her. I had a few readers object to it, but very few. A novel needs to tell emotional truth, and sometimes that's harsh and sometimes it's beautiful and sometimes it requires a good swear word.

  3. I would agree that it's a matter of character, and keeping her voice authentic. I also agree it's more common to swear when you are younger, trying to be more "grown up" and less innocent, whether that's an attempt to affect how others see you, or figuring out how you see yourself (conscious or not).

  4. I gotta go with whatever works for your character, rather than what works for you. In my current wip I have one character who can swear as much as he wants--but I don't allow him to because really, that would get boring. Then I have one character who gets in BIG TROUBLE for swearing--I adjust accordingly and go for the humor. That's what works for me...your mileage might vary :D.
    FWIW I have a good author friend who is a staunch Christian. Her reply to readers who comment on her characters who swear is, "I don't particularly care for the swearing either but I have to be true to my characters."


Join the conversation. What do you think? Be honest. Be bold. Tell me I'm wrong. Tell me about that typo. Tell me I'm splendid. Or tell me I'm spoiled. But if you want your comment to be seen, keep it clean.

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